“Every man, woman and child holds the possibility of physical perfection; it rests with each of us to attain it by personal understanding and effort.” – Frederick Matthias Alexander
I have recently changed my workout routine to include new elements. One of the additions is a yoga program, which I love. The other element is implementing free-weights into the workout. I have been working on/contemplating toning my thighs/butt/abs for the last two months as part of a fitness goal I gave myself, due date being my next birthday.
I discovered that a lot of great ideas can be found by searching and asking experts. For a person who enjoys working out in the comfort and convenience of her own home, it’s important to practice great form while executing any kind of exercise. It is also one of the most difficult things to identify in yourself, yea or nay. That’s why I want to discuss a concept which emphasizes great body alignment in every task of daily living, and then I want to encourage utilizing this technique in exercising.
The Alexander Technique is a unique approach to mastering the concept of body alignment. It promotes understanding the shape of the spine and understanding the connections, and then it asks each student to mimic the shape, resisting tension. Tension interferes with the natural alignment we have been given at birth. Babies and small children don’t really have to think about “form” when they “exercise,” (which they do all the time.)
In a nutshell, it’s important to understand the spine is not straight up and down. Think of the skeleton from high school science classes. His spinal column is in a slight s-shape. His vertebrae enter the base of the skull pretty much right in the center, which allows (if he were alive!) his head to rock gently forward and back, and allows limited rocking from side to side. (Take a minute to do that. Notice how your vertebrae do not attach at the back of the skull-base, which is a common misconception.) Now, standing naturally, lengthen your spine, suck in your tummy, tuck your buttocks, and slightly tuck your chin. The top of the back of your skull should feel as though it is being pulled up by a string or a cord. Shoulders should be pressed down. The strongest part of your bone structure is in the pelvic area. This makes perfect sense, because it’s where all child-bearing and child-bearing activities take place. Use that strength in the pelvis to propel movement and balance.
While there’s so much more to share about this, I believe even a very basic understanding of body alignment is enough to help a person embark on their own free-weight routine. Also, it’s a natural way to beat headaches. Singers, actors, dancers (or any athlete) and people who plan to enjoy life can benefit from understanding the Alexander Technique.
Entering into a free-weight and yoga routine while lengthening your spine and maintaining natural balance will help guide you toward making movements that will not harm you.
I have chosen the use of a medicine ball as my free-weight. Incorporating this into my already established routine was easy, because I simply found a way to hold the ball while doing my strengthening moves. (Remember to lengthen spine, tuck tummy and buttocks, and don’t tense-up the back of the neck. Also, don’t hold your breath.) Here are just a couple of the exercises I am adapting:
- Hold the medicine ball between your knees, lying on your back with arms out to the side. Roll hips back and forth, left to right, going as far toward the floor with your knees as possible.
- Lunges – Holding the medicine ball in your hands, lunge forward and move the ball up, stretching arms to the top, fully extending. Switch sides. (Super tough). Remember to tuck tummy and buttocks to avoid straining lower back.
- Lay on the floor, placing the ball between your feet and extend your legs. Repeat (“ball lifts.”)
- Put yourself in a crunch position (Lying on the floor, pull your knees up half-way. ) Hold the ball in your hands, and twist from side to side, touching the floor with it.
- Extend arms, keeping them as straight as possible, and toss the ball back and forth, raising your arms a little more with each toss. Go as high up as possible, and then come back down.
Combined with my yoga workout, and as this program with the medicine ball increases by two new exercises a week, I look forward to seeing dramatic results. I trust that I will not ask my body to do something harmful as long as I remember to be strong, calm, and maintain natural body alignment.
More information about the Alexander Technique can be found, among many other sources, in “Alexander Technique: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Ailsa Masterton.