As young children we have grace and freedom of movement. Toddlers bend, squat, and reach with ease, and sit effortlessly on the floor in an upright position. By the time they go to school, many children find it difficult to sit on the floor without slumping, and they start developing round or hunched shoulders. Consequently their natural poise and co-ordination become impaired.
The teenage slouch can cause twists in the spine and tension in the neck. Teenagers experience growing spurts and find it difficult to know how to adapt to these changes. They often try to minimize their stature by sinking down, pulling the shoulders forward, and slumping into chairs. In addition to the postural difficulties already mentioned, children are often under tremendous pressure to become achievers in all kinds of activities and have to act speedily to keep up with adults.
Several children were sent to FM Alexander with various difficulties. Some had asthma, scoliosis, or reading difficulties. As a result, he set up a special school to help children between the ages of 3 and 18 years. The school was run following the principles of the Alexander Technique. Activities during the day were varied to cope with concentration. Children were encouraged to sit on smaller and lower furniture to enable them to work with ease. Alexander’s approach was to encourage thinking and awareness. He worked with small groups, chatting to the children and giving them individual turns by skilfully using his hands to enhance the “use” of the child.
All qualified teachers of the Alexander Technique are able to work with children and help them retain their natural balance and poise.
Sue Holladay, Play with Posture (Positive Child Development using the Alexander Technique), First published in 2012, by HITE, London, United Kingdom.
Gal Ben-Or, Directions for Life (Alexander Technique for Children and Youth), First edition 2011, Israel.
Aisa Masterton, Alexander Technique: A Step-by-Step Guide, First published in 1998 by Element Books Limited, Great Britain.
Responding to the baba – his hunger, his cries, my need to feed him and be a good mom – means I’m often leaning into him, going to him, curving my shoulders, tightening in my neck – then noticing that I can go back into my back, into my breath. This choice means he can be better himself. If I can take care of myself then in some way I’m giving him permission to take care of himself too.
I have been investigating how my habitual responses to pain or lack of sleep, or losing my patience or lack of exercise involves closing and tightening; along with a negative mental song playing over and over in my mind affecting everything – colouring things beyond the actual source of contention. I am seeing how to use – moment to moment – inhibition and direction and this is very freeing, very empowering. I am appreciating what able-bodied feels like; what calmer and less judgmental feels like. It is not always the case but more and more.
I am doing some Constructive rest every day, really allowing the tension and strain accumulating in my upper back and neck to ease away. This affects my chest and breast area too – helping me keep space throughout my upper torso region. Thinking softness under my arms to create even more softening and space for my ribs and mammaries. I spend a lot of time looking at my baby lying in my lap. His sleeping self or fractious self or feeding self. I’m finding the length at the top of my spine so that when I look down it is with the ease and simplicity of a nod from the top of my spine.
Having a mental picture of some of my basic anatomy is also helpful: this is tactile information I can use. It is not dependent on a moment or an emotional state – it just is and I can switch on the light of my awareness to make this concrete strong able part of me ‘alive’ to the moment and help me. I see how quickly the switch can go off into ‘losing it’ and also how quickly I can rebound to balance. This ‘knowledge’ helps me not waste energy needlessly and so even with a very broken night sleep, I find I can cope during the day and am not exhausted.
My over- arching direction right now is: release into resilience.
This is a job that is never done. The support from learning AT is a constant aid to me being my best self. I still ‘lose it’ and freak out. I still hit base-line when I’m out of patience and suggestions. I still sometimes imagine the me that is fancy-foot and care-free and creative and adventure savvy and takes great photographs of interesting things and is current and interesting and reads books and remembers things but somewhere in the reality of my story right now I can find my fulfilled and growing and awesome self – it means looking at the everyday mundane things to find fulfillment and power; unlocking the basic building blocks and seeing the beautiful adventures therein.
Alexander Technique was a huge contributor to my labour and birthing process. The birth of my third child was a wonderful, empowering, climactic experience. I found I could be in my body, my breath and my mind and be with the pain of contractions in a very different way to my other two birth experiences. I used the thought: there is so much room for the contractions, the baby and for me. This feeling of pain is not everything; it is not all of me. Taking my time to stop and breathe as a contraction arrived early on without fear meant I was setting up a context for pausing and waiting and trusting as the labour pains grew and grew. Realising I wanted to go to the hospital I remember walking to the car a contraction coming and me waiting standing at the car – not getting into the car – feeling the moment come and go, not forcing a rhythm but letting my breathing be the rhythm. Such a small thing but a practiced example for me of inhibition and how empowering it felt. Staying with space – refusing fixity – letting the contractions come and using my body in a coordinated way so I could stay with the process of things coming and going.
The peaceful, inherent trust I am building in my body from my work in the Alexander technique is allowing me to know that it’s all good – I am able – I am built for all the tasks life requires of us – I can move and perform without strain and pain. From the labour and birth to the healing process to the intense mothering of a baby and two other rambunctious boys – I am enough. I am strong and soft. I can recover. It takes conscious noticing and directing but the ever growing awareness is so enjoyable and is becoming more and more refined.
There is so much opportunity for noticing and thinking in activity. Activities that are simple everyday exercises that are repeated over and over again. Sitting and standing. Picking up and putting the baby down. Sitting and holding and feeding the baby. Getting in and out of bed. All these things can be effortless or holding patterns for extra tension and micro fixing. Add crying and tiredness into the mix and it is a tough thing to remember I have choices and the mental and physical tension can be responded to in different ways. Hearing my baby crying generates worry, adrenaline, frustration. I am working on not letting these states be contagious and grow. He is so small but such a powerful force, a vortex that can suck all the space and energy in the house. He is unreasonable. I can easily be swept up into his maelstrom but I keep coming back to myself as a safe island of strength and resilience; an island for myself to land as well as the other people in my home. So I am giving permission many times a day for release; asking for my co-ordination.