I Think, therefore I
Move. I move, therefore I am.
How we move is us.
Alexander Technique teacher
For many of us, spring means the return to a more active, outdoor lifestyle. With the increased demand that sports and other spring activities put on our bodies, an Alexandrian awareness can mean the difference between sore muscles and disabling pain or injury. Toward that end, AT teachers address the way we use our entire bodies in any particular activity rather than prescribing specific exercises.
RECOVERING OUR BIRTHRIGHT TO JOYFUL MOVEMENT
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ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE AND SPORTS
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I know where my sore muscles is!!
Most of us have heard, “Get Ready, Get Set, Go!” at some time. But suppose we think, “Be present, Get unset, Flow.” With no laborious analysis, we can easily appreciate how different our bodies could feel and how much freer our movement might become with that mental shift.
Consider what happens when we “Get ready.” We may narrow our focus, thus missing what could be important information. “Getting set” means that we must then get unset before we move, losing valuable reaction time. Working too hard on “Go” is typical and likewise counterproductive. To perform any physical task, many of us overwork the muscles we perceive as “doing” a task and brace supporting muscles, thus interfering with efficient movement. We end up driving our bodies with one foot on the metaphorical accelerator and the other foot on the brake. While that may provide a (false) sense of stability, we lose flexibility and the ability to move quickly without strain. We thwart the ability of auxiliary muscles to contribute appropriately, so we end up fighting ourselves.
Any habitual misuse of our bodies will be highlighted when we increase the intensity, duration, or frequency of an activity. While tennis lessons will help us with the particulars of a specific stroke, we will stress our shoulder joints if we continue to swing with the same over-tight shoulders we typically mistreat. (And we can easily overlook the customary abuse because it feels familiar and therefore “right.”) Similarly, if a person walks with stiff legs, running will most likely accentuate the misuse, stressing all leg joints and entire spinal column. The runner’s body will complain. Our accustomed movement patterns are often far removed from nature’s design.
Balance is important for all people who move, not just gymnasts. The ability to make rapid, subtle adjustments in the course of larger physical activity is diminished when muscles are already too tense, when feet are planted. A two-year-old’s walk is a controlled fall, and s/he can maintain upright posture, balancing a wobbly, heavy head, largely by not bracing to prevent falls. (Tumbles are but a part of the toddler’s learning process.) This inherent, dynamic relationship between head and spine bears primary responsibility for organizing overall coordination, and as we grow, we often interfere with our poise by tightening many muscles that connect our heads to our bodies.
When we educate ourselves to think differently about movement and the amount of effort a task requires, we increase flexibility while decreasing reaction time and wear and tear on joints and muscles. Our innate patterns, of course, can enhance not only our athletic skills but any action we choose. As we decrease the likelihood of injury, we increase skills and balance, and, equally if not more important, we increase pleasure in the activity.
Be present, get unset, flow! And enjoy yourself.