The Alexander Technique for Pregnancy and New Parents
The Alexander Technique can help with a variety of issues that may come up during pregnancy. If a woman starts lessons early in her pregnancy, many problems may be avoided. Some issues that may be improved, eliminated or prevented include:
- Discomfort, pain or strain in the back, neck, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Digestive discomfort
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
- Fatigue or depression
Here’s how the Alexander Technique can help. . .
The spine features four curves, which are beneficial to us as shock absorbers. Many of us tendto pull ourselves down and exaggerate those curves, which can cause back pain. During pregnancy habits of exaggerating the natural curvature of the spine are often exaggerated further. The weight of the growing baby pulls the lumbar curve in, resulting in the arched lower back that we are accustomed to seeing on pregnant women. The neck and shoulders tense up and the cervical curve at the top of the spine becomes exaggerated and the thoracic (chest) area tightens and is thrust forward. Back pain often results as well as shortness of breath. The baby is taking up space where the diaphragm usually drops down during a breath. If the rib cage is tight and immobile, little room is left for breathing.
If instead of giving in to the weight of the baby and arching the back forward, the lower back stays back (instead of curving forward), it can actually be strengthened by the new weight. If the legs stay ungripped, they can also be more involved in the process of supporting the belly. With the back and the legs staying free, open and supp
orting, the muscles in the upper-back chest area can be free to allow the ribs to move as breath comes in and out. Also, with the whole back and legs supporting the weight up front, undue pressure will not be placed on the vertebrae and inter vertebral disks of the lower back.
Alexander Technique lessons are also a fun, relaxing, and egaging activity during pregnancy. The student learns how to manage
her daily activities more efficiently and to move in ways that will avoid injury, free up breathing, feel lighter on her feet, and stronger in her back. A result of feeling more relaxed and energized is often improved mood and reduced fatigue.
The Alexander Technique can help to release habitual tension that pulls a person down and creates compression. The result is a freeing and lightening up that reduces pressure on the spine and can be particularly helpful with the added demand of carry a baby during pregnancy. The Alexander Technique helps people to free up to their full height without unnecessary tension and pressure. Our postural support muscles keep us up in order to counteract gravity and they work most efficiently if we don't interfere by tensing and collapsing other muscles. One way in which we grip and compress ourselves is by literally pulling ourselves away from our contact with the ground. A result of studying the Alexander Technique is not only feeling lighter and freer, but also involves having a sense of being more grounded.
When experiencing pain, people often react by pulling in and compressing more. They recoil as if to escape from the pain. Some people use relaxation techniques that allow them to tune the pain out. Applying the Alexander Technique to coping with pain will likely result in feeling more relaxed, but this feeling is not achieved passively. In labor, just like in any situation, we have a variety of potential ways to respond to a stimulus. If you remain grounded and alert during a contraction and simultaneously out in all directions (out the hands, feet and top of the head) as opposed to giving in to the pain and compressing in on yourself, you may find that you are better able to cope with it. If you will stand your ground in the face of the pain, accept and embody it, and then allow it to dissipate, you will likely experience the pain less acutely and will feel more in control.
*Labor with or without pain medication
If you plan to or you are considering the possibility of going through labor and giving birth without pain medication, applying the Alexander Technique can prove an effective method for managing pain. If you decide to manage your pain with an epidural, applying the Alexander Technique can still be very helpful during labor.
Regardless of whether you decide to give birth naturally or with the use of pain medication, applying the Alexander Technique can be of great assistance when it's time to push. It can help make each push more effective an efficient.
During the weeks after a baby is born, a mother may feel strained and exhausted from lifting, holding and nursing her baby. These new demands can be especially challenging in light of recovering from having just given birth, switching from carrying the baby in her abdomen to suddenly bearing the weight of the baby with her arms and feeling sleep-deprived. The new mother may also feel off-balance in the absence of the weight in her belly that she had become accustomed to. Her abdominal muscles may feel weak. She may dislike the lack of tone in her abdomen. Applying The Alexander Technique, she will learn to use her whole body to support the weight of her infant, as opposed to straining a particular part (like the neck, shoulders or lower back). If she uses herself well, she'll likely find that her strength will return quickly. She may find that her belly is toning up as a result of using her body efficiently in her everyday activities, as opposed to specifically exercising the abdominal muscles. Though the Alexander Technique will not make the baby sleep through the night, lack of sleep may become easier to cope with.
Mothers, fathers and caretakers bend over and lift their infants countless times per day and hold and carry them in baby carriers for extended periods. Mothers nursing infants often find themselves slumping to move down toward the baby or hiking their shoulders and straining to keep the baby close to them. Parents and child-care workers in New York City often carry a child and a heavy stroller up and down stairs to get in and out of the subway. If not performed mindfully, these activities put strain on the body, which may lead to pain or injury. Alexander Technique lessons transform holding and carrying a child from an exhausting task into a strengthening and enlivening experience.
I began seeing Lindsay Newitter when I was approximately 3 months pregnant and had begun experiencing periodic sharp pains in my lower back. After a couple of weeks the pains went away and only returned when I could not see Lindsay for a few weeks here and there. I then saw her weekly from my 28th week through the end of my pregnancy and from that point on I remained pain free. Lindsay provided me with specific strategies for picking up items, standing, sitting, and walking that I was able to use throughout my pregnancy that definitely changed the way I moved and carried myself throughout the week. I continue to use these strategies now that I am picking up and carrying around a heavy, and growing heavier, baby. In addition, Lindsay's application of the Alexander Technique during our sessions left me feeling lighter and more together than I would have imagined possible during my pregnancy. In addition to her experience as an Alexander Technique practitioner and teacher, her own pregnancies have provided her with an important perspective for working with pregnant women. I highly recommend Lindsay to pregnant women who are seeking an Alexander Technique teacher to prevent or lessen back pain.
-Krista Olson, Public Health Administrator