THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: MISUSE IN PREGNANCY

In four-legged animals the weight of pregnancy is distributed over four legs, but in humans all the extra weight (the baby, the uterus and the breasts) is carried at the front of the body. Because there is more weight in front there is an increased tendency for the body to fall forwards. The muscles at the back of the body therefore have to work more to maintain the balance. From an Alexander perspective, misuse is when this increased muscular activity is concentrated in specific areas.

The way in which a pregnant woman compensates for the increased imbalance will reflect her habitual misuse. If she has a tendency to an over-tense posture, she will pull her head and upper back backwards, by over-contracting the muscles of the lower back. The woman with a more collapsed posture will give up all attempt to retain her uprightness. In both cases the deep muscles in the pelvis and the muscles of the legs have to work extremely hard to maintain the balance, and there will be excessive tension in the joints, which will restrict their range of movement. The ligaments are also put under a lot of strain, because instead of doing their normal job -which is to make the joints more stable - they have to do a great deal of the work of supporting the body (which should be done by the muscles).

Unfortunately, instead of stabilizing the balance, this way of compensating creates a vicious circle of misuse. In both the over-tense posture and the collapsed posture, the lower back is allowed to curve forwards excessively, which throws the weight of the baby even more forwards. The body then has to further compensate by contracting muscles in an attempt to bring the centre of gravity back. And so it goes on, made worse by the fact that the baby meanwhile is increasing in size. This gives us the commonly accepted image of the pregnant woman having a very hollow back with the pregnancy carried far out in front. Some pregnancy books even suggest this is a physiologically natural aspect of pregnancy!

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PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME: HOW TO HELP YOURSELF - EXERCISE

Fitness levels In the Western world as a whole have declined dramatically in the last 30 years. Today we go everywhere by car. We sit at our desks for long hours. We slump in front of the television night after night. As with healthy eating it only takes a little effort to break the couch-potato cycle. There are several benefits to be gained from taking exercise:

  • It increases your levels of fitness and helps you to combat illness. Lack of exercise leads to increased weight gain, weak muscles, weak bones and a sluggish heart. Although lack of exercise is not exactly a cause of PMS, more activity will improve your general health.
  • Exercise has been shown to increase levels of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are often referred to as the body's natural 'happy' chemicals as they help to lift our mood and ease pain. Several studies have shown mat people who are depressed show a significant improvement in their symptoms if they take regular exercise.
  • Taking regular exercise improves your self-esteem and makes you feel good about yourself. In this frame of mind you are much better equipped to cope with PMS than the couch-potato whose idea of physical activity is going to the kitchen to fetch a snack!

Taking more exercise does not mean buying the latest trendy aerobic gear and enrolling at the local health club. The simplest exercise regime is to walk. A practical exercise regime for most women is to walk for three miles (5km) or 45 minutes (whichever comes first: one mile (1?km) every 15 minutes is ideal). Do this at least increase the rate to one mile every 10 to 12 minutes.

Jogging, cycling, swimming or aerobic exercise are great If you can fit them Into your schedule and you do them for at least 30 minutes three times a week.

Many women are restricted by the demands of a family. But children benefit from walking too so take them with you. If you have a baby put it in the buggy or the baby sling and get out there!

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