In order to function well, we need a certain amount of muscle tone. Unfortunately, though, most of us have more tension than we need, because of the stress of daily living. This tension interferes with the natural alignment of our head, neck and spine – and that’s one reason why so many of us are in pain or have difficulty with activities.
Through private lessons in the Alexander Technique, you can become aware of your unnecessary muscle tension and reduce it. At the same time, you can rediscover the natural alignment that we all had as children. This alignment will give you better balance, coordination, and ease of movement.
If you’d like to read a longer, more detailed version of this article, you can go here.
When I was a young child, I had a natural alignment of my head, neck and spine. Even though I wasn’t aware of it, that alignment gave all my movements an effortless quality, and it helped me to be balanced and coordinated. As a result, my life was joyful and fun, and it was easy for me to do the sports I loved: especially horseback riding, bicycling and skiing.
Now it may sound as if I’m blowing my own horn here, but the fact is that I’m not unique. We all had this natural alignment of our head, neck and spine when we were young. We were born with it, so it was – and is – a part of our makeup. When we’re embodying it, movement is easy, and we have plenty of energy for the activities we enjoy. That’s because this alignment gives us the support we need in order to move with a minimum of effort.
Like me, most young children embody this alignment without even thinking about it. Next time you see a child under the age of six, take a closer look. Chances are her head, neck and spine are beautifully aligned. And not only that, she preserves the alignment when she’s moving. For example, when she bends down to pick up a toy, she doesn’t create an extra joint in her neck or at her waist. Instead, she only bends at her hips, knees and ankles.
As a matter of fact, I would encourage you to find some photographs of yourself when you were young. If you look closely at your alignment back then, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Unfortunately, in my case, the story didn’t end with that natural childhood alignment. As I got older, I began to build up some areas of muscle tension that interfered with it. Those patterns were related to the stresses and strains of school and sports – and of life in general.
Here’s an example. In all the sports I did, I would invariably try as hard as I could. That was because my coaches would say,
“If at first you don’t succeed, try again – only this time put more elbow grease into it,” or words to that effect.
Of course, I wanted to do well, so I tried to follow their advice. But that approach, combined with the stress of competition, had only one result. All my extra tension interfered with my performance and made it more difficult for me to achieve my goals.
The strangest part was that I wasn’t aware of how tense I’d become until much later, when I began taking Alexander Technique lessons.
By the way, it turns out that I’m also not unique when it comes to those habitual patterns of tension. Almost everyone develops them, without realizing it, because of the stresses of daily life. Of course, the exact nature of the patterns varies from person to person – but unfortunately, they’re extremely widespread.
Interestingly enough, though, there are a few rare individuals who don’t build up tension as they get older. As a result, they preserve the natural alignment that they had when they were young. And that means their movement continues to be easy, coordinated and graceful, as they get older. As you might imagine, these individuals tend to be successful in sports, in the performing arts, or in whatever discipline they choose.
For the rest of us, the patterns of tension that we develop have a number of effects. First of all, they throw off the natural alignment of our head, neck and spine, as I said before. As a result, they put extra pressure on our nerves and joints. That’s why many of us experience pain or have difficulty with activities. That was certainly true in my case: as I got older, the sports I did began to be more of a struggle. In addition, I didn’t enjoy them as much. And last but not least, I no longer did as well in competition as I once had.
The third stage of my development began when I discovered the Alexander Technique. Thanks to private lessons in the technique, I finally became aware of those patterns of muscle tension that had built up over the years. Of course, I also learned how to reduce them. Most important of all, I rediscovered the natural alignment of my head, neck and spine that I’d had as a child. Even though I’d lost track of it for many years, I gradually learned how to bring it back to life.
As a result of these wonderful discoveries, my approach to sports, and to all other activities, changed dramatically. The sports no longer felt like a struggle: they felt as easy and fun as they had when I was a child. In addition, my performance dramatically improved.
I was so pleased with those changes, and with the Alexander Technique in general, that I decided to train and become a teacher. After a three-year training program, I began teaching in 1991. I’ve been teaching now for 22 years.