Want a graceful, naturally upright posture that’s easy to maintain?
Postural muscle vs movement muscle
There's a plethora of weird and wonderful devices on the market to correct posture, from straps to hold your shoulders back to some strange buzzer thing you put on your back that buzzes if you dare to slouch…..
Let’s think about the mechanics of this for a minute. Right through the middle of your torso you have a long, flexible bony structure called a spine, supported by long, strong muscle designed to keep it at length.
The thing that keeps the spine upright is correct, non-fixed balance of the head right up on top of the spine. The minute that we let the head be fixed in any position on the spine, or that we let the head fall backwards, forwards or sideways, then the spine begins to collapse. This is a fairly easy mechanical device to understand.
The muscles right up close to the spine – the most central muscles of the body – are postural. In other words, they are designed to keep you upright all day long without tiring. They have a different constitution to the much larger muscles that are found on the outside of the body – these are to do with movement. Activities like running, stretching up to reach the jar on the top shelf, bending down to pick a book from the floor use the outside muscles.
There is no exercise to strengthen the deep postural muscles up close to the spine (and through the legs as well). The ONLY way to strengthen these muscles is to learn correct “use” of the body. In other words, “stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing will do itself” (FM Alexander, 1869-1955).
How do you know if you are using your body incorrectly? Do you ache from standing in an art gallery? Do you find it hard to sit on a stool without aback without slouching or collapsing? Have you developed an ache or pain in your neck or back or hips gradually over time (rather than as the result of an accident)? All clues that your “use” of yourself is faulty.
Learning the Alexander Technique takes time – rightly so, because we are learning to undo faulty habits of muscle use that we have developed over a long period of time. But the end result is a poised, natural upright posture that will take you gracefully into the future.