Preconceived ideas. We all have them. They are self-limiting beliefs that become self-fulfilling realities. One of the most common beliefs that I hear is that pain and stiffness are an inevitable part of aging.
What if I were to tell you that this is a misconception. There is a way to learn how to move better with less pain and stiffness. There is a way to improve your balance, and mobility.
For the past 25 years I have taught the Alexander Technique; a mindfulness based practice that teaches you how to move better. The Technique focuses on a person’s habitual patterns that interfere with the way they were designed to move. As we age we don’t move like we did as a small child. Children run, skip, hop, jump and never complain of a sore back or bad knees. But adults can’t do that. And yes some of this has to do with getting older but it also has to do with habits that interfere with your natural sense of poise and balance.
So it is your habits that are getting in your way. Perhaps it is not your back hurting you but you and your habits hurting your back. Now I’m not talking about whether you have the habit of brushing your teeth or waking up at 6:00AM every morning. I’m talking about having the habit of slouching, or crossing your legs when you sit, or grinding your teeth. Habit is a big umbrella that includes all of those and many other things such as your tempo, your intention, and your intensity.
Here are some of the habits that I see consistently with my clients.
1. Do you rush, or do you do things slowly?
2. Do you try too hard! Trying hard just gets in your way. Stop trying and start allowing. Just tell yourself that you are going to allow yourself to be right here and right now.
3. When sitting, do you not sit on your sitz bones!
In order to sit up with any degree of ease one needs to be sitting on the sitz bones. Do this: find a hard chair. A kitchen or dining room chair would be perfect. Sit on the chair and slide your hands palm up under your bum. Do you feel the boney bits? These are your sitz bones – otherwise known as your ischial tuberosities. Now slide your hands out. See how much better you are sitting? Many people sit back from their sitz bones and this forces them to slouch. So you see all the while your mother should have been telling you to sit on your sitz bones to improve your posture and not telling you to sit up straight.
4. Do you clench their jaw, tongue and neck? The primary principle in the that I do is that the relationship of your head and neck dictates how well you function and move. When you clench your jaw and tighten your tongue and neck you are interfering with this relationship. So tell yourself not to clench your jaw. Tell yourself to soften your neck and tongue. See if this changes how you move.
5. Do you walk with their toes up in the air? Perhaps this is you? You definitely do this if you find that you are wearing a hole in the top of your socks, slippers or sneakers. When we walk well, our weight strikes near the middle part of the heel, crosses the arch of the foot and continues to our big toe. The big toe has two jobs: it helps balance you and it propels you forward. So when you walk think of walking through the big toe. Now don’t over do this. Allow it to happen. Remember the first habit I mentioned?
Don’t try! Allow instead!
I would like to teach you a very simple practice that has a profound effect on how we move. It is called the Alexander Technique Lie Down. Lying down in this way resets you. It is kind of like rebooting your computer. We live in a go-go world and don’t pay much attention to stopping. Stopping is very important and lying down gives you the opportunity to stop and reorganize. It is preferable if you do this on the floor with carpeting or a yoga mat. If you cannot get down to the floor, no worries. You can do this in your bed but be sure to replace the pillows with books. Here is the sequence.
The Alexander Technique Lie Down
1. Find a spot on the floor with carpeting or a rug. Place a pile of paperback books on the floor. This is where you will place your head.
2. Sit on the floor with your back to the books. Lower your chin to your chest and roll down so that your head rests on the books. You should not have so many books that you tuck your chin, nor have too few books so that your head falls back onto the books. The book height is not a science. It may change throughout your lie down and it may change from lie down to lie down.
3. Place your hands on your ribs. Bend your legs so that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are pointing up to the ceiling.
4. Lie this way for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day. If you cannot manage that length of time start with 5 minutes and build up.
5. Think about allowing your head to release onto the books.
6. Think about allowing your back to release onto the floor. This includes your upper back, your shoulders, your ribs and your lower back. If you feel tightness in your lower back you can do a pelvic tilt.
7. To get up off the floor roll over into a fetal position and then get onto your feet.
I hope that you have found this useful. Let go of preconceived ideas about aging and free yourself up for easy movement.