Tag Archives: Use

39 Use, Posture and Reaction

To a large degree your Use (and your posture) is a habit.

Habit is a pattern of behavior (or reaction) triggered by a cue.

As a human, you are a reactive being. Basically you go through life reacting to your world.
This is a good thing. Being a reactive being means that when you step off the sidewalk to cross the street and a car suddenly appears you react (typically by stopping). I think you would agree is this is a good thing. Otherwise you wouldn’t be long for this world!

That a lot of your habitual reactions are just that, habitual, is also a good thing. Habits are dealt with by lower levels of your brain. This allows you to not constantly be thinking about basic behaviors, such as how to tie your shoe, so you can devote mental energy to invent things, solve problems, plan for your future, etc.

But…and of course there is a but….we have developed a lot of habitual ways of reacting that play havoc with our Use (and posture).

What you see as your physical posture is to a large extent a manifestation of how you have habitually reacted to your world over time.

An important concept to grasp as you explore your habitual patterns of Use (and posture) and how to change them is that you can have choice in how you react to a particular cue.

Starting to recognize a specific cue and your unique reaction to that cue is the first step in making change. Once you recognize the cue you can decide to explore a different reaction. Let me give you an example:

therapist listening to a patient

A typical way of using yourself when you are intently listening to another–torso pulled forward and compressed, head pulled back and down. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Over the years I have worked with a number of  therapists. Therapists typically meet with their clients one on one, usually sitting across from each other. The client sitting across from the therapist is a cue for the therapist’s listening reaction to kick in. A lot of the therapists I see have developed a habit of reacting to the client by subtly leaning forward, rounding (compressing) their spines and pulling the head back and down—all in an attempt to listen to their client.

However, because they spend many hours a day in this typical reaction pattern it adds up. They wonder why they have rounded shoulders and a tight neck.

When they look at the situation as an example of how they are reacting to a cue (the client) and are introduced to the fact that they can have choice in how they react some change can take place.

They might realize that they can (literally) come up and back away from the client a bit, finding the back of their chair (and maybe place a large pillow behind it to support them).

It might feel wrong at first because it is not their typical pattern of Use in this situation. They may feel that they are not showing the client adequately that they are listening or even care. What they must realize is that they are just experiencing a different reaction. Simply because it is not familiar it may register as “wrong”.

So instead of teaching a student to sit up straight I help them understand that they can have more choice in how they react to their world. That way they can begin to find their own cues and experiment with making some conscious choices in their reactions.

Most of us feel like we go through our day making a ton of well-considered decisions, when in fact they are habits. One habit may not account for much, but added up over time have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, Use (and posture!)

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

38 Posture or Use?

Alexander Technique is often associated with improving posture. And certainly people that study with an Alexander teacher over time frequently show physical changes that others notice as improved posture.

When speaking to people about what I do, I often say that I help my students change poor postural habits or improve their posture. I use the word posture because it is a word most people have heard before. Most people have some notion of what posture is about.

However, here is my dirty little secret: yes I do help people with their posture, but not by helping them with their posture.

Huh?

I help people with their posture by helping them better understand, improve awareness of and develop strategies for changing their Use.

Every field of study has its vocabulary. Use is one of those special vocabulary words that belong to the Alexander Technique.

When you work with an Alexander teacher you learn a different approach to solving your problems. A different approach requires different thinking and some new ideas. So, some new vocabulary.

Your Use is how you support and coordinate yourself while in movement or at rest. Your Use is how you do whatever you do, in a very broad sense. And whatever you do has a physical component, a mental component and an emotional component—it involves the Whole Self (which as you guessed is another Alexander vocabulary word).

Your Use is influenced by your thinking and by your emotions.

To bring about changes in your habitual patterns of Use you must be willing to be more conscious of how you think and react.

If you try to improve your posture by just sitting or standing up straight you are missing a whole lot of what is influencing your posture for good or ill.

Study of the Alexander Technique is a study of the Use of Yourself.