By Joan Arnold and Hope Gillerman with Terry Zimmerer
The Alexander Technique is useful during each phase of becoming a parent. Study of the Technique gets body and mind working together to unlearn old postural habits, solve movement problems and improve balance and coordination. It helps women understand and compensate for the many bodily changes that happen. And it can help both parents, as they are suddenly called on to lift at awkward angles and carry small, precious bundles, bouncing and cooing for sustained periods.
Low back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. As the baby grows, a woman’s center of balance changes. With increased weight forward, her usual tendency is to compensate by leaning back at the waist. This puts unnecessary pressure on her sacrum and lower back, and can cause excruciating back pain. But no pregnant woman has to accept this as a fact of life. In an Alexander Technique session, her teacher will show her how to protect her back. As her center of gravity shifts, she can learn how to adjust, easily. By decompressing the spine and distributing the baby’s weight through her entire body, she can be far more comfortable and pain-free.
As the baby grows and occupies more of her internal space, the woman’s heart, lungs and other internal organs become compressed. If she does not capitalize on her body’s internal support system, this can result in digestive problems and shortness of breath. With the Alexander Technique, she learns to reduce compression by allowing the torso to expand. This gives her, literally, more room to breathe. And she’ll need access to all her resources with the challenges to come.
As formerly easy daily activities become difficult, a pregnant woman can learn a practical, enjoyable way to handle moves as simple as standing and sitting. It is crucial for pregnant women to learn how to bend efficiently. An Alexander Technique teacher will show her how to use her torso as she attempts, for example, the now trying task of tying her shoes. She will learn how to rise from a chair, lie down or sit — comfortably.
Studying the Technique also helps a woman ride out the profound physical and psychological changes that ripple through her during pregnancy. As hormonal shifts spark mood swings and the nature of home life changes dramatically, this effective form of self care can help in regaining emotional equilibrium.
LABOR & DELIVERY
An Alexander Technique teacher can help a woman prepare for labor by teaching her to sit and squat comfortably, to release the pelvic floor and work with gravity as the baby descends through the birth canal. To counter the natural tendency to tense the whole body during painful contractions, she can learn how to
- breathe and calm her system
- focus during childbirth
- better facilitate opening of the cervix during dilation
- marshal her forces to push
Both parents and coach can prepare for the birthing process with Alexander lessons. By understanding Alexander principles, coach and father can better help the mother as well as manage their own bodies while they provide support and encouragement.
Alexander Technique gives the family — mother and father — new understanding and resources they can use throughout parenthood. They will learn how to lift a child out of a crib, how to hold the baby during feeding, how to haul around the accoutrements of childhood. They will have a better understanding of how to promote their child’s healthy progression through the developmental stages of movement. They will know how to trust and elicit the body’s capacity for subtle balance. Using the Technique’s accessible approach to their new spectrum of physical and emotional demands, they’ll be able to survive the storms and enjoy the rewards of family life, more physically relaxed and confident.
The Alexander Technique Birth Book, A Guide to Better Pregnancy, Natural Birth and Parenthood, by Ilana Machover and Angela & Jonathan Drake, forward by actors Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons