Posture and body language are the first thing people notice about us. Confident people use their bodies differently to those who are diffident. A lack of confidence makes us shrink physically into ourselves. Our shoulders narrow, our neck droops forward on our shoulders and our head is retracted down onto our neck. This gives a defeated look and people are less likely to listen to us if we project that bodily message. When my pupil Brian asked for lessons he hoped the Alexander Technique would help his confidence and went on to say he knew he had terrible posture and his girlfriend thought it made him look shy.
On meeting Brian, I could see what his girlfriend meant-he was tall and slender and very collapsed, his upper back was rounded and his lower back pulled in. It made him look a lot older than he was. He had a very slight scoliosis. He’d had an enormous growth spurt as a teenager and became very lanky, uncoordinated with back and leg pain. His mates nicknamed him spider because of his long arms and legs, which he hated. Now in his early 30’s he still had mild back pain, and that lanky look.
Teaching Brian to support his back and neck differently was a challenge. He was so used to the way he carried himself that all his efforts to move differently felt wrong and occasionally painful.
Brian persisted with lessons, was diligent with his semi-supine practice and came in for lesson 10 with a huge smile on his face saying his back felt completely different. He had both lengthened and widened and his shoulders had opened out. He looked much more relaxed and confident. He said he had some Alexander tools to help him in difficult situations, whenever he felt tense or nervous, instead of shrinking into himself-which was his old response, he released the tension in his neck muscles, reminded himself to ‘think up’, checked out what he was doing with his feet and made sure he wasn’t holding his breath.
Brian’s awareness of his body use continued to improve as he had more lessons. He took up the guitar again, something he’d enjoyed but stopped because it gave him back pain. He was more outgoing, confident and willing to try new things. He had started lessons because of back pain and lack of confidence, and now he applied his new knowledge to all sorts of aspects of his life, including a career change. He decided to give up being a banker and train to be an Alexander Teacher, as he commented-you never know what doors open when you start changing your body.