All too often we are driving on automatic pilot. We are in the car but not really present. We arrive at our destination but don’t remember any of the turns or junctions particularly. We may arrive aching, tense and and feeling cross.
The same goes for many people as they drive around in their human body.
Travelling unconsciously, within the home, how they sit and stand, how they move their arms, our legs seem to cross themselves, our shoulders rising up to our ears unnoticed.
All these unconscious movements, done a little bit tense, can cause and contribute to aches, pains and wear-and-tear to our joints.
Typically it is women who come to me with long-term back pain of 5 years or more, they’ve tried many different treatments and are wondering if surgery is the next step or if they are stuck in daily pain and just have to put-up-with painkillers, hot baths and backrubs.
I support them to rediscover their healthy movement patterns, so they can learn to drive their own human vehicle more smoothly, efficiently and healthily.
When we move more smoothly and efficiently we release the unnecessary and unhelpful effort of pushing and tensing our many muscles to do the small and many
tasks in everyday life – such as lifting a kettle, picking up a handbag or tying our shoes.
When I started to drive I remember it being drilled into me
Stop, mirror, manoeuvre. A version of this is useful at points throughout the day to get used to being more conscious and therefore in charge of our thoughts and movements.
For today, say this thought to yourself little and often throughout the day. “I will stop, think then manoeuvre.”
Write it, draw it, meditate on it. Stick a Post It on a mirror. Set yourself a reminder on your phone. Link this thought to washing your hands – (added bonus to do this with your mouth closed).
Practicing this thought throughout the day will help you notice this sequence and support you to navigate daily life in many ways.
For many of us we are habitually in Drive-mode, with our foot down hard on the accelerator…. until we get to the sofa, the weekend or a holiday when we may collapse, rather than Stop consciously or constructively. Do you recognise this at all in yourself?
Perhaps you have already hit the buffers. As with any of Alexander’s discoveries we can learn about ourselves, learn to identify the habitual thought and movement patterns which run our life.
Do you want your old ways of thinking and moving to dictate what you do now?
If they aren’t working and are leading to pain and suffering, of course not!
We can choose a different route. One which offers conscious and constructive help in any situation. Here are some top tips to help you drive yourself better.
Before you get into the car, into gear and get moving: STOP !!
You can start this sequence at any time, for any activity. For the sake of this example I’m going to use driving a car, if you don’t have a car or aren’t using it – then you could use another activity and adapt the steps.
- Before you pick up your keys, STOP and THINK about yourself – primarily your head and spine being easy and elastic – carry on thinking about these whilst you MANOEUVRE and pick up your keys, fingertips leading.
- Before you unlock the car door and open it: STOP… yes, really STOP, just there on the pavement, on the drive, in the car park – THINK “I can rest just where I am, where my feet are in this moment, taking stock of the space around me using my peripheral vision, receiving information (from Day 1) and allow myself to be breathable through my nostrils (Day 2). Carry on noticing these whilst you unlock the car and open the door. Ask yourself: “Am I holding my breath?”
- How are you going to get from standing by the car to sitting in it?
- Its the same procedure: Stop, Think about your support, your self and the space around you, stay breathable… MOVE with care and keep THINKING and keep breathing.
You are learning to keep your attention with All of Yourself, as you do a specific movement.
You are learning to keep your attention with yourself, whilst you move – your brain is in your body, your brain is steering you. You are in charge in this moment.
Keep this sequence going – perhaps use the Traffic Lights to punctuate your journey. Red for Stop, Orange for Think, Green for Go / Manoeuvre.