Stairs, Fatigue and The Monster

Going up and down stairs is difficult for a lot of people.  I see it in Alexander Technique lessons.  I also see people make it even harder for themselves.

A recent lesson turned up a beautiful example. This student has an illness which makes fatigue a huge issue in her life, on levels most people couldn’t comprehend (having said this, it applies equally well to any number of different medical conditions). She chose stairs for her lesson activity, and I asked her to try them out, so we could see what was going on.

Let’s be clear, there is a certain amount of exertion needed to walk up a flight of stairs, quite a lot more than walking on flat ground. No use pretending you can float up without any effort whatsoever. And if you have one of these medical problems, stairs might always be difficult.



Before this student had even got out of the chair, she had hunched her neck, scrunched her shoulders and bunched her legs. By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs she looked like she was carrying the weight of the world. All that hunching, scrunching and bunching can only be achieved by one thing – muscles working hard. Which means that she had added in loads of extra, unnecessary effort to her movements. She made herself more tired before she even set foot on the first step.

Did she intend to do all this? No.
Did she realize she was doing it? No, at least not before the lesson.

But in her mind stairs had become a bigger and bigger problem, which resulted in her creating more and more extraneous muscle tension, which in turn made it harder and harder to walk up the stairs, which made her dread the stairs even more. She had created a monster.

So we spent a while investigating what was real, and what was something extra she was creating. By the end of the lesson, we’d shrunk the monster to something more like this:-

And when we tried stairs again a few lessons later, she was unrecognisable. No more monster.

Graphic by OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in activity, change, effort, physical limits

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