Greetings and Happy Holidays to everyone. I wanted to get a second newsletter out before the end of the year. It’s been a difficult year with health challenges and some unexpected stresses of life.
One of the most important things I wanted to share with you is how important noticing one’s posture during times of stress can be. I think we all revert to our familiar contracted habits of physicality. When this happens we stay stuck in our mind and body and do not usually make the best decisions. Taking time to pause and realign can make such a difference, not just for your body but for your thinking. Having the practice of checking in with your alignment a few times a day, even once an hour, can give you more energy and certainly improve your posture as well as your mood. So this is just a reminder to take care of your body by taking care of your alignment. It is also important to find easy and fun ways to help you remember to check in with your body and settle your nervous system. Here is a useful article about posture and mood. And, please remember the most important part of this is connecting up with your body and allowing movement along the spine and outwards to the limbs.
Have you ever noticed how your body feels after a drive? Do you feel more or less relaxed? Is your neck tight? Do you feel shorter or more compressed?
We are all aware of the importance of being attentive when we drive. We are often more aware of our bodies because there is a demand to be awake and present in order to arrive alive. Going unconscious can be done to some extent while driving to familiar destinations. Have you ever gotten to work or your home with no awareness of the drive? Generally our reaction responses will kick in when we need them, but it is disturbing to realize how easy it is to drive on ‘automatic pilot’.
Being conscious of your posture can help you be more aware and present while driving. There are ways to drive which support your alignment and posture while you are behind the wheel. You can arrive with a sense of your spine elongated and shoulders relaxed, it just takes intention and consciousness focus. Try noticing your level of relaxation and how your joints feel as well as your height before you get into your car. First be aware of your skeletal system. Too often we conform or collapse into the shape of the seat we are sitting in. Unfortunately most cars don’t seem to be designed for good posture. Ideally your pelvis should be slightly higher than your knees. The seat firm enough so that you can be aware of the bones you’re sitting on. Too often we sit behind or in front of the sitz bones. You want to be directly over them so that your pelvis is supported.
When your pelvis is in a stable supported position you can lengthen your back and let your head move toward the roof of the car. You want to maintain this height and length while you’re driving. This can easily be done with your breathing as you take a breath and think of breathing into your sitz bones and bringing that breath up along the front of your spine and out the crown of your head. You can let your tailbone and pubic bone point to the seat while the crown of your head is pointing up. Think of sending your head and tail in opposite directions. I can assure you that when you do this consistently you will develop a habit and reach your destination consciously. You can arrive more relaxed and as tall or taller than when you left.
This way of breathing comes from Cantienica, developed by Benita Cantieni. You can go to her website for more information and she does have a wonderful e-book which is available for purchase.
Galen Cranz and I teach classes combining using the principals of Alexander Technique and Cantienica in the East Bay.
I will also be teaching some classes in Marin County, dates TBA. I hope you find these tips helpful and that they add to your comfort while driving.
Have you ever noticed your shoulders inching up towards your ears and felt the tension it creates in your whole boy? This unconscious habit can make you feel upset even when there is nothing to be upset about. Here is a TED Talk video about how body language shapes who you are. Here is a TED Talk video about how body language shapes who you are.
When my shoulders are tight or raised it usually means I’ve shortened the distance between my head and sacrum. This leads to compression along the spine as well as the shoulders taking over and trying to carry me around. Since the relationship of the head to the spine is called ‘primary control’ in Alexander terms, you know if this relationship is off then the entire structure is going to have trouble. Thus starting with bringing the head/spine in proper relationship is the first step in bringing your shoulders to a relaxed position.
Another unconscious habit that can contribute to shoulder problems is lifting and pulling up and in at the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is made up of the clavicle and shoulder blade coming together to form a round socket. The arm bone, the humerus, fits into this socket and too often we think of the head of the humerus as part of the joint. This thinking may be what causes us to pull up and in with the arm, creating more tension in our shoulders. Learning to recognize this habit is a step towards reducing the stress and tension we are putting on this joint. Learning to let the elbows drop will give more space to the joint. This action will also reduce wear and tear on the shoulder.
Rowing is a popular sport with a great opportunity to either learn how use your shoulders properly, or really abuse them and end up with rounded shoulders and poor posture. Most rowers pull in at the shoulder joint and round their torso; they forget or don’t know about the importance of lengthening up along the front as well as the back of the spine while using the oars. And ideally letting the elbows drop instead of pulling the head of the humerus into the shoulder joint. This is also helpful when you are at the gym using a rowing or weight lifting machine. Exercising your body with good alignment and use will make a huge difference in your posture, as well as give you a better sense of awareness of when you are going out of alignment.
One of my favorite exercises for releasing the stress on the shoulder joint is an egoscue exercise. Here is the link to it. If your shoulders are not limber enough for this you can lie in conscious constructive rest position and slowly open your arms wide initiating the movement from the finger tips not the joint. Learning to think the movement by connecting your thought to your bones and muscles without forcing allows ease and comfort throughout your entire being.