What Do Back Pain and Salt Have in Common?

Alexander Technique and Back Pain

Most of my clients have sore, aching or ‘bad’ backs in one way or another. Often they will ask what they can do to help themselves. Are there any exercises I recommend? How should they hold their head in the right position? Does their spine look straight like this?

I love all these questions, because I hear people’s curiosity and desire to learn and understand more about themselves and how to become healthier. However its rarely a yes/no answer that I can give.

Firstly I don’t see that there is more to ‘do’, but perhaps ‘less’ they need to do. Often we are living at such a pace, trying to squeeze too much into each day, living beyond the actual amount of energy we have – living according to our To Do List, the Clock, or What We Think We Should Be Able To Do (because we used to be able to). Bringing a kindly awareness to how your body/mind really is right now can often bring us in touch with a great sense of fatigue, overwhelm or numbness.  When we stop being busy, when we quieten down the noise of our lifestyle and social patterns of behaviour, we can find layers of over-doing it, pushing ourselves beyond our limit, not enough sleep, not enough rest, not enough self-awareness.

What if what you seek is not to be found in adding something extra, but in subtracting things which are not so helpful.

Those who know me, may be aware that I love decluttering more than shopping. I delight in finding stuff I no longer need, want or love and giving it away, taking it to a charity shop, occasionally selling it, or gifting it to someone else who will enjoy it more than me.

I’m reading my fourth book of the year of simplifying, minimalism and spending less. I realised today that this has a lot in common with the work I do. I help people really become aware of how much stress, tension and effort goes into having so much stuff in their minds/hearts and bodies. Our Self.  We have words which imply some separation between body and brain, or emotions and body, but thats not true. We can see that hurting our ankle causes a physical experience, and an emotional one, and generates thoughts – all together, at the same time – these are all aspects of ourselves.

I’m interested in the link between minimising our external stuff around the house, on our desk, in our in-box and our internal stuff – out-dated beliefs about how things should be, how our energy should be greater than it is now, how our life should look, how our bank account should be, etc and how we can minimise stress by clearing our clutter inside too.

When we only see our ideal version of life and not how things really are, we are in stress – there is a gap stretching between how life is, and how we would ideally like it to be. This can be a good motivator for working towards the change we want to see.  And it can also be a way of staying in the same loop and looking to change someone else, something else external to ourselves, without doing our own inner work.

Going back to clients who ask how they should hold their head in a correct position, or their spine straight – I am reminded that when we agree with nature and don’t fight reality, stress goes away and with it go layers of internal struggle. Nature didn’t make spines straight, so really we need to allow our spines their natural healthy curves.  Nature didn’t make heads to go into ‘position’.  Can you imagine a cat or a dog trying to get their spine straight and fix their head in the correct position?  No, they’d laugh at the idea (as I hope you will too).  Somehow we pick up on cultural ideals, beliefs and ‘shoulds’ – so much stuff.  And with intention and a pinch of commitment, we can change this stuff, let it go and become lighter, happier and healthier.

Our heads are not meant to be fixed in any one position. I usually tell people a bit of simple anatomy to show that the top joint of the head and spine is more curvy and therefore unlikely ever to be really still and hopefully never fixed. We aim for freedom in our joints, through consciously choosing this in thought, action and deed (and repeat). Life is an ever-unfolding process of a never-ending Now.

Let me tell you a little story about a friend of mine who has very high blood pressure.  They don’t want to take tablets and are worried about the effects of the high blood pressure on their health. This person seems not to be making any significant changes to their diet or exercise, which I think could really help. They told me in passing that they love salt on their porridge every day.  What?

Now I know that for some people salt and porridge go together, but 1/one whole teaspoon of salt everyday when you have worryingly high blood pressure and aren’t taking any tablets! This worries me. A. Lot.

In this example, taking away this amount of salt from the daily diet could significantly improve their health. But they like the salt, its what they’ve always had, they can’t imagine enjoying breakfast ever again without it.  (Habits are like this, comfortably, familiar, but not always good for us.)

This attachment to keeping something exactly the same, and yet at the same time, saying they want to change and improve their health – is exactly the same problem I help people navigate when they come for lessons and tell me about their ‘bad’ back.

If I could help you uncover ways in which you were thinking, speaking and moving which were harming the joints, muscles and ligaments along your backbone, would you be interested in learning how to stop thinking, moving and doing that?

Would you like to know how to bring kindly awareness to your movement patterns and learn to let go of the comfortable, familiar, habitual, normal ways for you to tie your shoe laces, brush your hair, carry your hand-bag and sit in a chair? If you could unlearn some of your normal and stressful ways and vastly improve your back-pain – would you be willing to go through some potential degree of short-term discomfort to bring your back back to good health?  If you had high blood pressure, would you give up salt?

If so, I’d love to help you learn really practical, simple and sometimes fun ways of looking after yourself.

Like anything thats worth learning, it takes a bit of commitment, focus and practice. Oh and no, there are no exercises to ‘do’, but plenty to learn to ‘undo’ that stress, tension and overdoing it.

If you are interested to learn more, please get in touch.

Can you think of anything you ‘know’ is not good for you, and that you don’t change because you enjoy the comfort of the status quo more? (That’s entirely normal by the way, but doesn’t have to always be the way.)

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Unknown

Let me know if you’d like to explore this more.  Let me show you ways in which you can stop adding stress to your busy and overflowing days.  Learn to say “No” to adding more, and really learning to choose to do less for the health of your mind, body and back (the whole of you).

Written by Lucy Ascham, Body & Soul Energy Expert

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