During a break in the game, a woman sitting behind him tapped him on the shoulder and said that she was a doctor and had noticed, a small dark spot on the back of his neck. "I'd have it looked at by your family physician," she said.
He did, and after an additional check with a dermatologist, it was determined that it was in fact a melanoma which was easily removed. "It's a good thing we caught it so early - it could easily have spread into your body and that would have been very serious," his doctor told him.
When I read that story, I thought about how many times I've seen children who have developed, often at a very early age, harmful patterns of posture that I know are likely to lead to serious problems later in life. Sometimes it's very hard for me to resist bringing this to their attention, knowing there are many effective ways to help release those harmful patterns.
But experience has taught me that it is almost never a good idea, even if know them personally.
Kids just don't want to hear comments about their posture. And why should they? They are young and resilient and their posture hasn't yet caused them any noticeable problems.
In any case, most of what they have heard - from parents or teachers - consists of admonitions such as "Stand up straight." or "Pull your shoulders back."
Apart from being annoying, these admonitions simply don't work - at least not for more than a minute or two. Which is just as well because anyone actually attempting to "stand up straight", for example, for a prolonged period of time it would likely do more harm than good.
Professor John Dewey, the American philosopher, public education reformer and longtime student of F. M. Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique, had a very clear understanding of the problem:
"It is," he wrote, "as reasonable to expect a fire to go out when it is ordered to stop burning as to suppose that a man can stand straight in consequence of a direct action of thought and desire. The fire can be put out only by changing objective conditions; it is the same with rectification of bad posture.
"Of course, something happens when a man acts upon his idea of standing straight. For a little while, he stands differently, but only a different kind of badly. He then takes the unaccustomed feeling which accompanies his unusual stance as evidence that he is now standing straight. But there are many ways of standing badly, and he has simply shifted his usual way to to a compensatory bad way at some opposite extreme."
Or, as the late Marjorie Barstow, a well-known teacher of the Alexander Technique, liked to say when a student in one of her classes would "stand up straight", "You're just rearranging tensions in your body."
The good doctor who went out of her way to help a stranger had the advantage of knowing that her advice would probably be appreciated - and heeded. I don't have that luxury and so I usually keep my observations to myself.
Still, I can't help projecting forward a few decades in the lives of children I meet, when it's very likely they'll be experiencing the sorts of problems I see everyday with my adult students. The teenage slouch, for example, is likely to evolve into severely stopped shoulders by middle age.
Alexander always believed it made much more sense to teach children, whose harmful posture and movement patterns were comparatively weak, rather than adults, when they have often become quite fixed.
As John Dewey noted "(Alexander's) discovery would not have been made and the method or procedure perfected except by dealing with adults who were badly coordinated. But the method is one of remedy; it is one of constructive education. It's proper field of application is with the young, with the growing generation..."
The ABC's of Good Posture by the Father of American Education http://www.angelfire.com/fm/alextech/index.htm has more information about John Dewey and Posture
The Posture Page http://posturepage.com provides information about a variety of proven ways to improve your posture.
Robert Rickover is a teacher of the Alexander Technique living in Lincoln, Nebraska. He also teaches regularly in Toronto, Canada. Robert is the author of Fitness Without Stress - A Guide to the Alexander Technique and is the creator of The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique http://www.alexandertechnique.com
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