Resolve to be responsible!

Increase your hamstring stretch by hingeing forward at the hips

Increase your hamstring stretch by hingeing forward at the hips

Learn to love cleaning

It’s January and the time of year when many people resolve to move more. Of course this doesn’t have to mean ‘exercise’ as such. Simple ways of including more movement in your everyday life are to: walk more, use stairs instead of lifts, and learn to love cleaning!

But many of us enjoy exercise classes for the social aspect as well as their mood-enhancing effect. However, if you attend a class you do need to take some responsibility for what you’re doing.

Faulty body awareness

When I was an instructor I did my best to explain what we were doing and why, but there isn’t much time for talking and people don’t always want to listen! Significantly, the participants’ interpretation of what you say may be different from what you intended. An instructor also expects the participants to copy the movements, but frequently they are unable to, due to a lack of body awareness.

Stretching the hamstrings

A good example of a movement that can go a little bit wrong is the hamstring stretch. If you do a lot of running, for example, you need to stretch your hamstrings regularly because tight hamstrings are a common cause of lower back pain.

Most people realise their hamstrings run down the back of the leg. Many don’t know that their origin is on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). The biceps femoris inserts into the fibula (calf bone) and the semitendinosus and the semi-membranosus insert into the tibia (shin bone). The hamstrings extend the hip and flex the knee.

Are you sure you’re stretching what you think you’re stretching?!

A very common stretch is to stand on a bent leg and stretch the other leg in front while keeping the knee straight. This can be tricky because the whole point of the stretch is to hinge forward at the hip in order to bring the lower part of the torso closer to the thigh. If someone twists their body they may not get the stretch. Likewise, if the instructor says ‘you can increase the stretch by taking hold of your foot’ it is perfectly possible to take hold of the foot by rounding your back without increasing the hamstring stretch in the least.

He’s grabbed his foot but hasn’t increased the stretch to the hamstrings

He’s grabbed his foot but hasn’t increased the stretch to the hamstrings

If you’re participating in a class it is up to you to think about what you’re doing and why. If you take hold of your foot and don’t notice any increase in the stretch, find out why not, preferably by asking your instructor. (Instructors generally love to answer questions because it shows their participants are interested.)

Use your body well

Should something in the class cause you pain, you need to stop doing it and work out the cause. In many cases it is not the exercise itself that is the problem, but the way it is being done. I have quoted Katy Bowman before but here she is again: ‘It’s not about an exercise making it worse, it’s about the way you use your body making it worse.” (Alignment Matters)

Why try Alexander Technique?

In Alexander Technique lessons we do neither exercises nor stretches. We do something fundamental and applicable to any activity. We learn how to retrain our awareness and habits of movement and posture to ensure minimum effort and strain. This means your whole Self is involved in every action, ensuring efficiently coordinated and easy movement. This will take you from brushing your teeth to driving the car, and from working out in the gym to sitting at your desk.