Your Alexander Technique teacher might recommend taking a walk after your lesson. Many people wake up in the morning with pain and feel better after they have moved for a while. In 2008 the British Medical Journal published a study with almost 600 people suffering from back pain, in which they could demonstrate effectively the positive results of Alexander Technique lessons for back pain patients; the only exercise the researchers recommended in addition to lessons was walking regularly.
So, we might ask, what is happening on a walk that helps our backs to integrate.
- Walking reduces pain. Movement produces synovial fluid, thereby lubricating body joints; twenty-four independent vertebrae are forming the spine and each vertebra has 10 facet joints connecting it to either the vertebrae above or below. When you walk you "oil" your joint mechanism.
- Walking is dynamic as opposed to fixed; with every step you have the opportunity to practice your thinking in activity, to release an area in your body and to re-direct your awareness.
- Walking strengthens your back; it is an organized upright movement in which the spine is challenged to carry some weight, while deep postural ("core") muscles are working. The benefits are optimized when we allow the head to be poised on top of the spine and not to add tension in back and neck muscles .
- Walking is a whole-body activity; you can integrate and exercise your legs, feet, arms, shoulders, neck - even your cheeks if you walk with a friend and talk or laugh.
Try This - no headphones needed!
On your walks you can chose and alternate between the following mental directions:
- let your knees go forward and your back release backward - this leads to free hip joints and a clear separation between torso and legs
- let your knees go forward and your ankles be free - then the muscles in your calves and shins can also let go of unnecessary tension
- let your walk be contralateral - this means that your opposite arm and leg will swing together; your left arm and your right leg will be in front of you at the same time and vice versa - the dog is also doing it!
- let your neck be free and your head lead forward and up; I think of my movement being led by my hairline on top of my forehead
- let your eyes be soft and unfocused, allow them to receive the images from your surroundings
...and what about shoes?
I have recently bought Shape-Ups and am still assessing whether the way in which they alter my gait is a negative or neutral influence.
Dansko has come out with a soft sole shoe which might increase its already great reputation among people suffering from back pain.
Included are links to three New York Times articles that all refer to shoes and insoles:
If you have any questions, comments or recommendations in this area, please share them for mutual support and exchange. You can email me at [email protected].