constructive rest

When suffering from back pain, lying down in a semi-supine position is very effective.

  • If I’d known and understood the power of simply resting my back on the floor, I would not have had to undergo back surgery.
  • Simply resting the back and letting go: to the best of my knowledge, as someone who suffered from chronic back pain for years, simply resting one’s hurting back on the floor and letting go is the most effective action to take when suffering from back or neck pain. It is more effective than one at first imagines.
  • A daily Alexander Lie-Down not only relieves back pain, even more importantly, it can stop further deterioration of the condition and gradually restore one’s back to its natural condition (supported by lessons in the Technique, if possible).
  • Moreover, constructive rest is a tool that has a wide and deep mental effect: it facilitates supportive conditions for quiet, stability, balance and renewed strength.

Practice non-doing, and everything will fall into place.

Lao-Tzu

 

how to practice constructive rest:

  • Lie down on a relatively hard surface: a carpet, a yoga mattress, a thin camping mattress, etc. A soft mattress or bed is not appropriate as the back needs clear firm support (however, it is better to avoid lying directly on a hard cold floor).
  • Place one or more soft-cover books under your head (not under your neck), so that the head is aligned with the spine.  It is important that the head is not tilted too much forwards or backwards. Please note: just as the back needs clear, firm support, so does the head. Thus, a pillow is not a good substitute for books.
  • Rest your hands on your stomach or alongside your body.
  • Bend your knees in an upward direction with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to let go as much as you can while doing as little as you can:
    • Allow your head to rest on the books (without pressing it onto the books, just letting go).
    • Allow your back to rest on the floor (without pushing, just letting go).
    • Gradually, if and as much as you can, let go of your thoughts a little as well.

what to do during constructive rest:

N: What should I do when my back and neck hurt?

Me: In my opinion, the best thing to do in both cases is simply to lie down and rest your back on the floor in a semi-supine position.

N: And what do you do when lying down?

Me: Try not to do anything or do as little as possible.

N: What about holding a book or a newspaper above my head and reading?

Me: Better not.

N: What about leaving the television on or listening to music?

Me: You can and that’s fine. It’s a forgiving technique. But better not. Practicing a quiet Alexander lie-down is far more effective and it will be easier for you if you make this a habit.

(A conversation with N., CEO of a high-tech company, who suffered from chronic back and neck pain for years).

where, when, and for how long should I lie down?

  • You can practice a lie-down anywhere, whenever it’s possible and appropriate. A lie-down practice is particularly important when your back and/or neck hurt and before or after any continuous back effort. For instance, before or after a long day sitting on a chair in the office, a long car journey, a flight, moving house, etc.
  • I usually practice constructive rest at least once or twice a day for different periods of time depending on circumstances and my varying ability. It could be for a few minutes or as long as an hour or more. Any length of time, even the briefest, is beneficial.

a constructive rest practice may be simple but it is not always easy

What could be easier than lying down on the floor and resting the back? What could be easier than practicing a little bit of non-doing?

Well, these may be simple things, but they are not necessarily easy. There are times I can’t wait to lie down on the floor and rest my back; it’s the most enjoyable thing in the world. However, there are also times I would rather cross continents and oceans and deal with all sorts of petty insignificant things; anything except lying down and resting my back, anything except practicing non-doing. At times like these, I try to lie down while listening to music or something similar, even if a quiet lie-down practice would be preferable; I try not to avoid a lie-down completely. I know how much I need it, how much it builds up my back, how much quiet and wellbeing it gives me.

I personally discovered the option of a lie-down practice, its unimaginable effectiveness, its mechanical and intellectual advantage over any other option I had ever encountered, only after back surgery that almost completely immobilized me. I imagine that if not for the terrible back pain I endured, I’d find it difficult to explore this option for any length of time. It took me a long time to understand my difficulty; resting my back on the floor without doing anything is often hard because the practice of non-doing is harder than any practice of doing – at least for me. Paradoxically, I find that I’m sometimes just too lazy to lie down on the floor and practice non-doing.

constructive rest – mechanical advantage, inhibition and sending directions (for students of the Technique):

A lie-down practice is an excellent opportunity to learn how to inhibit and send directions and to understand the meaning of inhibition and sending directions while making use of mechanical advantage, all of which constitute the foundations of the Technique.

While lying down on the floor in a semi-supine position, we send the following directions to the best of our ability (without doing, just thinking):

  • Let the neck be free
  • Let the head go forward and up
  • Let the back lengthen and widen
  • (It is possible to add a secondary direction: Let the knees go out and away).

In time, without any hurry, we attempt to send directions "all together, one after the other".

 

All aid to progressive development must conform to the principle of the projection of guiding orders and controls in the right direction or directions with the simultaneous employment of positions of mechanical advantage.

F.M. Alexander

development

A wise teacher of the Technique once told me that there are a number of indications of a student’s development in the Technique, but in his opinion, the best and simplest is this: Does he practice constructive rest? If the student perseveres in lying down and sending directions, teacher and student can be sure the student is developing well and will overcome any obstacle along the way.

As far as I can tell from my own experience, he’s right.

When practicing “lying down work” or Constructive Rest: Give your directions, do nothing and then see what kind of nothing you’re doing.

Marjory Barlow, teacher of the Technique