Physical inactivity is a growing problem worldwide. Modern technology has brought obvious benefits to society, but it also means people are spending more time behind their desks and glaring at screens.
Most goods and services are available at the click of a button, and friends and relatives can be contacted effortlessly through social media and mobile devices. Unfortunately, there are health risks to this sedentary lifestyle.
I love to stay active, but even I spend eight or more hours a day at my desk for work. In the 16 years since I've entered the workplace, I've developed all sorts of niggles and aches. My left shoulder became particularly sore and uncomfortable.
About a year ago, I found out about the Alexander Technique and I've seen a massive change in my posture since beginning sessions. It may sound crazy, but I've even grown an inch in height! So this is my quick guide to the Alexander Technique and the benefits I've experienced after employing its methods.
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is designed to help people who develop physical problems due to bad posture when performing everyday tasks. We're constantly putting unnecessary tension on our bodies because of incorrect movements. Sitting at a desk is just one example, but did you know you're probably walking, sleeping and even speaking in a way that could be causing you issues?
Invented over 100 years ago by Frederick Matthias Alexander, the Alexander Technique is a system that helps re-educate people on harmful habits and how to correct them. I've found the method is more of a teaching process than a specific exercise or procedure. Having done high-octane workouts and pilates before, the subtlety of the Alexander Technique took me a while to get my head around!
Here are some of the key elements of the Alexander Technique that have helped me feel happier, healthier and more in tune with my natural posture.
The first step to releasing the tension in your body is identifying your bad habits. Mindfulness is such an important part of the Alexander Technique, and while progress may seem slow at the beginning, everything should fall into place eventually.
You are encouraged to recognise your body's unique movements through self-awareness exercises and observation. Before long, you'll know exactly where your problem areas are and begin to understand how best to overcome them.
Fixing your posture
The head-neck-spine relationship is central to the Alexander Technique. The theory is that humans are born with the ability to move efficiently, but we gradually lose this talent after years of forcing our bodies into unnatural positions.
You'll learn to free your head and neck so they better align with your spine. Breathe deeply, move your head up and forward and you'll eventually notice your posture improves and even lengthens (hence the added inch in height I referred to earlier!).
Stopping bad habits can be harder than you think! After all, you're trying to override a lifetime of pre-programming your body to move in a certain way.
The Alexander Technique therefore explores 'Inhibition', which is a moment of conscious awareness of the need to interrupt or prevent an entrenched habit. In simple terms, that means taking a moment to stop yourself from performing a specific motion so that you can choose a different – and hopefully better – action.
I'm still a beginner when it comes to the Alexander Technique, but I've already waved goodbye to most of my aches and pains, plus I have more energy and my posture is vastly improved. I'd encourage everyone to have a go, and don't give up too quickly – changing the habits of a lifetime won't happen overnight!