What and Why? 

Animals that drift about in water have no need to move or brace themselves against gravity, so posture has no meaning for them. You are so accustomed to the task yourself that you do not notice the effort it entails, except after a prolonged period of illness in bed. Nevertheless a large proportion of your muscular work is devoted to opposing gravity and requires you to maintain a constant moderate tension in all the muscles of your lower limbs and back.

Even if your arms can hang limply, relaxed at rest, they too must brace against gravity as soon as they move into any other position. This bracing tone is controlled by an elaborate network of nervous reflexes, under the overall direction of your primal adaptive system. They operate automatically and comfortably within your maximum capacity as a rule, but can adapt to all sorts of influences operating on you as a whole. So when you are angry, alarmed, anxious, nervous or under stress of any other kind your tone reflexes get involved. If they get any less active you faint and sink to the ground, which does little to solve your problem.

Disturbance which increases the tension of your muscles makes much more sense, since it prepares you for swift action to overcome the stress; so in health this is generally the way things go. Enhanced tension works well for short-term stresses but very badly if it persists. Muscles tire, which reinforces the tone reflex and makes them even more tense. Eventually their functional limits are exceeded and they start to hurt. Your posture in that region changes and stiffens, which inevitably affects the grace and efficiency of your whole body. You end up working harder to accomplish less, with apparent reductions in your strength and stamina and lower tolerance for any kind of stress.

The muscles most accustomed to postural work are the ones most commonly affected. Backache, neck pain and many headaches arise mainly in this way. Severe pain can originate from tension in the muscles which brace your lower jaw, unsettled by teeth in poor alignment. Eventually tension spreads elsewhere, with results such as indigestion, irritable bowel and coronaries.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. Get advice and treatment from an osteopath or physiotherapist. If you are usually tense, tender or stiff in any muscular part of your body, consult an Osteopath or Chartered Physiotherapist in the first place to discover why. He may be able to correct it within a few treatments. If not, look up the other relevant topics listed here for deeper reasons why his treatment fails and attend to those that apply to you.

2. General reduction in all avoidable stresses, whether or not they are directly implicated, will improve your tolerance of the one which causes your tension. In particular adopt the diet for health which on its own can often ease tension back within bounds.

3. Supplements of Brewer’s Yeast (six daily) and food-state magnesium (usually one tablet two or three times daily) are safe and inexpensive ways of helping your muscles to give of their best.

4. Good breathing always helps, both during bouts of tension and to prevent them. Singing releases tension particularly well; passionate delivery matters more than skill or competence.

5. Alexander Technique deals with tension by attending fundamentally to your posture and movement. It is highly practical and offers in addition many unexpected insights into your nature and motives. This is the most comprehensive approach available, and highly recommended if there is a teacher near you.

6. If breathing provides inadequate self-help learn how to relax from an expert. Yoga, hypnotherapy, psychological counselling and biofeedback are all appropriate ways of doing this. Explore our list of addresses and to discover which are available locally, enquire what each has to offer and make your choice.

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