Alexander Technique – Lying Down Work
By Heather Walker, Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique
This article was published in the Piano Technicians Journal, May 2013.
If you are tense, injured, have back pain, or feel that your posture needs improving here is a simple exercise you can do daily. This “constructive rest” will help you recuperate from stress and achieve a better overall state of being. Even though it may feel like nothing is happening at the beginning, this is the best way to improve your body use. This is cumulative work: I suggest trying it for a month and then seeing how you feel. You will be able to release tension, become more present in your body, notice sensations better, and calm down your nervous system (responsible for all the messages and reactions to and from your brain.)
- Take 10 – 15 minutes a day, if possible, to do this “constructive rest”. If you can only do it sporadically, that is still better than nothing. Wear comfortable clothing and find a quiet, warm, draft free place to lie down on a semi-firm surface (carpeted floor, mat, folded towel).
- Your job is to STOP and give yourself time to be present in your whole self.
- Lie on your back, with some paperback books under your head. Average height is 1-3 inches, but this could be more depending on your postural habits. Experiment with the height to find a place where your neck can release and your head can move freely. You should not feel that your head is falling back or lifting up too high. Swallowing should be easy.
- Bend your knees and feel your feet flat on the floor, or rest your calves up on a chair, couch, or footstool and let the whole leg release from the hip.
- Semi-flex your arms at the elbow, allowing your upper arms to drop into their support on the ground, and rest your hands and fingers gently and openly on the abdomen.
- Allow yourself to really feel your body release into gravity. Consciously notice the ground supporting you – under your head, under your torso, under your feet/legs, and under your arms. Gravity will help your muscles to lengthen and the discs in your back to expand.
- Allow the whole body to expand and open up, and notice the tidal flow of air as it comes in and out of your body.
- Allow the head to release from the top of the neck. Pivot the head slightly in a “yes” nod, and then roll gently side to side, continuing to release.
- The neck eases, softens, and lengthens while still maintaining its natural curve. Think of space for air to travel down the middle of the neck into the lungs.
- Allow the whole torso to ease open and lengthen and widen. Notice your shoulder blades resting on the ground, and your shoulders widening away from each other.
- Notice your pelvis resting on the floor, releasing and widening as part of your torso, and the legs moving separately from the torso.
- If your knees are bent, allow the legs to balance freely like a bridge – dropping the weight through the feet and pelvis into the floor, and releasing the knees up towards the ceiling.
- Alternate your attention between more global body awareness and more local body awareness. For example, notice your whole body weight being supported or expanding, and then alternate this with awareness of what your tongue is doing, where your elbows touch the ground, or how your toes can soften and lengthen away from the ball of the foot.
- If you find your mind wandering away, quietly acknowledge this pattern and bring yourself back to noticing your body sensations and movement.
- While lying on the ground, visualize yourself doing an activity in the upright: typing, playing an instrument, speaking, walking – but with the same open and released torso.
- When you are ready, gently roll up into sitting and then move to standing, staying balanced and open. As you engage in upright activity, remember the length, width, and openness of your torso while lying down.
Heather Walker, Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique www.soundbeingstudio.com 250-716-3464