Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Change your mind and the rest will follow

The other day I was scouring the net for info on Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais method because they are particular interests of mine. I came across an AT discussion of head/neck posture that I thought was interesting and enlightening. Try this out...
Notice what posture your head and neck is in then imagine someone yelling at you, "STRAIGHTEN UP!" What motion did you make? What muscles did you use? I can't see you through your computer screen but I bet it involved neck retraction (moving your chin straight back) and looking upward. Accentuate this posture so that you can feel the muscles required - pull your chin back and look up. I feel stress in my neck and shoulders when I do this.
Here's another option. Another way of thinking about straightening up. Instead of trying to retract your neck, think about lengthening your neck upward and forward. Move however you have to in order to get the bridge of your nose forward and upward a little bit. When I tried this a couple of times, I noticed that the heavy upper part of my head was naturally rocking back over my spine in better balance and my shoulders were relaxing and dropping. This posture follows all the shizentai rules (ears above shoulders above hips...) while requiring less from some really overworked muscles (traps, erectors, levators).
Alexander (as I understand it) specialized in fixing neck posture and using that as a starting point to fix other postural problems. Alexander used some cool mental tricks like the above in his work. The idea being that if you can change how you think about your posture and motion then your posture and motion will begin to change and fix itself. This idea is known as ideokinesis and was developed and elaborated upon by Lulu Sweigard, Mabel Todd and others.
I really like the leverage that these systems (Alexander, Feldenkrais, Ideokinesis) give us for self-improvement of our physical potential. Not only are they very effective but their principles appear to fit well with the principles of aikido and judo.

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