The Alexander Technique Assists Pregnancy
The Alexander Technique is a tool of alignment, a tool of flow, a tool of awareness that can be very helpful during all of our transitions in and around pregnancy; whether it's trying to conceive, natural pregnancy, birth or as we make our way through parenting. It comes down to a dance of communication - first with our own bodies and then with our babies bodies. To find the joy of listening and understanding and trusting ourselves, our bodies, our desires and our spirits is incredibly powerful. And as we grow in our ability to do this, we grow in our ability to listen and understand others, including our babies. This is why to love and nurture our children as fully as we'd like to, we must first love and nurture ourselves.
To learn about the Alexander Technique and how it can help through natural pregnancy and natural birth, I spoke with Christie Johnson, an
Teacher and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist. Christie teaches that we must learn to "notice conditions present" which means "notice what and how is my body responding to what's going on", whether that be in or around us. When there is stress, Christie says, "there are four primary things that happen (in the body's reaction): the neck muscles tighten, the head goes down and back, shortening the stature of the thoracic cavity (chest cavity) all the way through to the pelvis, and then causing you to gasp for breath, unable to speak."
So, imagine we are in a stressful job, a stressful relationship, or a stressful birth, our body is reacting to this stress by compressing and loosing blood circulation. It may not be the easiest way to try to conceive or to give birth! We can call it body awareness, or noticing conditions present, but either way we are paying attention to what is going on within us. And this is our goal! Instead of losing ourself in the stressor (the thing that's coming at you: whether that's negative thought or some outside source) we begin to be the observer and from there we can release habits that aren't serving us and choose another reaction. When we use the Alexander Technique when we are trying to conceive, Christie says, "you open that (compression) up and you have room, you have the interface. And taking that into actually being pregnant: same deal." When we're pregnant, the stressors could look like working until we birth, the fears we have around birth, or trying to make room for a growing baby. All these things can lead to compression: of posture, of the body and ideas for the future, we may even feel like we're boxed in and weighed down. And as Christie says, "the Alexander Technique just gives them (pregnant women) a resource to continually grow in conjunction with the baby and allowing space for the baby to move more freely. So, when the baby kicks the ribs and says "I want more space." The mom thinks, oh I notice you are kicking my rib, what can I do with my pelvis in relationship to my spine to allow you a little bit more space to turn or twist...it becomes a dynamic dance, a duo, a team effort. The baby feels empowered because the mom listened, "mom, I need more space, I just kicked you" and then the mom give the baby more space. There is this language, this communication that evolves."
And imagine if we are going through our pregnancy with this level of communication what our natural birth will look like: we will bring that same noticing and that same communication as baby makes it's way through us. Giving the baby the movement it needs, listening and responding to our own bodies needs and allowing our babies to make their way through in the time that is needed.
The other gift that the Alexander Technique offers for natural birth involves the breath. Christie reminds us, "that there are a lot of different resources out there for birth, a lot of different breathing techniques...the irony is that the breath breathes you! All you have to do is be with it... it all comes down to being with the breath and the breath breathing you." As we all know, when we are conscious, we aren't just going to stop breathing, even if there is a pause, there will be another exhale and inhale. So, Christie reminds us if we place our attention on our exhale, then surprise, there is another inhale! And that by not controlling the breath we do not over-stimulate our bodies systems, nor exhaust ourselves with unnecessary hyperventilation during birth.
As we follow up natural birth with parenthood, the Alexander Technique is still very useable! Continuing to notice the conditions present and letting the breath breathe you is still highly valuable, especially as we navigate through night feedings, our babies communications, and their growing independence. We have the daily tasks of breast-feeding, which give us the opportunity to observe and notice presenting conditions (maybe a cramped hand or shoulder). We have the opportunity to carry the baby and lots of other things and not becoming stooped over with the growing weight of baby. Christie tells us her "job is to make sure they (moms) are noticing their own nurturing, because if they don't take care of themselves, number one first... it's kind of like on an airplane, you've got to put the oxygen on you first and then you can put it on the loved ones around you." And remember, babies are going to model our behavior, so lets give them great self-nurturing, centering behavior to model.
The Alexander Technique is a way of life that helps us stand taller, walk easier and flow with what's happening around us and within us, no matter if it's trying to conceive, natural birth or baby care. It's another tool to help us be in the moment and powerfully choose what we want to embrace and grow. But it's not the only tool, whatever we decide we need, as long as we are following our intuition and getting in tune with our bodies and our spirits, we are on our way and following our unique path. As Christie's teacher said: attention is like fertilizer, so choose wisely what you want to pay attention to! Noticing how our bodies are working, noticing if what and how we are helping them, or hindering them and teaching our children these tools can help us flow through life with ease and grace and love.