11.06.06: AT Lesson: Floating Shoulders and the Monkey Stance

Our second Alexander Technique lesson went very well. I find it fascinating to acctually reconnect with the body the way that we are supposed to remain aware of our 'self.' Wendy went through the same gentle guiding to bring awareness to the spine and our support to help us find balanced posture. She added more detail elaborating on our neck, and deciphering the difference between what our brain tells us that our neck is (usually what you can put your hands on right under your chin) versus where our neck muscles actually lie, which is connecting from high up on the back of our heads, and run down to our shoulder blades, out to the tips of our shoulders, connecting from behind our ears, and running down to our collar bones, and down below our throat. Our "neck" encompasses about twice as much physical area as we mentally attribute to it. Only thinking of our neck as the area right below our chin that our hands can fit around short changes our ability to use our entire body freely.
I mentioned to her that sometimes I find my shoulders are in an awkward position, and I don't know how they got there, or where they are really supposed to be. She pointed out that our shoulders are only connected to our body by soft tissue, and that they really simply float on top of our rib cage. The mental image of shoulders floating over the ribs, lying draped across the top of a rounded rib cage helped me to immediately find a more comfortable position. She had me stand up (so easily, of course!) and guided me through an exercises to help release the back muscles. It started at the top of my head, and I curled all the way down, rolling every vertebrae downward until I was "hanging" upside down, my arms dropped loose to the floor. I mused that I hadn't done that since I was probably a small child! And who knows if I actually used all of my joints correctly! Then the reverse was applied, rolling upward vertebrae by vertebrae until I was completely stacked back up again. She guided me and gently nudged when I collapsed or bulged in the wrong direction using muscles that were inappropriate for the movement. It felt really good and did release a lot of things. It felt good to take a very deep breath when I was standing all the way up again, probably because my muscles were unlocked so breathing deeply was easy! I walked around the room a little bit feeling the free movement of everything working with the correct balance and poise.
We headed out to the car so that she could evaluate how Jim was getting in and out of the car as well as how he was sitting. She grabbed two cushions from her car and brought them over with her, one being a wedge shape that was designed to level out the seat. Most car seats are tilted so that it puts the knees higher than the hips/butt. This position is very hard on the joints, and is the source of much of the pain that both Jim and I experience when riding in the car for extended periods of time. She adjusted the back of his seat to bring him more upright rather than leaning back which helped to take the strain off the middle of his back. He said that it felt awkward, but suspected it would feel better when he actually rode in that position for a length of time. She evaluated where he was resting his knee, and decided that he was doing what he could to be comfortable and there ultimately wasn't a whole lot that could be done, other than not drive the car. Too bad that isn't an option! She checked on the method of getting into and out of the car and was pleased with the way that Jim had managed to figure it out, it was about as ideal as it was going to get for the situation. She encouraged him to use the car door and roof edge for support to help use his entire body for the action, rather than just falling backwards into the seat.
We returned to the house and he went over the basics off his posture while shooting pool. She could immediately see why he was ending up in pain while playing, and worked to help him find a better posture that freed up his entire body. He was quite amazed at how easily he was able to move and balance in that position, which she explained they referred to as the 'Monkey Stance' because it enabled the upper body to move in almost any direction while the lower body created support that was also tension free. I was teasing him about his ability to shoot improving once he intigrated the changes into his stance. He also made the connection to shooting guns and realized that the same tense posture that he was using to shoot pool was also the same posture he used to shoot guns. The tension would actually make it more difficult and harder on the body to effectively accomplish the sport. He was delighted to get out and experiment with the new feeling to replicate it and apply it to the sports to improve his game. I was even able to go so far as to connect the posture to all the riding that I have been doing working through the various gaits. It is all the same and ALL inner connected. We get off track when we try to make it into something different, and that only inhibits our ability to perform at our maximum skill.
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11.06.11: Wider With No Work