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Happy Backs • Moving with the Alexander Technique

It's been a bit of a wild ride transitioning home from Illinois. Moving everything back to my Lake City residence was like combining two households all over again! Now that all the boxes have been (mostly) unpacked, and I've got some cozy companions to keep me company while my husband is working away from home, scooping snow has begun as winter weather finally arrives.

That brings me to the idea of stopping. I have a lot of concrete to clear snow from, and thankfully last year my husband invested in an electric snow blower. It saved some hours of scooping, but, I still had to stop and rest.

Without the rest time I would have paid with pain the next day. Knowing how to manage these limits allowed me to accomplish much more than I could have by pushing through.

One of the tenets of the Alexander Technique is to allow muscles to operate from a position of resting length rather than constant contraction, which causes lingering tension. Learning to let muscles work when needed and stop when not needed seems complicated, but once you start the process, you'll begin to notice how much you're overusing yourself. Then you can stop and consciously create better habits.

That's what this class is all about. We will meet only 8 times, so the thought process will be intense, but the physical rewards will be measurable.

Stopping to rest isn't limited to changing activities or giving yourself a respite from activity. It can also apply to deciding how much effort you expend with a specific muscle group as you work. Is it possible to lift the shovel with less effort? Is it possible to turn the body to throw snow without twisting? Is it possible to use the underside of the arm more than the top of the arm so you engage a more powerful set of muscles in the back? Those are the sorts of questions the Alexander Technique ultimately explores.

It begins with the concept of body mechanics: there are ways the body prefers to work, movements that are easier than others because of the way the body is designed. "Lift with your legs" is an example. Although it's not truly a mechanically accurate statement, it is good advice for engaging the whole body in the act of picking up something heavy.

In the end, though, it's really about making decisions. How will I stand so that my back doesn't hurt when I'm done with this? Is there a way I can walk so my hip (or knee or foot) doesn't hurt so much? Is there a way I can sit at my computer that will make my back (or neck or shoulders) happier?

If it sounds interesting to learn to use your body in new ways, then the Alexander Technique may have some answers. Contact me for more information.

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