The position for constructive rest is simple. Lie on your back on a firm surface (but not too hard, if you need to lie on a hard floor, cushion it with a towel or blanket or two). Your legs are bent so that your feet are flat on the surface. Have your feet about hip width apart and allow your knees to be apart too. It should be possible to align the feet and knees so that the legs are “upright” with little or no strain. Do not worry too much if you need to allow the knees to touch in the early days. At this stage it is more important to avoid introducing any tension. Your head is supported on a pile of books. Paperbacks are better as they have a little give and softness. Place your hands on your abdomen. Ideally the fingers won’t be touching, but again, as for your legs, don’t force yourself into a position that is uncomfortable.
Constructive rest differs from other forms of relaxation in that you are invited to be aware of your body, to observe it and to be curious about the sensations you experience. Once you are in semi-supine bring your focus to your body, to the areas that are in contact with the surface and be aware of the curves of the body, and of those areas of the body which are not in direct contact. This enables you to begin to develop an awareness of the natural curvature of the spine. You may also become aware of your body “releasing into length”: meaning that as your body is released from the downward pressure of gravity your spine (from the pelvis to the top of your head) can lengthen. Again, don’t seek to achieve this through any effort. Just
be curious and see whether you notice it happening. Become aware of any areas where you are holding yourself up, away from the surface. Often the shoulders can release more. You could also observe the rhythm of your breathing.
Anywhere. Grab the opportunities, at home, in the office, in the park, on the beach. If you don’t have a book, the edge of your bag or the toes of your shoes can be a good substitute.
Ideally… 20 mn every day after lunch. Also, you can do it in bed before dropping off to sleep or before you get up in the morning. If you never seem to find 20 mn then maybe take 1 or 2 mn while you wait for a kettle to boil, or a bath to run.
Constructive rest is perhaps the best self-help tool in the Alexander Technique. It gives your body a rest from the effects of gravity. It is an opportunity for your body to realign itself. The surface is like an Alexander Teacher – helping you to explore a more physiological alignment.
The time you take in constructive rest is time away from other activity, so it is also an
opportunity for your mind to have a rest. By focusing on your physical sensations, your breathing, it is a time when your mind can be quiet.
A note about getting up
Whatever time you spend in constructive rest, but especially if you have been lying down for 10 or 20 mn or longer, getting up is an integral and important part of the process. When you decide to get up, before you move, allow yourself two or three breaths while you think about how you are going to move. Start by turning your eyes to the side, allow your head to follow your eyes, your shoulder to follow your head until you are lying on your side. Bring the top arm alongside you so that you can use that hand flat on the surface to push yourself up to sitting. As you do this, be mindful of the length and alignment of your head, neck and spine. When you have come to sitting you may choose to get up by rolling onto all fours, coming up onto your knees, putting one foot forward on the ground and then coming up to standing. Or you may have your own, different way to come up. Whatever you choose, avoid a “sit up” which can bring stress and strain to your back and neck.
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