I had a great time in Vegas. Getting around didn't bother me at first, but my hip really started to feel fatigued the last day or so. One sessions I really looked forward to was "Postural Solutions for Instability: The Alexander Technique." I had first become made aware of this technique about 3 months prior from Hope Gillerman after she applied some of her Jaw Clenching Remedy on me. I was so excited to see it on the schedule, and made sure I had front row. Hopefully we can all learn how to incorporate these techniques into every day habits.
Let's start with a quick video introduction!
I have attached, with permission, a two minute video from the presentation where Carol Boggs demonstrates how to effectively correct a collapsed posture using AT methods. While this would have been more effective had I set myself up in a profile perspective, I have included some exemplar visuals to help with what she is illustrating below. Any quotes are from the presentation given on 9-8-2017.
I feel like the most important part of this presentation was the reinforcement that we often forget that our laxity sets us up for all kinds of adverse postural positions that many of us never recognize. We feel the pain, and bury the burden of its implications without understanding the mechanism we allow to control our joint position and often misplacement.
What is Ground Reactive Force ?
The opening of the discussion went over Ground Reactive Force (GRF), or our bodies subconscious interactions with gravity. GRF "is a natural upward rebound from gravity that can be harnessed." Every step we make interacts with the ground, uses gravity to assess foot placement and weight and the energy that is rebounded through the soles of our feet through our interaction with the ground travels throughout our body. Poor posture, especially for those of us who incessantly allow our knees to hyperextend, does not allow GRF, or the reactive force to travel in unadulterated path. If your knees are hyperextended that reactive force that should be able to flow through evenly through your body with the help of good posture, gets violently stopped by you knees. if they are misaligned and can create unneccesary forces which can damage your already misaligned and weakened joints. Fortunately techniques like the Alexander Technique (AT) gives us tools that allow us to retrain our brains to choose physical postures that positively effect our movement, ability to move and FUNCTION.
In the presentation, Postural Solutions for Instability: The Alexander Technique and HSD/EDS, it was noted that these techniques allow us to have:
- better overall posture
- develop improved use of ourselves (our body and their functionalities)
- redistribute the coordination of tone to increase suspended support (or the ability to hold ourselves in a correct posture)
- increase proprioception
- enjoy better dynamic balance, stability and coordination
If you're reading this because you have EDS, I can hear your skeptical "woo-hoo'ing" from here! There is so much to be said about the hurdle of having poor proprioception presents, you brain literally is unable to locate the exact position of your joint position. We can control this in a sense by forcing our brain to make a connection with our joints from a biomechanical standpoint instead. Repetitive and consistent efforts in thought process differentiation create patterns that your brain can use to help locate and stabilize joints increasing proprioception.
Why is this technique so important?
AT allows us to work within our hypermobility and instability, it provides a clear connection between our thinking and our corrective actions which proves the importance of small changes in thought patterns and how they influence our overall stability. These techniques can be used be EVERYONE, and EVERYTHING we do! I think one of the most important highlights of their overview was the fact that this technique "considers the whole body with parts in relation to the whole." Meaning it takes into consideration our lack of proprioception. AT does so by increasing our self awareness in relation to our physical attributes, allowing you to recognize when your limbs are out of alignment in relation to their larger and controlling joints.
While this sounds like a lot of realignment and positioning, AT utilizes the concept of relational position rather than positional relation, meaning where is your hand and elbow in relation to your shoulder? Is it in alignment, or do you have to retract your hypermobile elbow in order to create a functioning form, rather than just focusing on having your arm, shoulder, wrist or elbow in a specific position at all times. This makes your brain work, and search for your joints, connecting proprioception at a visual and interactive level., rather than always focusing on a position that may be inappropriate for your body, and my be harmful because it adds an additional layer of unawareness onto your already compromised literal and physical sense of self.
How does it apply to body mechanics?
So, AT focuses on "dynamic balancing" as opposed to bracing techniques. Not to say bracing and stiffening techniques are not useful and sometimes necessary, but to create long term and positive change a dynamic balancing technique is intended to be applied regularly to allow your body, brain and joints to learn where and how to function. Dynamic balancing is the execution of positioning your body in a suspended arrangement so that your body has the ability to accept and distribute GFR evenly throughout your body without obstructing energy pathways, see slide from conference for clarification. This is done by becoming hyper aware of your body's limb arrangement in relation to itself rather than positional alignment alone. This "allows the flow and direction of movement to provide support." When you are vigilant about your body arrangement this is what creates that "suspended arrangement" allowing energy to flow in a more free manner throughout your body.
How long does it take?
A LONG TIME. Joint laxity is a neglected state of movement that requires intense mental involvement to correct. It is not an easy task to rearrange your genetic laxity and inability to work with itself. You need to be determined, and have the discipline to follow through this type of movement alteration. Just like yoga, you cannot do a week of classes and expect to have a tight and toned "yoga body." It takes months, and even years for some people depending on the state of their bodies. Most of all it takes patience. Trying to heal yourself sometimes comes with injury, but patience and perseverance will garner results.
What are the goals of AT?
AT focuses on showing you your own ability to adapt to movement no matter how foreign they seem to you. This allows you to discover the stability though your instability, by using GFR, which allows your movement to provide unhindered flow of energy rather than stagnant instability and painful movement.
How does AT achieve this?
By helping you recognize your instability and accept it so that the techniques you are given allow you to facilitate balance through movement. Persistent practice of AT can help prevent the go-to use of bracing and leaning on joints. Most importantly, it "provides a strategy for engaging in movement."
How do I find someone or somewhere that teaches the AT?
So far AT is mainly a one-on-one based method, however watching these lessons being practiced is valuable for visualization. Go to integratinginstability.com for more information, resources, and to get on their mailing list!
In conclusion this was one of the most helpful presentations of the EDS conference in Las Vegas this past September, which is why this was my first review post. Thank you a million times over to Carol Boggs, Ann Rodiger and Laura Tuthall for a thorough and very informative presentation, your time and allowing me to post this video. If you have experience with this technique, let us know in the comments below. If you have questions for an AT instructor reach out on the Integrating Instability website here!
So I have an issue turning around and leaving my legs in the opposite direction. Something that would greatly improve with this technique. To the left is quick video illustrating my impaired gait due to painful instability of my left knee. Below is my husband, who although has had ACL surgery on his left knee, has what I consider to be a rather normal gait, for your comparison.