Unless we move in the way we are naturally designed to move, no exercise or sport will ever be able to correct any acquired default.
There is hardly a single magazine that does not contain recommendations of exercises to strengthen the abdominals, the back or some other part of the body. In the same way, many physiotherapists prescribe specific exercises for their patients according to their particular problems. Nor is there a lack of gyms or fitness centers whose members often come away with various useful exercises to do at home.
One question which we hear only very rarely is: Am I able to do these exercises without doing myself damage and will they really help me?
A lot of people become aware as soon as they begin an exercise that does not suit them, that they feel uncomfortable and would do well to stop. Most people, however, do not listen to themselves and tell themselves that the discomfort is temporary and that anyway, if the exercises work for someone else, why should it not do so for them. Anyway, is there any gain without pain? Once the first signs have been forgotten, one applies a bit of discipline, some will-power, and on one goes. Such people, generally, do not improve their physical condition.
Should one stop the exercises? Not at all. The exercises are excellent both for health and fitness. What one has to suppress are any mistaken conceptions about movement which prevent us from benefiting from such exercises and to go about the exercises in a physiological way, taking account of the whole body.
The advice according to the Alexander Technique is that one should address the general coordination before specific work on a given part of the body. And it seems that this approach is gaining favor in certain circles. Unfortunately, although it is very easy to understand the principles underlying physical exercise in theory, when it comes to practical application, work on specific parts of the body is often done in disregard of the whole body. For example, a leg-stretching exercise will be done with the spine hunched.
A series of lessons in the Alexander Technique will generally reveal how a person does his exercises and in what way he interferes with the proper functioning of the postural mechanisms.
The pupil himself will realize that it is possible to perform the exercises he wants to do, or which have been prescribed, without causing undesirable compensation effects elsewhere in the body. The Alexander Technique will make him aware of the importance of remaining flexible and with a lengthened spinal column during the movement.
His faculty of self-perception will gradually be refined along with the knowledge of what he should or should not do when performing an exercise; in other words, the unnecessary tensions he might be making which would prevent him benefiting from the exercise will become clearer and the corresponding corrections he will make more effective.
It must not be forgotten that exercises, to be effective, must take place in an environment that is healthy in the broad sense, meaning that one’s sleep, one’s diet and the air one breathes must be of sound quality. Many people make the mistake of believing that exercising alone is the whole solution, whereas it is but one among various means to improve one’s life. For the ordinary person who leads a sufficiently active life physically, routine fitness exercises are not actually necessary. It is quite another thing, though, for the sportsmen or dancers, whose physical requirements and expectations are of a different order.