I like to think I have good posture. I do yoga and have strong tummy muscles, which are essential for supporting your back. I sit bolt upright at my desk at work, stomach clenched, shoulders down, believing this to be "correct". I must be doing something wrong, however, because by the end of most days, my shoulders and neck ache like billio.
A study last year showed that Alexander Technique (AT) is effective in alleviating back pain. I know AT has something to do with unlearning bad habits in how you use your body, but the rest is a mystery to me.
The practitioner I visit works from home. She begins by observing me sit down, and stand up again. Apparently, each time I do so, the top of my spine shortens and tightens. I also learn that I lock my knees and tense my stomach unnecessarily. AT, it seems, is partly to do with learning how to use your body while incurring minimum tension - as though you were a cat, able to move freely, without inhibition, restrictive clothing or repetitive tasks to perform.
The teacher then takes the weight of, in turn, my head and limbs, and instructs me not to help her as she moves them around. This feels counter-intuitive and it takes me a few sessions to learn to stop second guessing what my body needs to do - to move without thinking about it.
At least 15 minutes of each weekly session is spent lying on my back with my knees pointing upwards and two small Penguin classics placed under my head. This position allows your vertebrae to spread out and minimises pressure on your spine. I am to do this every day at home. Even if you don't take AT classes, I would recommend doing this for relaxation purposes alone.
After the first few sessions, I focus way too much on what I'm tensing and not tensing and end up in more discomfort than before. After a month, though, my perception of how I hold myself starts to shift and relax a little. I am fascinated by this process and plan to continue.
To find an AT teacher visit stat.org.uk