I teach Alexander Technique classes through my local community ed department. The other day I took off my teacher hat and was a student in someone else’s class.
As with most community ed classes, it took place at a school in the evening. Our classroom had hard mid-sized pink and green plastic chairs that were permanently attached to desks.
The furniture was less than comfortable. And it could’ve easily been an evening that ended in body aches and pains. But not this time.
Because I chose to do something very simple.
The teacher had a lot of good information to share during the 2-hour class. She started on time and didn’t stop once.
Normally, I would’ve talked to her ahead of time just to alert her to the fact that I’d be standing up at certain points throughout the class.
But I forgot to last week.
Since I knew I’d be standing up periodically, I sat in the back of the room so that when I did stand up, I wouldn’t block the other students’ view.
My chair might’ve been permanently attached to the desk, but at least the whole piece of furniture wasn’t glued to the floor. I was able to angle the desk chair so the teacher—who was at the opposite corner of the room—was in a straight sight line in front of me.
That way I wouldn’t have to twist in an unnatural way for 2 hours.
20 minutes in I stood up quietly in the back of the room.
Not unexpectedly, the teacher stopped mid-sentence. She looked at me in a concerned way and said, “I hope you’re not hurting”.
Everyone turned around to look.
I simply smiled and said, “I’m fine. I’m just taking care of myself.”
And that’s exactly what I was doing.
Taking care of myself.
And I took care of myself probably 4-5 additional times before the class was over.
Each time I stood up I moved around very gently and stretched for no longer than a minute and sat down again.
And at the end of the evening, guess what? I felt pretty darn good.
Not desk shaped at all.
It didn’t take much.
Something simple. Standing up.
It didn’t take long. One minute max each time.
But I had to do it. And I had to do it repeatedly.
On the one hand, what I did in the class is easy.
But for me, it’s been a journey getting to the point where I can take care of myself in this way.
Growing up and being shy, I was always worried about bothering other people. And I definitely didn’t want someone shining the spotlight on me so that the whole class would turn around and stare.
I’ve learned that most people really aren’t concerned about what I’m doing. Ultimately I’m responsible for myself. And you’re responsible for yourself.
That includes how you choose to respond to me taking care of myself and standing up in class. I can do various considerate things to make anything I do less distracting to others. But I cannot control how others react to me. That’s their business.
I’ve learned to take the time to assess a situation and do a few things ahead of time that will make it easier for me to take care of myself during a long class or meeting.
1) Show up early and talk to the presenter before things start to let her know I’ll be standing up periodically and why
2) Sit in the back of the room or at the end of the row
3) Choose a seat or angle my chair in such a way that I’m looking at the presenter or screen straight on instead of having to twist my body or head in a strange way to see. For a couple of minutes, this is not a big deal. But for two hours, my neck will speak to me about it. Loudly.
4) Stand up before I’m uncomfortable. For me, every 20 minutes. And I make sure I do it. Every 20 minutes.
5) Watch my habit of assuming that I’m going to be bothering other people simply because I’m taking care of myself.
Simple. Easy. My body thanks me for it. Every time.
Do you have effective ways to take care of your body when you’re in a long meeting, lecture, or presentation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.