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with Melissa Brown

Alexander Technique for Back Pain from Sitting

First question: How are you sitting?

We sit a good deal of the time during the day. And most of us slump – at least part of the time. That position compresses the spine and the back muscles and leads to stiffness, strain and pain. When we try to sit up straight we tend to go military, throwing the shoulders back, tightening the belly and arching backwards. The only thing good about a slump is that it usually creates less tension and pain than the military posture – which is actually so uncomfortable and tiring that it mostly results in people slumping again. So what do we do? With the Alexander Technique, good posture while sitting (as well as in all other activities) is easy, balanced and free.

How to improve your posture while sitting.

Here are a few tips:

Step 1: Find a chair with a flat, firm seat and place both of your feet on the floor.

Step 2: Release excess tension foot tension by softening your feet into the support of the floor. Stop gripping your legs and let them go. Release tension in your jaw and in your belly. Let your shoulders soften apart and find space in your armpits.

Step 3: You may feel a bit unbalanced since you are used to holding yourself up with tension, but tight muscles are heavy and actually pull you down. Find a new way by locating the sitting bones.

As you can see in this illustration, the sitting bones are the two blue knobs of bone located at the bottom of the pelvis that we are designed to sit on. They take the weight of the spine and provide support so the spine does not collapse.

Step 4: Place your hands under your buttocks pretty far in toward your coccyx or tail bone and you should be able to feel the sitting bones.

Step 5: Then gently slide your hands out to the side, widening your base of support. Release any excess tension and see if you can find balance and ease while sitting. No collapsing down or arching up.

It might take you a bit of time to find balance and stability on your sit bones, but remember not to muscle your upright posture. Tension only creates a downward pull and compression of the spine and back muscles. I recommend that you sit on your chair in profile in front of a mirror and observe your habits. Most of you will slump, but check out to see whether you might be going military. Then explore steps 1-5.

Slumping , Arching and Sitting Balanced on your Sitting Bones

In any case, sitting for a long period of time is difficult. You should get up every half hour and take a short walk. You can also use the back of your chair for support – just be sure to bring your pelvis all the way to the back so you can use it to help you lengthen up. If you’re to short to keep your feet on the floor, get a pillow or yoga blanket and place it behind your back.

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