Do you experience back, neck or other pain that lingers on? Or that keeps coming back? Maybe you tried going to physical therapy, medication, exercise, massage, alternative therapies? All of those are great things to do and each one has it’s time and place. Recently I wrote about my pain experience, and today I’d like to tell you a little more about my personal experience overcoming pain in the hope that it will help you.
What helped me to overcome back and neck pain that was already chronic and beginning to shoot down my arm were the skills I learned with the Alexander Technique.
I was used to always having some degree of pain. For years I constantly experienced pain that left me unable to turn my head much, or to sit, stand or work comfortably, and the pain got in the way of dancing, running and enjoying life.
What I didn’t know then was that I was compressing myself and causing my pain myself. I was desperate when the insurance I had at the time wouldn’t cover any more physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, shots or drugs, and none of that was helping me anyway. Some of my dance students suggested I try Alexander Technique lessons.
In my case, the change was almost instantaneous. I was overjoyed to be able to move freely! However, it took time to be able to sustain the new way of coordinating myself without falling back into my old habits.
As I continued to learn the Alexander Technique, I learned to coordinate my mind-body self with an increased awareness of my own self and my automatic mind-body reactions. I became more and more able to see my harmful habits and to choose something different. Postural habits are an ingrained part of us, so it’s normal that we can’t see them, and they especially take control when we’re focused on doing something – which is just about all the time! But with this practice, I learned to include myself in my activities, and pay attention to the HOW rather than just focusing on the goal I wanted to accomplish.
I became more able to be present in my body and in my present surroundings. It might sound a little like meditation, and well, it is a little like that, only with your whole self and not just at specific times, but in any and every activity of life.
Here’s one way you can practice this. And here’s another: Sit with your feet resting fully on the floor beneath your knees as you allow your weight to drop down onto your chair. Let your hands rest on your thighs. With your eyes open but soft, begin to pay attention to your breathing as you continue to notice the space around you. Notice if you are pulling down (collapsing) or pulling up (sitting up straight). Allow yourself to do neither of these. Allow your head to balance on top of your spine. Notice if you are pulling your head back and down toward your back and compressing your cervical spine. Allow yourself to sit and do nothing but pay attention to yourself and the space around you for a few minutes.
I decided to do the intense, daily half-day training of the 1,600-hour, three-year certification program. I was fascinated by Alexander’s revolutionary discovery of human head-spine coordination and wholeness of being that is supported by modern-day neuroscience and biomechanics. Always the skeptic, I questioned everything – and learned a great deal about my own habitual thought patterns. Since then, in myself and in my students I have seen repeatedly that when applied, the Alexander Technique always leads to increased mind-body coordination, which leads to reduced pain, stress and anxiety, better balance, ease of movement, improved breathing, greater spatial awareness and more.
I have developed – and continue to work on – the skill of paying attention to myself, my own reactions and habits as I do my activities so that they don’t get in the way of what I want to do. It doesn’t mean everything’s perfect and nothing ever hurts, but the relatively few times something does get out of whack, I know how to deal with it and I recover my equilibrium much more quickly and easily. I think that’s important to mention. We never reach a state of perfection, and for me that actually makes the process of self-discovery much more enjoyable!
The Alexander Technique is not a therapy that someone does to you, and it’s not a kind of exercise. It’s a way of relearning how to coordinate yourself naturally, that has therapeutic effects and that helps you get more out of the exercise that you do, without excess tension or strain.
Alexander’s discovery and technique for coordinating our mind-body selves is applicable to anything and everything, because it is a way of becoming aware of what we are actually doing as opposed to what we think we are doing. It’s a way of allowing our natural coordination to function rather than our self-imposed limitations.
Are you ready to learn more about yourself and get out of pain?
I am honored to be able to share this journey of self-discovery with you. I hope that some of my self-discoveries will help you on your journey toward mind-body ease and balance!
Wishing you ease and joy,
DiscoverEase in Movement