You may be asking, “Are there any Alexander Technique exercises that I can do which will help my situation or posture?” We all want to help ourselves where we can and certainly learning the Alexander Technique is a way of doing this. However there are not a series exercises to do in the same way that you might get if you went to see a physiotherapist or joined a fitness programme at the gym. There is no exercise to directly improve posture. However, learning the Alexander Technique naturally leads to better posture and then can be applied to whatever sport or fitness activity you are interested in..
The reason for this is that rather than ‘doing exercises’ we are learning to become aware of and ‘not do’ certain habitual ways of doing things that cause us pain or impede our natural co-ordination and performance. An added complication in applying the Alexander Technique for ourselves, especially initially, is that we are not always aware of what these habit actually are that we should be preventing as we are so used to our habits – of being the way that we are – that we don’t notice them. It can be frustrating, We know, to find that there are not exercises for The Alexander Technique that we can do but this is the reality.
Instead though, there is one procedure, “Alexander Technique Semi-Supine Procedure” which we can learn to apply by ourselves. It is not an exercise as such and to obtain full benefits from this procedure, it is truly best learned with a teacher. However, as long as there are no medical reasons why you cannot do this, you could experiment with it yourself and begin to experience the benefits of lying down in semi-supine.
We are describing it for your information below in the context of a client having sessions.
If you are interested in booking private sessions or would like us to answer a query please contact us using the form below and we will be happy to respond to you.
"rather than ‘doing exercises’ we are learning to become aware of and ‘not do’ certain habitual ways of doing things that cause us pain or impede our natural co-ordination and performance"
Alexander Technique Semi-Supine Procedure
By taking the time to lie down in semi-supine, you are allowing gravity to assist you in releasing unnecessary muscle tension, allowing us to spread out and expand rather than our usual habit of contracting and compressing ourselves. It is a position of mechanical advantage which provides maximum support and relief for the head, neck and back.
Illustration from “Body Learning” by Michael Gelb
How long and when?
It is extremely beneficial to do lying down work at least once each day for 10 to 15 minutes in any one period. Even two minutes would make a difference though, if you are short of time. Lying down for more than 15 minutes will not necessarily be damaging but it is less likely that we will keep up the conscious directing, that it is a core aspect of the Alexander Technique, as time increases!
It can be any time of day and we would suggest that you find times to suit you.
Lying down in the morning after one has got up can help even out the stresses and tensions that we have built up during our sleep.
Lying down in the day can make a break from being upright (sitting, standing, walking etc.) from morning until night.
Lying down before going to bed can help release the stresses and contribute to a better sleep.
It can be very valuable to lie down prior to and/or after giving a presentation or performance, or any activity that may be stress-inducing.
What should I lie on?
Always lying on a firm surface for example a carpeted floor, a rug on the floor or a table. A soft surface like a bed is not firm enough and will not give the same result.
How high should the books under my head be?
Your teacher will advise you on the optimum height for you – which causes your head neither to drop forward and down into your throat or back and down. Note that this optimum height varies from person to person and may change as the conditions of your musculature and structure change through having sessions, even during a session and working on yourself in between lessons. Beware of books which define the exact height for you, without having seen you.
How should I arrange my legs?
By having the legs bent and the feet flat on the floor (rather than your legs out straight), it takes the pressure off the lower back. Have your feet neither too far or too close to your torso (your teacher will advise you on this) and with your feet approximately shoulder width apart.
However, at first, a variation which may help in being able to release in the hip joints is to have pillows or cushions supporting your legs underneath the knees. In this way, you do not have the responsibility to keep the legs up and will be not be concerned about the legs falling and sustaining a groin injury!
Should I try and get comfortable?
Avoid fidgeting or wriggling around to ‘get comfortable’ as what ‘feels right’ will be what corresponds to our habit. Allow yourself to release, letting the firm surface support you. As you release, you may ‘feel wrong’ or uncomfortable but this may be a more beneficial state than your habitual state that feels right!
All you need to do to reap the benefit of this procedure is to rest in this position. As you rest, gravity will be lengthening your spine while ‘undoing’ unnecessary twists and tensions.
How do I direct myself?
NB. This may not make sense without having lessons. When lying down consciously direct yourself in the sequence that you learned during your lessons. This reflects Alexander's discovery of the Primary Control (the relationship between the head neck and back).
Let the neck be free
To let your head release at the top of your spine away from the body
To let your whole back lengthen and widen, not holding your chest (not fixing the ribcage), diaphragm, tummy or pelvis – undoing the “muscular corseting” that we tend to do.
To let your shoulders release away from each other and continue allowing release from your shoulders to your elbows, from your elbows to your wrists and from your wrists to the tips of your fingers, letting your hands spread out.
To let your hips be free so that your knees can release away from your back and let your feet spread out on the floor/table.
Have your eyes open and be aware of what is going on around you.