Alleviating Tech-Related Stress with the Alexander Technique
By Judith Muir
Illustration by Tatyana Starikova
Originally Published in Organic Hudson Valley Edition 15, April/May 2016
Whether a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop is your go-to favorite, there’s no doubt about it: technical devices are a vital part of how modern society works, plays and communicates. Unfortunately, the equipment also is a major contributor of physical and emotional stresses.
The problem lies in the repeated and often-held positions people take for extended periods of time when the use technical devices, such as hunching over, leaning to one side, or hanging their head down, the latter leaving some people with what’s now known as tech neck or text neck – the back, neck, and shoulder strain caused by dropping one’s head to view a screen. Worse, the use of technical equipment often is tied to people’s careers, intensifying their use of the devices, which furthers tension on the body, causing pain and contributing to lower emotional and mental states.
To counter the tendency to lapse into an awkward position when using technical gear, it’s helpful to be mindful of one’s posture, especially when done as part of the Alexander Technique, a practice that was developed more than a century ago by a young Australian actor, Frederick Matthias Alexander, and is based on activating the basic principles that govern human functioning and well-being.
By teaching people how to increase their body/mind awareness, switch off patterns of stress and tension, activate beneficial postural mechanisms and connect with muscular activity, the Alexander Technique can help alleviate or prevent stresses associated with everyday movements, including those related to the use of technical equipment.
Beyond physical issues, working with technical devices also has an effect on people’s emotional well-being. One working paper “iPosture: The Size of Electronic Consumer Devices Affects Our Behavior” (Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-097, May 2013), by Maarten W. Bos and Amy J.C. Cuddy, found the smaller the technical device used was, the more inward a person’s posture and attitude became, which goes against the heart of what users want from their devices in the first place: maximum communications and productivity.
By following the principles of the Alexander Technique, people can learn how to make practical changes for optimal movement, productivity, and well-being, including the best way to hold and use devices and other equipment, plus ideal sitting, bending, standing, and walking postures, thereby avoiding discomfort and pain. In fact, reports show that practicing the Alexander Technique not only improves one’s physical condition, but also emotional and mental states, resulting in heightened self-esteem, productivity, and social connections.
Whatever your favorite technical device is, there’s no need to sacrifice health for productivity. By being aware of the way you interact with your gear and acting on the essential principles of movement and well-being, productivity and wellness are within grasp.