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Sit up straight! Keep your back straight!

These are familiar commands to anyone who’s ever been to school, and I can’t actually think of any skill be it sporting, musical or artistic where it would be helpful to go into a slump, and yet.. as we can see from this simple drawing, the spine isn’t straight.

It’s full of curves. So it just can’t be right to try and “straighten” the spine, when we all know nature knows best and the curves must be there for a reason. The reasons are mulitipe and include topics like weight distribution and shock absortion, which any back care specialist – osteopath, chiropractic, physiotherapist, or Alexander Technique teacher can tell you. But on a day to day basis how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

Well first we can observe how it feels to try and fulfil the command, to try and “sit up straight”. Why not try it for a few seconds. Inevitably it involves holding tension, and we all know that muscle tension is something we spend hours trying to get rid of whether in massage parlours or with one of the above experts, or on the floor with a tennis ball/spiky mat/foam roller underneath the back or shoulders, and often whatever we do we end up back where we started: alternating between efforts to hold a so called straight back, and releasing the tension with a slump.

When we take Alexander Technique lessons, we learn how to maintain balance, use our postural support successfully, breathe efficiently, and maintain a consiousnes of our centre of gravity. Now that acutally is a stright line!

We learn to neither slump nor stiffen, but rather to stop, think, and re-balance.