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Upright posture is sometimes believed to be the end result of a helluva lot of sit-ups. So I submit to you my plump, can’t-do-a-sit-up-if-her-life-depended-on-it toddler. Look at how her spine lengthens even in a difficult position!

I’m not saying that there is no advantage to abdominal strength; however, the link between tight stomachs and good posture is, well, weak. The postural response is activated by the lengthening of muscles flanking the spine. This is what babies are developing during “tummy time.”

A lot of our cultural cues like, “sit up straight,” or “chest up, shoulders back” aren’t so much about achieving good posture as much as they are about not slumping. But the opposite of slumping is not poise. “Chest up, shoulders back” uses the wrong muscle groups and throws the head out of balance. Yet it appeals to our deeply ingrained belief that the body must be tamed, mastered, and only willpower can do it. A hundred years ago, FM Alexander, who healed his body of a debilitating repetitive stress injury, said that changing habits is gradual, like a blade of grass that steadily works its way up between a crack in the sidewalk. The grass succeeds because it’s clear about the right direction (upward), and because it keeps at it.

A question worth reflecting on is: Does it feel like your effort to find better posture is in the right direction?

I would argue that the Alexander Technique (AT) creates a channel — an effective channel — where we can focus moderate effort and make significant gains. I grew almost an inch when I was twenty-six. My sleeves had to be longer. I felt a lot less pain and more wakeful energy. I was pleased to have a body again.

I never would’ve majored in the AT in college (I first had to pursue other financially reckless studies), but I found the Technique when I needed it. And I can’t imagine life without it.

As humans, especially in 2019, we all have more going on in our head than we know what to do with, which can lead to obsessive thinking, anxiety, and long-term distraction. The AT has helped direct my attention and angsty mind into growth and healing. If you’d like to talk about what happens in an Alexander Technique session, or how to start for yourself, schedule a free phone consultation here.

Meditation + Alexander Technique teacher. Author of “Don’t Get Better,” forthcoming guide to sanity, humor, and wisdom during illness. dancayer.co

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