Better Balance Through A Free Neck: How Alexander Technique helps to avoid fall, and helps even more if you do fall

caution-trippingby Brooke Lieb I have always taken having good balance for granted. Since I was a small child, standing on one leg, walking along a balance beam and other activities that require balance on one leg have been easy for me. In ballet class, I could go up on demi-pointe on one foot and stay easily balanced for an indefinite amount of time. I have come to appreciate this is due in no small part to the luck of the genetic lottery. I’ve had my share of near misses, and the occasional tumble, and as the years progress, I can tell my Alexander training has given me better balance and coordination, even if I started off fairly well to begin with.

Tripping on uneven sidewalk pavement

Over the years, I have had numerous experiences of my shoe catching on the edge of uneven sidewalks as I was swinging my foot forward to take a step. I have even tripped on the same sidewalk more than once (you would think I'd pay closer attention). I tend to fly up more than forward, and my back foot easily lands in place without missing a step.

Slipping on Ice

Alexander lessons seem to have helped me preserve this natural asset of good balance, and I seem to have gained some advantages I didn't used to have. I remember slipping on ice skates at the age of 13, and taking a hard fall directly on my bum. I am sure by 13 I had developed a healthy case of pulling my head back and down. I even have photos to prove it. It took me three or four months to recover from the tenderness in my tailbone.

A number of winters ago in 2011 or 2012 (on two separate occasions weeks apart), I stepped onto the sidewalk at the bottom of the 5 stairs to my apartment building, only to find my foot slipping out from under me - in a forward direction. Without time to consciously respond, I found myself falling forward (instead of back) and landing on the other foot, in essence not missing a stride. The same thing happened two or three times this Winter (2015) on sheets of ice around crosswalks. The fact that I’ve fallen forward and up each time leads me to conclude that all those years of thinking about "letting my head rebalance forward and up" has had a lasting influence on my alignment, whether I am consciously thinking about it or not.

A Chair Tipping Over

This past week in acting class, I rose from my chair to help my fellow classmates move set pieces to arrange for their scene. My chair was on a riser 8 to 12 inches off the floor, and I was sitting near the edge, where there was no railing. When I returned to my seat, unbeknownst to me, the chair has shifted sideways and one of the legs was no longer on the riser. I sat down and the chair and I tipped over sideways. As I was falling, with the extra height before landing, I went through a vivid thought process: "Can I get rotate enough to get my foot under me? No, I'm too close to the floors. I'm going to fall, nothing I can do about that. I should still turn to face the ground so my shoulder doesn't take the impact." I landed on my right hip (well padded, lucky me!) and my right forearm. As I was falling, I heard people gasp and express concern, and apparently I said "I'm OK" as I was falling. The teacher was concerned and told me to take it easy while a classmate grabbed my by the hands and abruptly hauled me to my feet. Having students who are elderly and tentative in their balance, or have conditions such as MS or Parkinson's, I have worked with them on how to fall. The cameraman in the acting class commented on how relaxed I looked the whole way down. While I was certainly shaken, I wasn’t hurt, and spent the next 10 minutes or so in my seat directing and calming myself down. By the time class was over, I had completely forgotten about the fall.

Students report improved balance and coordination, too: The week after my fall in class, I was seeing my PA clients at my parents home. Three out of five had taken a spill since I’d seen them a month before, and all of them said they credit their Alexander lessons with mild to no injury, quicker recovery time, and at their lessons, their symptoms improved yet again. You can view this short video showing the value of Alexander lessons in improving balance in a variety of daily activities for older people. (Note: the video has no audio soundtrack. It depicts subjects involved in a study on the Alexander Technique and balance in the elderly going through balance testing before and after a two-week group lesson series in the Alexander Technique.)

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists.[/author_info] [/author]