Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learn to bend well

Bending over – please help!
A friend recently contacted me about how her partner bends over. She is concerned about the hump that appears in his back. I gave him some advice over the internet using skype.

What to do?
Here are some ideas that anyone can play with.

Understand the body.
We have in-built hinges at the top and bottom of the spine – where the head pivots, and where the legs join the pelvis. Make sure you know where they are (Scroll down to Recent Posts, see Look up and down with ease - at the computer and elsewhere – 1, Apr 30, 2012; and Why the hip joint matters when sitting, Oct 18, 2011).

Observe yourself, or ask someone else.
Where do you typically hinge? Your back should remain long (from head to tailbone) and wide (at the waist and shoulders), so as to support the movements of the arms, shoulders and head. The legs should move freely out of the hip joints.

Play with moving differently – in standing.
When standing erect, place your hands on a ledge or table at comfortable height. Now bounce up and down a little by releasing at the hips – imagine bopping to music. As well as the hips releasing, the knees will need to move forward, and you will bend at the ankles. You can play with releasing one knee at a time, and then both knees.

While doing this, place a finger in the groin area to find the hip joint – it is halfway down the crease between leg and hip (Under Recent Posts, see Towards a better way to sit – 1, Jan 18, 2012).

Or try a lunge - perhaps a gentle one to start with.

Play with moving differently - when sitting.
Rock forward and then back at the hip joint, using your finger in the groin area to notice if you are really moving from there. The key is to hinge back up from the hip joints.

Observe carefully as you move to upright – avoid pulling your back into shape. Let the mechanics of the action help you find upright. Any muscular effort in the back is likely to be a sign that your perception of upright, for example with the shoulders pulled back, is very different to the reality for you. As you come up, the head should feel free on top of the spine.

Start with small movements, and then try hinging as far forward as is comfortable – for some people, the head can reach the knees.

Daily practice - give yourself a choice
Before you bend, for whatever reason, give yourself a choice about how you do it – based on these tips.

Start by making it part of your routine just once or twice a day - this way you will build commitment to the process of learning new habits, and not become frustrated.

What is your daily memorable occasion? Perhaps:

-          Reaching for your slippers or tying your shoes
-          Picking up your bag
-          Turning the computer on

It feels really good to bend this way, and over time, the more often you do it, the stronger the new way will become.

Bending with straight legs?

In one photo below, the person has loads of flexibility and bends easily at the hips while her legs are straight.

The other does not … why doesn’t he flex at the hips, knees and ankles?

There is a better way for all of us.

 Bending well
Perhaps the two images above of children bending over, and some-one lunging while exercising, will inspire you to bend differently. Their backs are long and wide, with hinging at the ankles, knees and hips.

Each of them could easily pick up something from the floor. It isn’t so hard to do it well – just a matter of actively changing our habits!

Further information
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments. Consider also trying out a lesson with me, or my colleague Anne Mallen on 0408 024 881 or mallenanne@gmail.com.


1 comment:

Halvard Heggdal said...

Nice post! Lots of useful tips for experimenting.
I have found it very useful to ask the pupil to see what happens if she/he let gravity do the job. A lot of unecessary tension can come from using muscles to try to bend when all that is needed is release of hips, knees and ankles. The movement in the joints of the legs can take care of themselves, leaving us free to observe the lengtening and widening back.

Let gravity do the job, and don't decide in advance what the resulting movement is going to be like!

Halvard Heggdal
Alexander Technique teacher