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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You must be prepared to accept your body and learn to like it. If you have "saddlebags that could ride the Pony Express" now, you'll always have some saddlebags. If you are broad-chested now, you'll have a broad chest after weight loss.

If you dislike your body because it is not "perfect," self-starvation is not the answer. A negative body image usually does not improve with weight loss. Many women find that achieving the "ideal" body does not make them happy; they still dislike their thighs, their jobs, and their lives. "Ideal body" and "happy life" are not necessarily synonymous.

What do you like about your body? When I ask my clients this question, nine out of ten say either "absolutely nothing" or "my eyelashes." To help them accept and respect their bodies, I have them analyze each part of their bodies to find something that they like about each part. They are pleasantly surprised to discover that they do like some aspects of their bodies, and they feel better about themselves. Would you like to give this activity a try? Analyze each of the following body parts and search for something you like in each area. For example, you may like the size of your feet, the calf muscles of your legs, or the birthmark on your back. "Nothing" is not an acceptable answer.

Your feet:

Your legs:

Your trunk:

Your arms:

Your hands:

Your head:

By filling out the Do You Need to Psychologically Prepare Yourself for the OFF Plan? questionnaire and becoming more aware of your attitudes, your feelings, and your reasons for weight loss, you have begun to mentally prepare yourself to begin making small, realistic changes. You have begun to give up the "diet mentality" and accept the "lifestyle mentality." If you feel that you need further assistance, get some help from family, friends, or a counselor.

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