A few months ago I read about a man who was
attending a baseball game with his wife. During a break in the game, a woman
sitting behind him tapped him on the shoulder and said that she was a doctor
and had noticed, a small dark spot on the back of his neck. "I'd have it
looked at by your family physician," she said.
He did, and after an additional check with a
dermatologist, it was determined that it was in fact a melanoma which was
easily removed. "It's a good thing we caught it so early - it could easily
have spread into your body and that would have been very serious," his
doctor told him.
When I read that story, I thought about how many
times I've seen children who have developed, often at a very early age,
harmful patterns of posture that I know are likely to lead to serious
problems later in life. Sometimes it's very hard for me to resist bringing
this to their attention, knowing there are many effective ways to help
release those harmful patterns.
But experience has taught me that it is almost
never a good idea, even if know them personally.
just don't want to hear comments about their posture. And why should they?
They are young and resilient and their posture hasn't yet caused them any
In any case, most of what they have heard - from
parents or teachers - consists of admonitions such as "Stand up straight."
or "Pull your shoulders back." Apart from being annoying, these admonitions
simply don't work - at least not for more than a minute or two. Which is
just as well because anyone actually attempting to "stand up straight", for
example, for a prolonged period of time it would likely do more harm than
Professor John Dewey, the American philosopher,
public education reformer and longtime student of F. M. Alexander, the
developer of the Alexander Technique, had a very clear understanding of the
"It is," he wrote, "as reasonable to expect a fire
to go out when it is ordered to stop burning as to suppose that a man can
stand straight in consequence of a direct action of thought and desire. The
fire can be put out only by changing objective conditions; it is the same
with rectification of bad posture."
"Of course, something happens when a man acts upon
his idea of standing straight. For a little while, he stands differently,
but only a different kind of badly. He then takes the unaccustomed feeling
which accompanies his unusual stance as evidence that he is now standing
straight. But there are many ways of standing badly, and he has simply
shifted his usual way to to a compensatory bad way at some opposite
Or, as the late Marjorie Barstow, a well-known
teacher of the Alexander Technique, liked to say when a student in one of
her classes would "stand up straight", "You're just rearranging tensions in
good doctor who went out of her way to help a stranger had the advantage of
knowing that her advice would probably be appreciated - and heeded. I don't
have that luxury and so I usually keep my observations to myself.
Still, I can't help projecting forward a few
decades in the lives of children I meet, when it's very likely they'll be
experiencing the sorts of problems I see everyday with my adult students.
The teenage slouch, for example, is likely to evolve into severely stopped
shoulders by middle age.
Alexander always believed it made much more sense
to teach children, whose harmful posture and movement patterns were
comparatively weak, rather than adults, when they have often become quite
fixed. In another Suite 101 article (http://www.wellnesstoday.com/TheNewPE.htm)
I argued that the logical place to begin is with physical education classes
in the schools.
As John Dewey noted "(Alexander's) discovery would
not have been made and the method or procedure perfected except by dealing
with adults who were badly coordinated. But the method is one of remedy; it
is one of constructive education. It's proper field of application is with
the young, with the growing generation..."
The ABC's of Good Posture by the Father of American
) has more information about John Dewey and Posture The Posture Page (
provides information about a variety of proven ways to improve your posture.
The John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander Homepage (http://www.alexandertechnique.com/articles/dewey
) contains a wealth of information about the connections between these two
The Posture Guide (
has more information about posture and the Alexander Technique.
Robert Rickover is a teacher of the Alexander
Technique living in Lincoln, Nebraska. He also teaches regularly in Toronto,
Canada. Robert is the author of Fitness Without Stress - A Guide to the
Alexander Technique and is the creator of The Complete Guide to the
Alexander Technique (http://www.alexandertechnique.com)
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