Today as I sit at my computer I am noticing my tendency to shorten and get drawn into the computer screen and down to the keyboard.
I’m glad I’m aware of this. Firstly this helps me connect with what is really happening. I am shortening my stature as I pull my head closer to the screen. Now, I’m not deliberately pulling my head down, I’m not actually aware of doing this at the time. But I can feel the affect of it. My breathing is a bit less full and my chest feels heavy, its more effort to allow my chest to move on each breath.
I can notice that my lower back is rounding into a C shape as I pull my ribs down towards my pelvis. Again, I’m not aware of doing this deliberately, and yet here is the truth – my ribs are closer to my pelvis, resulting in the C shape of my spine. I haven’t collapsed, no, this is pulling down.
My elbows are on the table and I am resting some weight on them, almost pushing down. This has an effect of distorting my spine and making the line across my shoulders more dominant than my spine. My back feels weak in this moment.
‘Pulling down’ may be a new way of looking at the common epidemic of slumping at the computer screen, desk for writing or sitting in a chair at meal times.
You may have a voice ringing in your ears saying “Take your elbows off the table, and sit up straight!” (Surely it wasn’t just my Mum who said this?! Can you relate to this.) So with good intentions of instilling ‘good habits’ my Mum told me what to do. Take your elbows off the table, and sit up straight.
Unfortunately its not sustainable to sit up straight. Our doing/moving muscles cannot sustain and maintain this stretch. In order to correct any ‘slumping’ we end up adding more tension to our body-mind rather than releasing it. It is the job of our support system of muscles around the vertical axis of head, spine and pelvis to provide the on-going support for our upright bodies. If we yo-yo between pulling down and stretching up, we are over-working the outer layer of muscles, those designed for movement. We feel chronically tired, tense and stiff.
What if you could be reminded and shown how to release the primary pattern of mis-using your muscles to pull you down to the computer? What if this release naturally undid the shortening? Why, then you would return to your fuller length and stature, as if by magic. Would you like to have this experience?
My hands are often described as magic, or having a magic touch. When I touch another person in the particular way I have been trained, the invitation to release from the shortening, and equally release from the stretching is offered. Our bodies love to be released from any fixing, holding or restrictions – and breathe a sigh of relief. The touch reminds us of how interconnected we are mind-muscle. This touch reminds us that its OK and safe to return to our fuller selves here in this moment.
As an Alexander Technique teacher with 3 years of training in my hands and brain-body-muscle system, a simple touch can convey a lot of messages. You are here, here you are. Here is your head, its round. Your head can rest. Your feet can rest on the floor and let gravity do the work so your moving muscles don’t have to work so hard. Its safe to let go of tension and let your deeper postural muscles work, they have stamina.
What do you notice as you read that last paragraph? Did you shuffle your feet? Did a deeper breath or sigh arrive? Did you notice the roundness of your head?
These are all small moments which can lead to a profound sense of knowing ourselves better, of coming home to ourself. (See yesterday’s blog about the Aggregation of Marginal Gains https://lucyascham.com/2018/06/18/the-aggregation-of-marginal-gains/.)
As we encourage the ‘undoing of the shortening’ through an experience of this unique touch, words and activities to show us how this works in the real world of everyday movement, we can unchain ourselves from excess tension, one thought at a time.
Lucy Ascham is an Alexander Technique teacher in Sheffield and Manchester who loves to work with people who are curious about how it is to be human. People who are ready to meet themselves more fully and gently and release some of the habitual chains which keep us smaller and stiffer than we really are.