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Good posture stems from the spine, which can be described as the body's 'tree trunk'.

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The spine: nature’s physiotherapist

Hazel Sillver

Hazel Sillver looks at the new wave of spinal therapies that encourage the body to heal itself, including the Alexander Technique, the Shaw Method, Sotai-ho and Scaravelli yoga.

the spine is our guru and if we stop constricting it many aches and pains may just vanish...

While traditional physiotherapy can be highly effective post-surgery and in treating injuries, it is often unhelpful in dealing with strains of repetition. Aches and pains that arise from sitting or moving with poor posture can only be corrected by improving posture. 

Good posture stems from the spine, which is the body’s tree trunk. From this long trunk of vertebrae, our muscles and limbs stem like branches, and we can extend and expand up and out. But when the spine is squashed and constricted via unnecessary tension and bad posture, strains and injuries may occur. 

To teach us how to free our spines is a new wave of spinal therapies: The Alexander Technique, the Shaw Method, Sotai-ho and Scaravelli yoga. These increasingly popular forms of bodywork teach us that the spine is our guru and if we stop constricting it, those aches and pains may just vanish...

Posture and The Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is wonderful for fixing RSI (repetitive strain injury), such as the neck ache that can result from jutting your head towards a computer screen all day. It asserts that the joints in the neck, at the top of the spine, must be unclenched to allow healthy posture. 

One of the UK’s leading Alexander teachers, Carolyn Nicholls has just written a brilliant book on the Technique: The Posture Workbook (£14.99, D&B Publishing). If you want to learn how to apply the Alexander methods to everyday positions (such as driving and computer work), this is a good buy because it has photos showing what to do and what not to do. 

Recommended teacher: Dorothea Magonet, London,

To find other teachers, go to:

Stretching and Sotai-ho

Sotai is a form of movement therapy that was created by the late Keizo Hashimoto, a Japanese doctor who sought to treat muscular pain in a natural way. He developed a series of movement exercises that restore the body to its natural alignment. “To treat a patient for an illness without correcting distortion in their frame is like bailing water with a bottomless bucket,” he wrote. 

His approach views the body as a whole unit, so that any ache isn’t treated in isolation; instead it is corrected via proper movement and posture of the entire body. 

Recommended teacher: ToshiHariki, Brighton,

To find other teachers, go to:

Yoga and Scaravelli

“Elongation and extension can only can only occur when the pulling and pushing has come to an end,” wrote the late yogi Vanda Scaravelliin her book Awakening the Spine. In the method she created (known as Scaravelli yoga), pupils are taught that all asanas(poses) should happen via the spine and the breath: “it is during the process of exhalation that the spine can stretch and elongate without effort,” she wrote. 

In other words, instead of pushing yourself into a yoga asana, such as ‘triangle pose’, you should release the spine and allow the body to naturally move into it. 

Recommended teacher: Gary Carter, London and Brighton,

To find other teachers, go to:

Swimming and the Shaw Method

The Shaw Method is the Alexander Technique applied to swimming. Having studied the technique, ex-competitive swimmer Steven Shaw adjusted the traditional four strokes to allow good head, neck and back alignment and freer breathing. 

For instance in Shaw front crawl, the lower body twists at the torso and the arms are held straight when out of the water, rather than bent. This prevents stiffness in the neck and shoulders. 

Recommended teacher: Clare Hughes, East Sussex,

To find other teachers, go to:

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