A few years ago, in 2013, many people announced that the English language was broken. As the Guardian reported at the time: “Literally the most misused word in the language has officially changed definition. Now as well as meaning ‘in a literal manner or sense; exactly’… various dictionaries have added its other more recent usage. As Google puts it, ‘literally’ can be used ‘to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling’.”
Misuse can damage
I’m not sure you can actually (or should that be literally?) break a language. But certainly the way things are used – or misused – will affect the way they work. Poorly driven cars will wear out faster, and overloading a washing machine will damage it. And the same applies to us. You may not have considered it before but you have a choice in the way you use yourself, the way you ‘drive’ your own body. And how you do this will affect how well your body functions. So your personal driving will affect your health. It may even define it.
Have you voided your own warranty?
Just as there are better and worse ways to drive a car, there are better and worse ways to use our bodies – so just as riding the clutch will wear it out quicker, misusing your body will do the same. Slumping is one obvious way to do this – it squashes the body, compressing the spine and the organs within. Overstraightening – sitting up ‘too straight’ as you may have done to get your teacher’s attention – is another form of misuse. It also limits the body’s shape, again leading to damaging distortion and compression.
Do you have enough personal space?
Our bodies require a certain amount of space to function efficiently. Our spines cannot work well if constantly compressed, and our organs work best when not squashed. So if we restrict the amount of space available to us, this adds unnecessary pressure and force through our bodies. And over time, this will slowly damage us. It may lead to tight and sore muscles, or worn out joints, or perhaps back or neck or shoulder pain. And if we continually use our bodies in a poor way, we will damage and even break ourselves.
A new clutch every year, or a better driver?
If our poor driving is causing our car damage – worn out brake pads, or damaged gears perhaps – then it would be best to learn to drive better. Our car would then run as efficiently as possible and we would minimise unnecessary wear and tear. The same applies to us, and our bodies. The better we learn to ‘use’ ourselves, the more efficiently our bodies can work. And this good ‘use’ is the aim of Alexander Technique students around the world. They learn to use their bodies well so they can function efficiently.
So rather than leaving it to the mechanic to keep coming up with solutions to their problems, they become skilled at driving their own bodies, minimising wear and tear and improving the whole driving experience. Literally.