From an Alexander technique perspective, working on your posture is not so much about achieving the right position but more about how you support any position you are in. For this reason, we like to talk about postural support rather than just posture. In any position, you can ask yourself: Are you open? Free? Grounded? Are you breathing? Do you have a feeling of liveliness, and joy? Or are you forcing it, stiffening, and overworking?
This approach turns the tables for some yoga practitioners, especially the beginners (like myself) who can’t resist forcing their body into the “right” position and just expecting that all the good stuff will just result from holding this position for long enough. Even if our yoga teacher encourages us not to force things, many of us still can’t help it.
Exercise 1: During your next yoga class notice how often your attention shifts from keeping your body open and free to forcing yourself into the “right” position. See what happens when you let go of forcing the right position and turn your attention to how you are supporting yourself.
We tend to pull ourselves toward the goal of any activity, thus tightening our neck and shoulders. For example we pull our head to our phones, our heads and shoulders to the computer, we even pull our head forward and down when we go to walk. I describe this habit for computer work in detail in this blog .
Exercise 2: Notice throughout your day how often you are pulled towards your goal (computer, phone, conversation, book, direction of walking). When you are, take a moment to calm yourself. Then think of letting the goal come to you – bring the phone to your ear while keeping your neck free, let the information from the computer come to you as you keep your neck and shoulders open and mobile, notice your surroundings and the vertical when you walk rather than looking at the ground or losing your thoughts.
Because of points 1 and 2 we often totally lose sense of where “up” is where we are in space. The following exercise is something you can practice on your own.
When people raise an arm, be it in everyday life or in yoga, they often fix the shoulder to the trunk in a way that makes them pull the trunk with the arms. For example, when you put your hands on a keyboard and type, the front of the trunk gets pulled forward and down slightly towards the keyboard and the shoulders get pulled in. Over time, this tightens the whole front of the body.
One of the great things about yoga is that you take your body into all sorts of crazy shapes. In so doing it becomes familiar with all sorts of relationships, including widening the shoulders while fixing, extending, side bending, or twisting the spine.
Here is a simple exercise that we did that breaks down the act of reaching up with your arm in such a way that the shoulder releases away from the spine before the spine bends.
Try to apply all of these concepts you your yoga and to your daily life:
To do so, you will need to inhibit your natural tendency to focus on the goal of the activity (pushing the body into a yoga pose for example) and turn your attention instead to the concepts of postural support described above.