Monthly Archives: May 2014

12 Constructive Rest FAQ

Here are eight commonly asked questions and answers about Constructive Rest:

1) Why shouldn’t I do this on my bed or sofa?
A soft surface such as a bed or sofa that molds to your curves will not encourage the same release through your back as a firmer surface.

2) Can I listen to music while I do this?
This is a time to tune in to your body and your mind, not check out. Often we use things such as listening to music to completely check out. There is a time and place for this. Try just resting quietly.

3) I fall asleep when I do this. Is that a problem?
If you find you are consistently falling asleep you probably need more sleep generally. Take care of that need first by going to bed earlier.

4) Is it OK to lie down for longer than 20 minutes?
Yes. However, if you find you’d like to lie down for longer than 20 minutes, try doing two 20 minute sessions instead of one long 40 minute session. Do one in the morning and one in the late afternoon, for example.

5) Is it just as effective to do it once a week for a longer period of time?
No. It is sort of like brushing your teeth. Every day for a few minutes will be much more effective over time than a marathon stretch once a week.

6) When is the best time to do Constructive Rest?
Do it during the day. Don’t wait and have it be the last thing you check off your to do list before you go to bed at night. Also, don’t discount the usefulness of doing it in the morning when your body is fresh. Many of us wait until we are tired or our back hurts to rest.

7) I keep getting interrupted by the phone ringing. What should I do?
Make a decision that the time you spend in Constructive Rest is a time you free yourself from any demands, including answering the phone. Turn it off if you can’t ignore it.

8) Should I keep my eyes open or closed?
It depends. Most Alexander Teachers will teach you to keep your eyes open. You want to get used to the idea that you can remain conscious and rest at the same time. Most of us are so used to connecting being horizontal with zoning out and going to sleep that we ask you to keep your eyes open. With some of my students I will suggest that they close their eyes, not to sleep but so they can give their sense of sight a rest and better tune into the sense of their body’s contact with the floor. This is one very simple way to practice tuning into your body. Sometimes it is easier to do this with your eyes closed at first. And this skill, of tuning in to your contact with solid objects is a skill to cultivate.

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11 Pause for Better Posture

JUST DO IT has been with us since Nike launched its well known ad campaign in 1988. This slogan epitomizes how our culture typically attempts to solve our various problems.

Postural problems? Just give me the strengthening/stretching/postural exercises and I’ll just do it! Fixed! Maybe you have already tried this approach and it just hasn’t worked.

That is because Doing itself is often part of the problem.

When it comes to improving your posture, what you usually need to do is not something new but evaluate what you are already doing and do less of what is unhelpful, inefficient or harmful.

A big part of postural problems is excess tension. It literally pulls you out of shape. This excess tension feels normal because you carry it around all of the time. But if you don’t know you are doing something how can you possibly choose to do less of it?

One simple practice I have used daily for the past 19 years is the Alexander Technique Constructive Rest practice. Over time it has helped me discover areas of excess tension I didn’t know I was holding and gradually let go of the unnecessary effort in my body, especially in my neck, shoulders and back. I’d like to share it with you.

Get down onto a firm but comfortable surface. A carpeted floor works. A yoga mat on the floor or an old blanket folded up to provide some padding works. Doing this on a sofa or bed will not provide you will the same benefits.

Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip or shoulder width apart. You could also put your legs up on an ottoman or drape them over a stack of pillows. The main thing is keep your knees elevated above your hips. Support the back of the skull with some paperback books so that your head is not falling back.

Demonstration of the Constructive Rest position with legs bent and feet flat on the floor

Constructive Rest with legs balancing, knees pointed toward the ceiling and feet flat on the floor.

Demonstration of Constructive Rest position with legs supported by an ottoman.

Constructive Rest with legs supported by an ottoman.

Then do nothing for 15—20 minutes.

Nothing?

Yes. Nothing. No fidgeting to get your back or shoulders flat. No stretching to try to lengthen your spine. Just allow the floor to gradually support you. You don’t have to work to hold yourself up in this position. Enjoy having no demands.

This is a very supportive and neutral position for the body. It allows your spine to decompress because weight is not being transferred down the spine vertically as when you sit and stand.

When you are done, roll onto your side and come up to standing in a way that is easiest on your body. Try taking some of the ease you found while resting into the remainder of your day.

Make a commitment to do this daily for 10—20 minutes for the next month. See how it goes. In my next post I will answer some commonly asked questions about this practice. If you have any questions, post a comment with them and I will answer them as well.