Is Alexander Technique the Key to Reshaping Productivity?

Autonomous Autonomous | Sep 19, 2017

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In the typical office, movement is restricted, breaks are skipped and hours are extended into personal lives with interconnectivity to email and mobile devices. The space for autonomy is sacrificed for the needs of the company, and its the worker that feels the brunt of the blow. But is there a way we can balance the needs of productivity with self care? Alexander Technique teacher Lauren Hill with the Alexander Technique Teaching Studio believes the answer is in posture.

Is Alexander Technique the Key to Reshaping Productivity? In these pictures observe how the neck and head are different in good vs. bad. In the “The weight distribution allows for breath to carry through the whole body. The head finds balance atop of the neck and the spine is able to support the body’s weight without collapsing.

To offer some context, Alexander Technique is a form of movement created in the 19th century to help increase awareness around body use. The more commonly associated word “posture” may come to mind as a correlation, but Alexander Technique works to reinvent the concept for us. Traditionally, posture is defined as being “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting,” but Hill’s approach seeks to challenge this belief.

“Think of posture as a verb,” Hill explains to me “think about posture not as a position. A position is static,” Hill says.

Part of the problem associated with posture is that it assumes there is a “correct” way of sitting, standing or walking. While there are certainly ways in which to carry oneself that are less taxing than others, the idea of “posture” endangers the practitioner into following a standard of movement that might be equally inhibiting.

Often we subscribe to the misconception that having good posture means we must endure the whips and scorns of time to hold ourselves upright. Our strain towards “posture” somehow is reprieved by the benefits of having proper alignment.

“I often see people try to adjust their head-neck relationship to an environment when really they could adjust their environment to accommodate for their head and neck,” Hill stated. Such practices empower people to exert control over how they interact with where they work. Studies find that we develop habits from environments- it’s part of our mind’s association with a space. So why not start cultivating healthy habits where we work?

It’s only “half the equation. We are creatures of habit… You can’t put somebody in a well-designed chair and expect the problem to go away,” Hill assures me. Part of the challenge of promoting self-care in an office space is the culture of what is appropriate and what isn’t. For example, standing during meetings is thought of as distracting, lunch breaks are skipped in lieu of tackling the piles of never-ending work, all the while we reinforce habits that undermine our health.

Is Alexander Technique the Key to Reshaping Productivity? - Image 2Again in this picture observe the “good” use vs. “collapsed” use. In the collapsed picture you’ll see the left leg bent, leaving the right leg to compensate for the distribution of weight. In turn this shifts the body forward towards the desk, creating an arch in the spine. The head follows the arch at the base of the spine and juts forward towards the monitor screen. This leads to the body tensing in order to hold the body’s center in place. Overtime, this position will block the body’s ability to circulate oxygen and the impending result will be soreness and knots. In juxtaposition, look at the “Good” use picture. There we see the feet supported by the anti-fatigue mat to accommodate for the force of gravity on a hard surface. Both knees are bent, not fixed, which allows for the pelvic bowl to center itself between equally distributed weight. The spine supports the rib cage which is open to receive breath and the head rests atop of the spine.

So what can you do? The most important aspect of the Alexander Technique is awareness. As Hill puts it, “if you don’t know you’re doing something, you can’t change it.” That premise informs to what Hill refers to as The Two Questions, a simple method people can use to learn more about their relationship to their environment. The first of which is what are you touching right now? The best place to begin “posture” is in the relationship to what you are touching, whether it’s your foot on the ground, finger on the keyboard or elbow on the desk. The second question to consider is where is my breathing? Accessing awareness to your breath and your body are two reliable tools you can use to bring you into the present moment.

In the effort to end gain results, it’s easy to forsake self-care for productivity. But ultimately that’s not sustainable and research is surfacing that indicates offices with more awareness to their employees’ well-being are yielding higher profits. So yes, it pays to “posture!” Prioritizing autonomy in a company enables self-care and we at Autonomous are a part of the movement that reframes the idea of a “company” to an autonomous “community.”

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