Thursday, September 23, 2010

Come back here with you're head up, Charlie Brown!

The Posture Police caught up with Charlie Brown coming out of a humiliating therapy session with Lucy that was not worth the nickle he spent.  Let's see if we can give him some tips to turn Lucy's mean-spirited criticisms into constructive observations that he has the power to change.  

Take a look at what just happened . . .

Charlie Brown:  Oh, good grief.  What now?

Posture Police:  Lucy came down on you pretty hard there.

Charlie Brown:  You can say that again.  I'm just a failure.  That's all there is to it.  The harder I try, the worse I get.

Posture Police:  That's because you're end-gaining.

Charlie Brown:  Good grief, I can't stand anymore criticism! 

Posture Police:  Now hold on a second.  Lucy listed for you and showed you all of your shortcomings . . .

Charlie Brown:  I know!  That's all I am.  Millions of faults all stuck together forming something that sort of looks like a human.  Why do I have to be me?  I wish I were some with no faults or maybe just three faults.  I think I could handle three.  But all faults?  I can't do anything but be discouraged.

Posture Police:  Charlie Brown, you're "faults" as you call them are what you do.  They're not written in you're genetic code.

Charlie Brown:  They're not?

Posture Police:  No.  If you're doing something one way, you can change how you're doing it right?

Charlie Brown:  I guess so.  But how?  I try so hard.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Just Do It, Nike.

Posture Police:  I think that whoever said those things was giving some pretty poor advice.

Charlie Brown:  But I have to try, right?  What else can I do but try?  Oh, I'm so sick of trying.

Posture Police:  So stop trying!

Charlie Brown:  You want me to give up?  I'm only eight years old!  Oh, but I should give up.  I'm a total, utter, failure.

Posture Police:  I'm not suggesting that you give up.  I'm suggesting that you do something different instead of always trying to do the same thing.  It's like you're running faster and faster in a circle.  You try harder and harder, but with the same habits that just get you right back to where you started.

Charlie Brown:  What habits?  You mean my faults?

Posture Police:  Yes, you're faults, but let's be less judgmental and call them habits that get in the way of you achieving your goals.

Charlie Brown:  Lucy said that I lack coordination and that my movements are erratic.

Posture Police:  I saw the instant replay of you running and I agree with her.  She wants you to fail, so she doesn't offer you an alternative for your "faults".

Charlie Brown:  Ok, I'm listening.

Posture Police:  When you were running to kick that ball, do you remember how you were going about running?  Were you aware that you were moving erratically?

Charlie Brown:  No.

Posture Police:  And there's the problem.  How can you change that if you aren't aware if it while you are doing it?

Charlie Brown:  Good grief.  This is complicated.

Posture Police:  I think it's pretty simple.  As I mentioned before, you were end-gaining.  You were thinking only about kicking the ball, but you were ignoring the means-whereby you got there.

Charlie Brown:  The means where-who?

Posture Police:  The means whereby you do something.  They way you do something.  The steps involved in doing something.

Charlie Brown:  I understand.

Posture Police:  Good.  You ignored how you were getting to the ball and were only thinking of the end goal - kicking it.  You completely stressed out about getting to the ball and exhibited poorly coordinated, erratic movements as pointed out by Lucy.  Lucy isn't helping you though by simply pointing them out.

Charlie Brown:  I should have kept that nickle in my pocket, but I was so desperate.

Posture Police:  Let's look at what you are doing when you run.  Here's a ball.  Go over there and run and kick it.

Charlie Brown:  Are you going to pull the ball away?

Posture Police:  No.

Charlie Brown:  Ok.  Here I go.

Posture Police:  Ok, stop just a minute.

Charlie Brown:  But I didn't even get to the ball yet.

Posture Police:  You're already end-gaining.  Just like in the instant replay, you are pulling your head back and down, and therefore compressing your whole spine.  That pressure in turn prevents your legs from moving freely under your torso.  You're not present as you're running.  It looks like you're only thinking about the ball and you're forgetting how you're moving and where you are in space.  Can I put my hands on your neck and back to show you what I mean?

Charlie Brown:  Ok.  Oh, wow!  Now I feel what I'm doing.  You're right!  I feel that I am pulling my head back and down.  Even when I'm just standing here.  So I must be doing it even more when I'm running.

Posture Police:  Now you are getting the idea.  Pulling the head back and down is a startle response, like if you just saw a grizzly bear over there!  If you do that while you run, you'll slow yourself down and will interfere with your natural, efficient coordination.  You are naturally well-coordinated, Charlie Brown.  You just need to get out of your own way.  You're not doomed to be a failure if you learn how to change your habits.

Charlie Brown:  Wow, thanks.  I don't feel discourage anymore.  I think I have a lot of work to do, but there might be some hope for me yet!

Posture Police:  Glad to be of help.  You are a good man, Charlie Brown!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Penalty For Failing To Bend Over Properly: Back Pain!

Dog walkers of NYC are responding to increased fine from $450-$4500 and are diligently cleaning up after their dogs.  Unfortunately while doing so, they've caught trying too hard to "bend properly".  Could this sign be responsible? 


Why is the Red Stick Person on the sign bending like that?

Let's find out!

Posture Police: Excuse me Red Stick Person. . .

Red Stick Person:  Good evening officer! 

Posture Police:  I'd like to speak with you regarding how you're bending over to clean up after your dog.

Red Stick Person: Isn't this how you are supposed to bend?  I've always heard that I should bend like that in order to avoid hurting my back - bend the knees, not the back and keep the back straight, right?

Posture Police:  Yes . . . and no.  Let's start by talking about what the "major joints" are - HIPS, KNEES, ANKLES.  If you bend at these joins as opposed to bending your back, you are less likely to put stress on the smaller joints formed by the vertebrae of your spine.

Red Stick Person:  Does that mean that I must always bend at the major joints or else I'll be bending wrong and hurting yourself?

Posture Police:  No.

Red Stick Person:  Does that mean that if I always bend at the major joints that I'll be bending correctly and never hurt myself?

Posture Police:  No.

Red Stick Person:  Uh-oh, so how do I know if I'm bending correctly and not hurting myself?

Posture Police: Pay attention to how you are using yourself regardless of your bending position.

Red Stick Person:  Uh . . .What do you mean "using myself"?

Posture Police:  I mean are you compressing in on yourself?  That would be an example of poor use.  Are you you compressing your spine?  Also poor use.

Red Stick Person: In which situation?  Am I compressing when I bend my major joints or when I bend my back?

Posture Police:  In either situation.  How you use yourself permeates all situations, positions and movements.

Red Stick Person:  So bending at the major joints can help me to avoid back injury, but what really counts is how I'm using myself!

Posture Police:  You've got it.  Bending at the major joints is what Alexander Technique teachers call "mechanical advantage".  It helps to set up the potential for good use, but it doesn't guarantee good use.

Red Stick Person:  Great!  Um, but how do I know whether or not I'm using myself well?

Posture Police:  Well, you may not know.  Compressing can become a quite habitual and unconscious habit.

Red Stick Person:  Can Alexander Technique lessons help me to identify my unconscious habits?

Posture Police:  Yes!

Red Stick Person:  How?

Posture Police:  By helping you to actually feel how you habitually compress yourself, so you can stop doing that and allow yourself to relax and come up to your full height.

Red Stick Person:  Instead of scrunching myself down?

Posture Police:  That's right.

Red Stick Person:  I'm standing here all day on this sign demonstrating to passers-by that they should clean up after their dogs.  I always see people walking along hunched and squeezed and pulling themselves down.  And some of them try to keep their backs straight when they pick up their dog's poop, but they look so stiff!

Posture Police: I think you've got the idea!

Red Stick Person:  So, where can I find an Alexander Technique teacher?

Posture Police:  You're lookin' at one, Red Stick Person!  Here's another tip.

Red Stick Person: Yes?

Posture Police: Learn from your Red Stick Dog!  Your dog,  like most animals and small children has incredible use!

Red Stick Dog: Woof!

Red Stick Person:  Yes, she hasn't interfered with her natural balance and coordination.

Red Stick Dog:  Woof!  Woof!

Posture Police:  I have one more question.

Red Stick Person:  Yes?

Posture Police:  Why don't you bend your elbows when you scoop your dog's poop?  You look rather stiff!

Red Stick Person:  Doggonit!  I didn't realize that I was straightening my arms like that!  Thanks for cluing me in to how I was holding my arms!  Ahh! That feels much better to let my elbows bend a little!  Hey, did anyone ever tell you that your hat is kind of old-fashioned!

Posture Police:  Ah yes, but some habits I choose not to change, my friend!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC ALERT: Sightings of shoes wearing people!

Wearer Beware:  Cunning pumps and sneakers spotted all over New York City and in towns and cities around the world wearing people instead of people wearing them!  The "worn" pedestrians, young and old alike, appear completely oblivious to the con job being pulled on them by their swindling souliers (a French word for "shoes").

Two journalists have taken it upon themselves to inform the public!!!  Take a look at the articles mentioned below!
If your shoes don't fit properly or are restricting, they can effect how you use your entire body.  How you interact with your shoes, regardless of fit, is equally important.

Article number one reveals the benefits of spending as much time as possible barefoot.  This is especially true for young children.  Unfortunately, when browsing through a children's shoe store, one of the first things a parent may notices is the abundance of high-top shoes.  Finding myself in this situation when shopping for my older child's first pair of shoes, I asked a sales associate what the benefits of high-top shoes were?  I was met with the response:  "To support your child's ankles".  I wondered why a child would not naturally be able to support his/her ankles and if the stiff ankle supports might actually interfere with the child's natural development and balance and if this ankle stiffness might contribute to compensatory stiffening in other areas of the body.  Other walking animals don't wear ankle supports.  Why would humans need them?  We then noticed that most of the shoes' soles were very stiff.  How could stiff soles promote natural walking?  I was also concerned about the arch supports interfering with the natural development of my toddler's arches.  Babies are born with flat feet and arches develop over time.  We sought out shoes that were as close to barefoot and our children are almost always barefoot at home.  The clearer the contact with the ground, the more readily you spring up from that contact to your full height.

Follow this link to read more on the topic of children's feet and shoes:

Article number two talks about Alexander Technique teacher and high-heel expert, Chyna Whyne.  Heels tend to lose their sexiness when the wearer is clearly uncomfortable.  When I was first introduced to the Alexander Technique, I swore off heels for awhile, but once my back became stronger, I discovered that they could be enjoyable to wear from time to time if I allowed the shoes to almost become part of my feet and to let my weigh distribute evenly over them.  Mindful wearing of high-heels can be fun!

Read more by following the link below:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Apprehended and Awaiting Trial: Computers and office furniture.

Apprehended and Awaiting Trial:  Computers and office furniture.
Plea:  Not guilty

Writers, E mailers, Programmers and Internet Surfers file a class-action lawsuit Computers, chairs, desks, keyboards, technology, and society!  The accused have not offered any comment and have placed their fate in the hands of an Alexander Technique teacher. 
Can you relate to this picture?  The means whereby people create and communicate are increasingly computer-based.  Whether you write novels, edit photos, develop software, create PowerPoint presentations or compose emails to your friends and family, are your creative endeavors spent on a "mental" island, leaving your "body" to sink below sea level.  Do you find yourself wondering why your back, neck and shoulders ache after spending time at the computer?  Perhaps someone has told you that it's because of your poor posture, but posture may be the last thing on your mind when you are in the zone.

The PC user often spends hours on end in a fixed position making minute movements to type and execute mouse clicks.  A lot of the strain that we generally experience comes from engaging in sedentary activities such as working at the computer.  People are often tempted to blame their computer, their job, their chair for their troubles.  Purchasing a new computer or chair or finding a new job may not be necessary.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1.  Is the work you do at the computer a physical or mental activity?  
The answer is BOTH.  Computer work may seem like a mental activity as it seems to involve quite a lot of thinking and not a lot of moving.  Sure, it's not an athletic or aerobic activity and it may be more intellectual, but  your whole self is just as present as it is when you are playing a game of basketball.  We tend to categorize activities as "physical" or "mental" based on how much we sweat.  The mind and body are equally involved in all activities.  If you behave as a creative or intellectual entity operating outside of your physical being while you work at your computer, you will likely pull yourself down (like in the picture), and may find that your back aches, your neck is sore, you feel exhausted and maybe even less creative.

2. Is your workstation set up to your advantage? 
Using yourself well will give you the greatest advantage, but why not create a work environment that presents less potential for strain? Are you arms parallel to your desk or do you have to raise or lower them to reach the keyboard?  Do your feet touch the floor?  are your eyes level with the middle of your screen?  If the answer to any of these questions is "no", then adjust your chair according and invest in a device to raise your screen or a foot rest if needed.  These are simple, inexpensive solutions that do not involve replacing your desk.  If you have a small laptop with a small keyboard, you may want to attach a full-size or ergonomic keyboard to your laptop.  If you want to do your best work, get yourself off to a good start with a workstation that is adjusted for you.
3.  Are you balanced when you are sitting?  
Most people flip-flop from collapsing down (like in the drawing above) and squeezing themselves to sit up straight (how one would typically stand at attention).  What people do to sit or stand up straight is often just as bad as the collapsed down "poor posture".  They pull their heads back and down, thrust their chests forward and create a downward pressure in the lower back.  This kind of sitting up straight is accomplished by pulling and squeezing back and down, which creates undue pressure in the lower back and is usually pretty uncomfortable and not sustainable.  Balanced sitting involves allowing the sit-bones (the two bumpy bones on your bottom) to contact the chair and to allow yourself to easily balance on them with out squeezing and compressing to hold yourself up.  If you are sitting in a balanced fashion, you should feel comfortable and you should not be interfering with your breathing.

4.  How are you concentrating on your work?  
See if you can remain focused on your work while acknowledging what you see in your peripheral vision, taking note of the sounds you hear around you and the odors in the air.  Keeping all of your senses awake while you work will help to keep you alert and will help to prevent you from straining to concentrate.

5. Take some Alexander Technique Lessons!
Alexander Technique lessons can help people to unlearn their poor habits of sitting so that they balance easily on their sit bones and naturally come up to their full height without any excess strain and can help people concentrate without straining.  The tips mentioned above may be useful on their own, but you will have more tools with which to apply them if you are getting the regular hands-on reinforcement of an Alexander Technique teacher.

Don't you find it easier to think and create when you feel comfortable, energized, and free of aches and pains?

Image by:  <a href="">Creative daydreaming</a> by Frits Ahlefeldt