This is a brief article written for Alexander Technique teachers and practitioners. I share some of my personal thoughts and experience about the connection between Alexander Technique work and Whole food nutrition.
With the Alexander Technique, we are helping ourselves to function and feel better by improving the way we use our body and the way we relate to the world. So, the Alexander Technique does not exist in a vacuum. And when we learn to respond instead of reacting, life gets better for individuals, communities and the world at large. However, choosing not to react can be a challenge because reactivity is not always just a habit. Reactivity tends to be rooted in deep underlying emotions. They are inner voices that need to be seen and processed for an individual to be able to truly be less reactive. Deprograming a movement pattern is one thing. Inner voices do not get deprogramed. They need attention, not eradication. Luckily, there are several modalities who deal with such underlying aspect of reactivity to support what we teach.
Experiencing chronic pain or discomfort in our body also affects how we behave and how we are able to learn new material. Many students come to the Alexander Technique with such chronic ailments and our work is sometimes only part of the solution. Teachers need to be able to guide such students so they can explore complementary solutions to gain the most out of what we can offer them. So, listening to them without making assumption comes first. Expanding awareness as to the factors that are contributing to challenge is essential.
Muscle/joint pain is not always a musculoskeletal issue although it is clear that poor body use can definitely trigger and enhance pain. It can be due to a specific disease which is why I always ask students if they have addressed the medical side of their challenge first. In an otherwise healthy individual, muscle/joint pain can also be the expression of some nutritional imbalance. It can be the lack of balance in their macro nutrition (protein, carbs, vegetable and fruit) but more importantly the lack of essential micro nutrition in their diet (natural vitamins and minerals so crucial for our guts and overall health). Nutritional imbalances have been linked to achy muscles, leg cramping, and gut inflammation which leads to immune system disorders. (Check “The Second Brain” by Michael Gershon)
There are factors in our modern life (like invisible pollution of air, water and soil) that are interfering with the proper absorption of these micronutrients even in the best of case (when they are part of our diet). That is why the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables keeps increasing over the years and there are very specific reasons for that. The USDA guidelines for the number of fruit and vegetables serving recommended was already 5 to 13 in 2010. I could not find an earlier recommendation although the toxicity of the planet has drastically increased since then. Experts in the field of nutrition nowadays add that as important as the number and quality of servings is the daily variety of whole-food servings. And that is where most of us fall short as most individual tend to buy the same group of fruit and vegetables when going shopping. We rarely have a wide variety that we eat on a daily basis.
Alexander Technique helps reduce or eliminate “unconscious habits” that corrupt our daily use in the same way Whole-foods Nutrition helps reduce or eliminate the impact of “invisible pollution” in the air, water, soil, and store-bought food.
Alexander Technique works at empowering our “whole-body intelligence” rather than micromanaging body parts in the same way that Whole-foods Nutrition favors a variety of quality wholesome produce instead of the use of isolated vitamins so as to not lose the synergy existing within the (known and unknown) nutrients in each fruit and vegetable we eat.
Many people complement their diets by adding a long list of vitamins unaware that most of them are questionable. Why? First because isolated vitamins lose the benefit to work in synergy with the other ingredients in the fruit or vegetable it was taken from. Also, given they are isolated from their source, they are taken in big quantities because most of it cannot be properly absorbed by the body. Lastly, they are also questionable because of the country of origin they came from, many are exported from China for instance.
Not everyone is interested in these facts. And that is fine.
I am not suggesting that students and teachers act as if they were nutritionists or environmentalists. I am suggesting expanding our awareness of these facts about modern life that are more tied into our work than ever before. I am suggesting that we can handle ourselves and encourage others to expand their own awareness of this increasingly challenging situation as part of discovering and embracing a new paradigm about the way we move and relate to the world.
Bringing expanded awareness around the importance of whole-foods nutrition and the danger of relying on vitamins can be life changing for all. It is akin to people who suffered from posture related issues all their life until they experienced a pain-free body and improved posture simply by approaching the way they use their body as an integrated whole.
It is also true that many AT teachers tend to have the motivation, awareness and discipline to eat healthier than the average person. Yet, we know lots of people who don’t and who could get guidance. Understanding the basics of gut health and how it affects brain health and addictive behaviors, among other things, becomes an asset to be of service to people in our world as we open a door for others to explore.