DYNAMIC RESTING THE ALEXANDER WAY: LYING DOWN

You should lie on a firm surface, either on a rug or a carpeted floor, not on -a bed or other soft surface as this will give inadequate support to the parts of the body designed to bear weight. We suggest that you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes.

You will need an inch or more in soft paperback books to rest your head upon. The height of books varies from person to person, depending on several factors including shape and length of the neck, shape of head and upper back, and on the amount of tension in the neck and upper back. If you are trying this on your own, use sufficient books to give a subtle stimulus to the neck muscles to lengthen; that is, your head should not be tilted back - it should be slightly rotated forwards. If you have too many books you may feel pressure on the front of the throat making you feel as if you want to swallow. If you are not sure how many books to use, it is better to err on the generous side. For the best guide, consult a trained Alexander teacher.

When deciding to lie down in semi-supine it pays to take a little time to consider how to go from the vertical to the horizontal plane. Your teacher will probably instruct you about this, but here we will describe one way that we find particularly useful.

Lying down (or semi-supine) instructions

Place your books on the floor. Stand approximately the length of your torso plus about 30cm away from the books and spend a few moments becoming aware of releasing tension in your neck and back and in your legs. Next, lower yourself to the ground. There are several ways you can approach this; perhaps the most regularly used method is by first coming down on to one knee and then the other, and then by bending at the hips, knees and ankles. Sit down on your heels and move your bottom to one side to place the legs in front.

You will now be sitting with your bottom in line with the books so that when you lie down your head will finish up resting on the books. Bend your knees placing your feet flat on the floor.

Place your hands palm down on the floor behind you and lean backwards, supporting your back with your hands. Now lower your back, in one piece, towards the floor, bending your arms so that you can rest first on one elbow, then on both. Take your time, and make sure that you are making use of the support of your arms rather than using your abdominal muscles, and that you are not holding your breath, stiffening your neck, hunching your shoulders or holding on for dear life with your legs.

(In pregnancy, especially as you get bigger, it might be easier to first lie on your side and then roll over on to your back. This is particularly advisable if you suffer from backache, as it puts less strain on the back.)

A way of preventing tightening the muscles in the neck is to move one hand to support your head, while resting on the other forearm, as you then lower your head on to the pile of books. Make sure that it is only the bony part at the back of your head (the occiput) that is in touch with the surface. The neck should not be touching the books as this would make it hard for the muscles to release.

Now check the position of the feet and legs. The legs should be able to balance in this position with minimum muscular effort, falling neither together nor apart. If your legs aren't in balance you may need to bring your heels closer towards your bottom, so that they are roughly a foot away from your buttocks and about shoulder width apart. In the beginning it may feel difficult to direct the knees up to the ceiling, but gradually, as your back releases and spreads out on to the floor, the unnecessary tightening in the legs will ease, and it will be much more comfortable.

Now place your hands on your abdomen with the elbows on the floor, pointing out away from the body. Let your hands lie open and not touching each other. Keep your eyes open and focused and alert to supine st0p yourself from becoming drowsy, and think through your

Alexander directions. If you find that you drift away and begin to mind-wander, 'inhibit', gently bringing your awareness back to your contact with floor and books, and go through your directions again.

The aim of being in semi-supine is not to flatten the lower back by pushing it down towards the floor but only to take the pressure off the spine, allowing it to release. We are all shaped differently, and some people may 'feel' the whole of the back when first attempting this, while others will take longer to sense a release down towards the floor.

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