It is interesting to read the long heritage of the idea of standing by will - especially the similarities of the idea of Alexander and Hegel passage quoted in the article.
Also, how does it compare to Feldenkrais?
Teachers vary widely, but as a rule Alexander teaching emphasizes the role of conscious intention as a way to defeat old movement patterns. Feldenkrais work leans towards reeducating the unconscious through exploration.
Alexander's writings are impenetrable, wordy, and arrogant. Feldenkrais's books are considerably clearer. Alexander was a voice actor, while Feldenkrais had a doctorate in engineering.
If you are going to learn online, get Feldenkrais's book _Awareness Through Movement_, find some recordings of the instructions, and spend hours doing them. Any Alexander Teacher who offers instruction online is a charlatan, but if you have the opportunity to take a few private lessons with an AmSAT or Affiliated Societies certified Alexander teacher, you may notice things that would take a lot of individual study.
Source: I am trained as an Alexander Teacher and would happily take a Feldenkrais teacher training if I had time.
Posture can be good or bad, both while still or in movement.
Yes, of course movement is healthy and good, but moving more doesn't necessarily mean your posture will improve, or that your movement will be performed with good posture.
And the idea that "no posture is perfect" feels misleading -- when your body is in healthy balance without excess tension, then yes your posture is perfect, again regardless of whether you're in motion or not.
Once this happens, your posture adjustments are more like manipulating a single point in space (your center of gravity) than adjusting limbs and muscles. It feels effortless, or like you are always floating.
Does this idea-retraining work as well as the gym? Do you know examples of unfit people with great posture through idea-retraining?
Of course we all know unfit people who are always straining to “sit up straight” and so forth, which always seems unnatural. Perhaps these people are the target market for this idea-retraining?
For me personally, the gym made my posture worse, and it was only through extensive body awareness practice (like AT), stretching, and relaxation techniques that I was able to solve posture problems.
You know how they say abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym? Same thing with posture -- made through awareness, not the gym.
What do you think of the thesis that the right gym exercises might tune your muscle's "normal state" to more closely resemble "healthy" posture?
I started going to the gym because of that thesis, and then I discovered it didn't work. From what I understand, our muscles are in balance with each other not according to their strength (except in cases of extreme imbalance), but according to the amount of tension our brain signals for them to maintain. This signaling arises from our mental image of the position our body should be in.
For me personally, for example, I was sitting, standing and walking, always leaning slightly back, which my body compensated for with an overly curved lower spine and overly tight abdominal muscles. Standing straight literally felt like I would topple forwards, because I had an incorrect sensation of body positioning. Once I learned to become aware of that, it took me a couple of weeks to actually stand straight, and learn that as the new normal. And this took care of the other problems.
It had nothing to do with the balance of muscle strengths, and everything to do with my perceptions. (Extensive hamstring stretching was also necessary, but not sufficient, to make standing straight possible.)
I'm not saying don't go to the gym -- I love the gym! -- what I'm saying is, if you want to fix your posture, you have to change how use you your body. Stretching can be necessary to unlock tight areas, but lack of or imbalanced strength is not the issue in an otherwise healthy adult.
I was stretching regularly too - but that doesn’t help if you’ve “lost” the feeling of what’s normal, and what muscles should be used during certain movements.
I’ve regained most of it now, but that’s after years of experimentation to rediscover what muscles weren’t working. Retraining is definitely necessary if you’ve lost it.
The stuff about tight muscles or weak muscles is nonsense: good posture is usually well within the center of your range of motion. You can't analyze human motion using statics.
The fact is that not only is your body an incredibly complex tensegrity structure, it is also hooked to earth's most impressive control system via millions of inputs and outputs.
Posture is an aspect of the control system, not the physical structure.
Source: I am trained as an Alexander Teacher.
After reading most comments here, it seems Alexander is an alternative approach to thinking of posture. Not sure how you could prove it is the "correct" one.
I wouldn't assert that AT is the "correct" way to think about anything: there are a huge number of different disciplines trying to get at the same effect with different dogmas. All these disciplines struggle with a mixture of dogma and genuine insight.
Empirically, studies on AT have shown small but measurable effects across a variety of metrics including lung function, back pain, and dynamic balance. It has also been shown to reduce effort as measured by electromyography and force platforms. All these studies are complicated by the lack of a "standardized AT teacher".
Most of the current research is funded by the British NHS, which recommends AT as a more cost-effective back pain intervention than surgery.
What scientific research would you present that leads to people adopting better posture?
There's a tremendous amount of work on biomechanics, of course, but from what I know that tends to be descriptive rather than normative, or look at parts in isolation and not really be helpful at all for an otherwise healthy human being looking to improve their posture.
If you say AT is "alternative", what are you proposing is the evidence-based practice it is alternative to? Because unfortunately I'm not aware of any.
How much do you charge for this idea-retraining? Why are you hiding behind a throwaway?
I’m a non-fit person with poor posture myself, and I definitely worded that badly
HN has become a very uncivil place, don't you think? I don't even remember the name of my old account, it's been so long since I posted here.
Exceptions I've noted are joggers with hunched shoulders, splayed feet, leaping too high off the ground, and so on. By no means uncommon.
>Does this idea-retraining work as well as the gym?
Not a gym user but I gained a cm in height within a week of encountering the Alexander Technique (AT). My guess is that the best gym users have good posture too, if only for safety's sake.
It's not so much about fitness and muscular bulk but about whether you are receptive to the proprioceptive feedback from those muscles and joints. AT has a unique way of pointing you towards these sensations but it relies on personal contact with a teacher.
Anecdotally, when I exercise regularly, good posture comes naturally to me.
I sometimes indicate how hard this is as “learning to walk again”. Retraining your posture is on the order of difficulty of learning to walk for the first time. Imagine how much effort and attention you put into that the first time around.
It really is the standard, with Feldenkrais at a kind of distant second.
In nutrition it's count your calories, no actually don't eat carbs, or avoid saturated fats, or animal fats are fine, just trust your instinct, instinct is what makes everyone fat, etc.
The world of posture seems awfully similar -- everybody thinks they know what good posture is (which is often overexaggerated and incorrect), but few people can really define it, and different coaches have wildly different definitions for it (tilt the pelvis forwards! no, never tilt the pelvis forwards!).
But at the end of the day, the people who most depend on their posture to make a living -- actors, singers, and dancers -- overwhelmingly use AT. So, scientifically proven? Not at all. But it seems to be the best we've got.
We should keep in mind the positions many of these philosophers were in. They often come from aristocracy classes and look down on commoners. They had access to better resources and were not ailed with problems, and therefore had no trouble defining people who are weaker, sicker, lower, smaller, uglier, etc., as "lesser". It's not a coincidence that many philosophers were not even able to register women as people. The downtrodden person is easy to look down upon as they have been damaged.
No room for complexity or messiness that's inherent in the lives of most people. These philosophers liked living by ideals, but human life is not ideal, and creating these ideals simply gates away most humans. If anything, the concept is non-human, but in its nature, Luciferous, as it separates off a "worthy" elite and throws away the rest. Most normal people do not survive the judgment of a philosopher.
A hunching person is human. A person with damaged limbs is a human. An older person who cannot stand upright is human. If you assign value to posture, then you have forgotten these people and flagged them as unworthy, and that makes you not human more than anything discussed in this article. It is that thought which is immoral, it is that thought which makes the slave, and not at all the posture of the slave. The excuse that comes after, not the origin of the evil.