We’ve already had snow, ice, freezing rain and a “Polar Vortex” this year, and it’s only the beginning of January! This got me thinking about ways in which the Alexander Technique can help us in the winter. Shoveling snow is one of those chores in which the Alexander Technique can be very helpful indeed. My colleague, Amy Ward Brimmer, wrote a great blog post back in December giving some useful advice and tips based on the Technique. She has very kindly given me permission to publish it here, as well as in my monthly newsletter, which went out earlier this week. I hope you find it helpful.
Everyday Alexander: Shoveling
The Alexander Technique comes in handy when the snow flies. I just came in from shoveling our first significant accumulation. It was beautiful, but wet and heavy. For those of us without snow blowers, it’s a great aerobic activity, and often pleasant if the temperature’s not too frigid.
But it seems to produce all sorts of minor injuries, aches and pains for people. If you find yourself with low back pain, twinges in your shoulders or neck, or other maladies as result of shoveling, pay attention tohow you are bending and lifting when you shovel. Like vacuuming, sweeping, or gardening, shoveling is essentially about lunging. Some things to be aware of:
- Make sure your feet are fully engaged with the ground, your weight distributed evenly as across the soles.
- Bend at the ankles, knees, and hip joints, not at the waist.
- Don’t scrunch your neck as you glide the shovel under a pile of snow.
- When you lift, use your springy legs as levers — don’t make your arms and shoulders do more than they have to.
- Again, make sure to keep your neck long and easy–don’t pull your head back and down.
Here’s an example of how not to shovel:
And here’s an example of a squat and a lunge in combination, with hands-on guidance. It’s a summertime gardening activity, but the actions of bending, leaning, and lifting are similar to shoveling:
Notice the long, aligned torso and coordinated bending in the ankles, knees, and hips. See what results you get when you allow yourself this balanced way of moving when you shovel. At the very least, avoid the compressed, hunched way of shoveling in the first two photos, and see how much less fatigued and achy you are when you’re through.
Of course, we all work our muscles in a special way when we do manual labor like shoveling. A great way to reward yourself for your hard work is to lie in Constructive Rest for a few minutes when you’re through. Then have some hot cocoa and a cookie!
Whatever you find yourself doing in this hectic winter holiday season, remember to slow down, tune into yourself, and breathe!
If you have any questions or comments for either me or Amy, please leave them in the box below. Happy shoveling!