Making the most of your spine with Alexander Technique

Get in touch with your spine. When the spine is allowed to function as an integrated whole it gives us strength. It’s an interesting fact that the only parts of ourselves we cannot see without the use of a mirror are the head and the back. So we need to develop a different kind of awareness and trust in this inner core structure. Developing freedom of movement along the whole length of the spine, allowing the head to be poised by directing the spine to rise up through the body.

The spine is the true core or ‘inner comfort’ of the body which gives it strength. The word comfort comes from the Latin ‘com’ and ‘forte’ which means ‘with’ and ‘strong’.

Sayings like “He has no backbone” or “Don’t be so spineless” are expressions that describe an attitude showing a lack of aim or direction, a lack of presence in the now. When teaching groups I sometimes get them to walk around the room thinking that they don’t have a spine and head, that they are simply arms and legs. They end up walking slowly, without energy, heavily and don’t like it one bit. I then ask them to imagine that they are just a spine and head walking around the room. Now they flow along, peacefully, happily and with lots of energy. Try it yourself.

Did you know that the cartilage discs between the vertebrae in your spine are largely made of water, especially the inner nucleus. During waking hours spent most of the time in an upright position, standing walking or sitting (and admit it, often slumped), these discs become compressed and lose moisture. Normally it is only during the night when we lie down in bed that the pressure is sufficiently reduced so the discs can again soak up lost moisture. This is one reason why we are a little taller when we wake up in the morning and gradually become shorter as the day goes on.

Alexander Technique teaches you the perfect remedy for this. Taking 15-20 minutes lying down in semi-supine the Alexander way once or twice during the day allows this re-plumping up of the discs and may help prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Your Alexander teacher will show you the best way to do this.

Find a quiet space, ideally on a slightly cushioned hard surface, e.g. a mat on the floor. Put a few paperback books or a yoga block to support your head (not the neck). You want to have enough support under the head that your chin isn’t tipped up but not so much that it is tucked down on your throat. Have your knees bent with the feet flat on the mat, about shoulder width apart. Allow your arms to release away from the shoulders and fold the forearm and hand back to rest gently on the front of your body. Gravity will do the work for you to help let go of excessive tension and holding in the body, gradually allowing your spine to lengthen and your whole body expand. Let your eyes stay open if the light isn’t too much.

If you haven’t got 15 or 20 minutes do it for 5 or 10, but don’t put it off. This is a great way to unwind and allow mind and body to work as one.

David Orman (2017)