Standing Up Straight Can Be Just As Bad As Slouching

Alexander Technique-167by Karen Krueger Many Alexander Technique teachers don't like to even mention the word "posture." They think the very word has so many wrong connotations that it should be avoided. But I take Humpty Dumpty's point of view: the important thing is not what people think a word might mean, but what we say it means:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." (Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Caroll.)

In my opinion, the Alexander Technique does involve posture, but it defines "good posture" and how to achieve it in a very different way than most approaches.

There's no doubt that bad posture is hard on the body. What most people think of as good posture is generally maintained by using excessive muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and back, which in turn stiffens the limbs as well.

If you habitually slouch in your chair, you probably can notice the amount of extra work that is required to "sit up straight" according to the usual idea. On the other hand, if you habitually maintain what you have been taught to believe is good posture, you may not realize how much you are overworking. You have learned to carry yourself stiffly erect as a child, from relatives or teachers. Or perhaps you learned it as an adult, from a physical therapist, a dance teachers or a yoga instructor. Those who taught you to do this had the best of intentions, but the result can be inflexibility, impairment of full breathing and even pain: ironically, the same problems that can result from slouching.

Several of my students have come for lessons with what most people would say looked like good posture, but who had suffered for years from mysterious neck and back pain that could not be traced to any injury or disease. It was immediately apparent to me, with my Alexander Technique lens, that each of them was holding his back and neck ramrod straight, with very tense muscles. As we worked together on letting go of that tension, these students were able to experience being fully upright with much less effort, and the pain gradually disappeared.

Adapted from "A Lawyer's Guide to the Alexander Technique: Using Your Mind-Body Connection to Handle Stress, Alleviate Pain, and Improve Performance."

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]KAREN G. KRUEGER practiced law in New York City for 25 years before training at ACAT, and has now been teaching the Alexander Technique for almost five years.  She is the author of the recently published book A Lawyer’s Guide to the Alexander Technique: Using  Your Mind-Body Connection to Handle Stress, Alleviate Pain, and Improve Performance (ABA Publishing).  Website:  Buy the book.[/author_info] [/author]