Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arm swing, walking and bags

(First included in my December 2016 email newsletter).

Tips based on Alexander Technique can help you with walking all year round. Let's consider arm swing and stride, as well as carrying a bag.

Arms can swing more 
Our arms are designed to swing as we walk. One leg moves forward, so does the opposite arm. What's great about arm swing? It helps move the back muscles, develops flexibility in the rib cage and so indirectly aids our breathing.

A recent student had very little arm swing and one arm rose higher than the other. She felt uncomfortable swinging her arms more - until I asked her to look in the mirror. She changed quickly once she could see that a larger arm swing didn't look out of place. 

Watch people around you - how do you compare?

Carry your bag evenly 

How well do you carry your bag? Do you habitually walk with one shoulder higher than the other? Chances are that you do if the bag is hooked over just one shoulder. Does your bag interfere with arm movements?

Start by observing yourself and other people. This may be enough to even up your shoulders. Try lengthening the strap, so it goes around the neck. Consider a different bag!

In these images, she has even shoulders but little arm swing - that's OK for a short time, but it shouldn't become habitual. His shoulders are quite uneven - I wouldn't want to do this for a long time.

Try a shorter stride 

My stride used to be very long - whether I was strolling or purposefully going somewhere. American teacher Bob Britton gave some advice that led me to make major changes. Now my legs don't reach much further forward than the front of my body.

An elderly student of mine finds that a shorter stride has reduced the back pain resulting from walking.

Bob Britton argues that a long stride means the front leg has to do a lot of work pulling the body and the rear leg forward. If instead, the stride is shorter, the front leg does much less - it simply takes the weight of the body and allows the rear leg to float through until it hits the ground.

Could the barman stride out and still balance the drinks?

More on arm swing 

The skeleton image below gives us much food for thought.
  • on the left side, imagine how arm movement affects the huge trapezius muscle (blue) and the equally large latimus dorsi running from armpit to pelvis. Notice how even the head is involved.
  • On the right side, where the muscle is cut away, consider how the shoulder blade is free to move and how gentle arm movement will also stimulate the long spinal muscles (close to mid-back).

Just starting out 
What will his walking style be in future?

Want to take this further? 

I hope practicing these tips is useful to you.
Perhaps you need to do more? People benefit greatly from individual lessons with me. I can help make walking, and everyday activities, much more pleasant.
Why don't you ring or email to book a lesson today?