What Do Chairs and Shoes Have in Common? Part 1

by Karen G. Krueger

One common side effect of Alexander Technique lessons is a need to change furniture. After a course of lessons, a lot of chairs that once seemed adequate or even comfortable start to be very annoying. No chair can make you sit well, but a bad one can make it impossible to do so.

I have come to believe the same thing about shoes.

You’re no doubt familiar with the still-controversial barefoot running movement. You may even run barefoot or in “barefoot” or “minimalist” shoes. But have you thought about the effects of the shoes you wear daily, and the shoes you have worn throughout your life, on the shape and functioning of your feet?

In this and subsequent blog posts, I will invite you to consider whether what you wear on your feet is helping or hurting you, and I’ll provide resources for further exploration.

Let’s start by taking a good look at some basic shapes. Here are the feet of a typical newborn baby:



 Baby Foot

Baby Foot

And here are is a pair of adult feet that have not habitually worn shoes.

 This adult did not wear shoes regularly

This adult did not wear shoes regularly

This is the natural human foot: shaped like a triangle widest at the toes. Each toe aligns with its metatarsal, and the metatarsals and toes spread out like a fan.

Does it surprise you to see the adult foot? Have you ever considered how a baby’s little triangles turn into the foot shape we think of as normal — widest at the balls, with toes pressed together and towards the midline? This striking photo suggests an answer:



The foot pictured below is that of an adult who had never worn shoes on the left; on the right, that of a boy who had worn shoes for a few months. (Source: Conclusions Drawn From a Comparative Study of Barefoot and Shoe-Wearing Peoples, The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 1905; s2-3:105-136.)

 Left: never wore shoes; Right: wore shoes for a few month

Left: never wore shoes; Right: wore shoes for a few month

Now look at the shape of couple of major-brand running shoes (looking at the bottom of the soles):


 Running Shoe

Running Shoe

 Running Shoe, 2

Running Shoe, 2

Note that both are shaped nothing like a natural human foot. Rather than spreading out to the toes, each shoe gets narrower from the ball to the tips of the toes. And these are shoes intended for athletic activity! Dress shoes, whether for men or women, are typically even pointier at the toes.

How can it make sense to run and walk in shoes that compress the toes into a wedge shape, instead of allowing them to spread out? What is the long-term effect of immobilizing the toes in this position for hours at a time?

In my next post, I’ll look at some of the other features of conventional shoes that are at war with the natural shape and functioning of the human foot, and talk about the resulting deformation and de-conditioning they cause.

In the meantime, try going completely barefoot for at least a little time every day — really barefoot, not even with socks on. Spread your toes, rub and manipulate them with your hands, find out what it feels like to have them actively engaged on the ground as you stand and walk. If you are like me, you will find it very enjoyable.

This is the first of three posts about what I have learned from my experiences exploring the approach to foot health pioneered by sports podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan. For a wealth of relevant articles and videos, see:

1. Foot Help

2. Natural Foot Gear (Click on the “Learn” tab)

3. Youtube channel of Northwest Foot & Ankle

And for a broader perspective on movement that embraces bare-footing and natural foot care, see Katy Bowman’s website nutritiousmovement.com.

Karen Krueger.png

KAREN G. KRUEGER became a teacher of the Alexander Technique after 25 years of practicing law at two major New York law firms, receiving her teaching certificate from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in December 2010. Her students include lawyers, business executives, IT professionals and others interested in living with greater ease and skill. Find her at her website.

Alexander Technique applied to weight management

Like many of my friends and family, with age my metabolism has slowed down. Once I could eat whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted, and my weight was stable. In my mid-thirties, I noticed a slow but steady weight gain. At one point, I was 25 pounds heavier and decided I would need to change my habits.

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Training Journal: Classes with Judith Leibowitz #5

Training Journal: Classes with Judith Leibowitz #5

Bending and picking up an object:

Torso lengthening and widening

  • Stance appropriately wide to height of person

  • Releasing into monkey with no goal in mind

  • Maintaining shoulder width against gravity's tendency to pull shoulders in as torso bends, releasing shoulders out without contracting in the back

    Read more…

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7 Tips for Bringing Alexander Technique Awareness into Everyday Life

7 Tips for Bringing Alexander Technique Awareness into Everyday Life

Private lessons are a great way to understand your own habits and how Alexander Technique tools can help you find greater ease in daily activities, and specialized skills. We refer to our clients as students because we are teaching skills that offer independence outside of sessions.

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Organization: start with yourself

calm

"When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way.  But usually, without being aware of it, we try to change something other than ourselves, we try to order things outside us.  But it is impossible to organize things if you yourself are not in order.  When you do things in the right way, at the right time, everything else will be organized. "   -- Shunryu Suzuki (Japanese Zen Master)

When I read this quote, I saw the Alexander Technique.  Our reaction to our environment is to be pulled in by it, losing our connection to our support - quite literally, the support our skeleton offers us.  Much of the time, we are pushing ourselves out into the next moment, and falling off of our bones.  Our muscles come into action, gripping to hold us up, while trying to move us at the same time.

  • How often have you spoken only to wish you had taken time to think more fully about your response?
  • How many times have you worried over something that never came to be? 
  • How often have we missed the mark, whether bowling, playing pool or golfing, not having taken the time to allow our body to coordinate with our eyes?

While I cannot say that everything in my life is existing in the right place, in the right way all of the time, when I slow down and come to a place with more stillness and presence, I can feel tension and pain ease in my body, I can enjoy a sunny day in the middle of winter, I can delight in my cat playing "hockey" with his bottle caps.

Perhaps our internal state is more a predictor of our quality of life in any given moment than our circumstances.  How many times have you met someone who has things your wish for (a happy relationship, a beautiful home, physical health, artistic skill) and they are stressed and unsatisfied with their conditions.

Try This:
Can you find a way to be present to whatever abundance there is in your life?  Take 2  minutes now to find something in your immediate environment that reflects something you've created, or brought into your life that brings you pleasure, contentment or joy.  What is it like in your body and mind now?

(Originally Posted at www.brookelieb.com 3/13/18)

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. www.brookelieb.com

Rate of Change

Rate of Change

8/8/2005: When people begin studying something new (especially if it's helping them feel better), it's natural for them to want to learn all they can, right away and be a model pupil. Often, my clients get a great deal of relief when they first start to study, and because they have been in discomfort, they want to do all they can to hold onto the new state they are in. Unfortunately, you cannot hold on to a release. I am not just referring to a muscular release, I'm also referring to a release of a pattern or habit of attitude, perception or behavior.

 

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Strategies for a Lie Down #1: Expand, like rising dough

by Brooke Lieb

During many Alexander lessons, part of the lesson is spent with the student resting on her or his back on a table as the teacher uses verbal guidance and hands-on assistance to help the student expand her or his back onto the table, release arms and legs away from the trunk, and ease mental and physical tension and stress.

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The Alexander Technique Applied to Mindful Eating

by Brooke Lieb

In an effort to reduce stress, I have stopped watching the news. I skim the homepage of the Guardian and the NY Times to keep current, but otherwise, I rarely watch news on TV or online.

Instead, I watch British films and TV, comedies and crime dramas, home improvement shows and I am a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show.

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Podcast: Don’t Make Pain the Enemy

by Dan Cayer

Most approaches to solving chronic pain fail because they try to either overpower the pain through exercise or PT regimens, or ignore the discomfort and ‘get on with life.’ Both approaches act as if the pain and uncertainty aren’t there. Both approaches act as if you aren’t there – dealing with the swirling feelings and thoughts that arise. In my 20 minute interview on the podcast, “Body Learning,” I share a different approach to resolving chronic pain that I’ve tested out in my personal life and with hundreds of students.

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Sorting out Good Ballroom Posture

by Bette Chamberlin

When I was a professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theater, people would come up to me and ask “are you a dancer? and then immediately “you have such good posture.” I would reply “yes”, and “thank you”. I felt content that in fact I had good posture. But that compliment was always tied with “are you a dancer?”

Hmm…

When I stopped dancing professionally and started to teach ballet, I continued to be that dancer that “had good posture”, yet I was unwittingly passing along the model of an over straightened spine to my students. At the same time, I was experiencing intense neck and shoulder pain. My spine was braced and operating by habit, acting as if I was still a professional ballet dancer, and not responding to conventional treatments. My anxiety about this was building and became another daily challenge.

The reality is that most of us dancers have an idea about posture that involves way too much muscular tension.

And I was an excellent example of this.

It wasn’t until I started looking for both relief for my neck pain and a more organic way to look at posture that I bumped into F. M. Alexander’s discovery. Rethinking the relationship between my head neck and spine was a revelation. I was soon pain free and decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher.

Since that time, I have studied Ballroom dancing for the past 12 years, in particular American Rhythm and International Latin. There is no question that had I not changed my impression of “good posture” I would not have been able to continue lessons all these years, win competitions and find the enjoyment in moving.

Is there a special posture that we apply to ballroom versus walking down the street, waiting in line at the market, singing or playing a musical instrument?

We have all been taught by our awesome teachers that there is a specific angle of the head, or an element of body positioning that is required to evoke tango, salsa, waltz or rumba.

However, I have learned that good posture is based on the architecture of our bodies, the support of the spine, muscles, ligaments and tendons that help to move our amazing structure. But HOW to coordinate this in an efficient manner is what I have learned over the years.