Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Back in Time!
Eleven years ago I was an acting student at New York University. This was before I had become a "Posture Police" officer (my best roll yet!) and was just discovering the Alexander Technique through an introductory course that was part of my program. I began to become aware of the terrible way I was using and holding my body and I have been on a path of undoing those bad habits ever since. Over the holidays, I jumped in my Delorian ("time machine" in case you missed "Back to the Future") and took a trip back in time to see what went wrong and try to figure out why. Check out the photos that I took along the way. I made sure to disguise myself adequately during my travels so that I would be unrecognizable to my past self and avoid tearing a hole in the space/time continuum!
First stop, 1980!
Here I am. A red-shoed toddler crawling up a flight of stairs. My head leads. The rest of my body follows. I bend at the major joints (hips, knees, and ankles). I'm alert and aware of my surroundings. Life is a piece of cake.
Wow, look at that linoleum! And here's Lindsay sitting on her sit-bones, upright, straight as an arrow. Head easily balanced on top of the spine. Shoulders relaxed. Legs free of tension, smiling. Sitting up straight and feeling comfortable.
Smell the fresh air of that school photo backdrop! Second grade. My third year of school. Shoulders pulling down. Chest and ribcage sinking down. Neck poking forward. Head dropped forward compressing down onto spine.
This is the summer between third and fourth grade. Yikes! Shoulders dropped forward even more. Visible tension in the neck, upper back and shoulders. Head locked back and down onto the spine. Face tense. No looking so happy here. I recall experiencing chronic anxiety at this time and developing an obsession with avoiding germs. I was having trouble focusing in school and was tested for Attention Deficit Disorder, which it was determined that I had. Medication was recommended, but my parents decided against it.
Same summer as the previous photo. Having a little more fun here! I think that this is at Universal Studios in LA and I'm pretending to lift a car that is tilted onto two wheels for just such a tourist photo opportunity. My faux-lifting reveals severe misuse of the body and demonstrates how I tended to actually lift things. I'm taking all of the weight into my shoulder, stiffening my torso, tensing my opposite arm, and tensing my thighs.
Aloha! That's a little nicer than that school photo background. Here I am in Honolulu. Look at those palm trees! The breeze!
I'm enjoying this lovely weather and scenery while corseted in a plastic back brace (under my clothes) to treat scoliosis. I had a 25 degree lateral (sideways) curve in my lumbar spine. If I look like I'm holding in my abs, it is because th brace is holding them in. It's hard to breathe like this! Many cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning that there is no know cause.
This is the day that I moved into my dorm as a freshman drama student at NYU. I'm out of the brace at this point. Look at my right (your left) side. See how I'm compressing into the lateral (sideways) curve in my lower back. My right hip and leg are lifted. My right shoulder is pulled down. Still a great deal of shoulder and neck tension and a general sense of disunity and awkwardness. I generally felt uncomfortable and anxious. My first two years as a drama student were very difficult. I was unable to change or even recognize my ingrained physical habits.
In 1999 I discovered the Alexander Technique in a group class in school and soon began taking private lessons. I finally started to understand and feel what I was doing that was problematic and how to change it. I began to excel in my classes, feel more at ease in my body, and focus with less strain. I was finally enjoying the program I had been so eager to enter. I felt happier and less worried. My GPA went up.
So why did I start off so well and succumb to misusing my body so severely? Was it the pressure of school and sitting still in a chair for hours at a young age? May it also be related to all of the television that I watched? Could it have to do with being taught to fear? Fear germs, other people, traffic . . .
Here is a photo of my youngest child that illustrates excellent use of the body and posture. Will she maintain this good use? How can I help her and her older sister to avoid interfering with good use, good posture, and optimal functioning in a world full of stress and danger?
What do you notice about how you use your body? Why do you think you do so? Look through your childhood photos and see if you can see the way you misuse yourself developing.
Take a look at what I talk about on my website about Children, Learning, Focusing and School:http://www.lindsaynewitter.com/children-learning-focusing/