Using the Alexander Technique to Improve Stair Climbing Skillz
Whether you're living out your own personal Rocky Balboa "Eye of the Tiger" montage, the elevator to your 9th floor office is out of service, or you have to transfer from the A/C/E to the N/Q/R at Times Square, tackling multiple flights of stairs can be physically demanding for anyone. Here’s how to apply the Alexander Technique to take you from Stair Novice to Stair Master in 5 Simple Steps (pun intended).
1. Clear Your Slate.
Before you even take your first step, notice any preparatory tension you adopt with just the thought of going up a bunch of stairs. Did your neck tighten? Did your shoulders rise up? Did your hips, knees, or ankles grip? Did you lurch forward?
Release however you are gearing up to move in order to clear your slate. Pretend like you are a stair climbing virgin and this is your first time. This makes room for you to break your stair stepping habits and experience this activity in a totally new way.
2. Lengthen. Widen. Expand.
While continuing to release any excess tension, send the message for your head to grow away from your neck and back, in such a way that it helps your spine to lengthen from your tailbone to your top vertebrae, and the four corners of your back to widen and expand away from each other. Check in to make sure you are breathing.
3. Pop and Peel.
With that release, length, and expansion, let one of your knees pop forward, heel peeling off the ground until your foot comes up and on to the stair in front of you.
4. Be an Upper.
Commit to going up through your spine and out your head as you let your weight shift on to whichever foot is on the stair without sinking or pressing down into either of your hips, i.e. Don’t compress down to go up. If you commit to your released, long, and expanded up, while staying free and easy through your hips, knees, and ankles, your “legwork” will take care of itself.
5. Shift and Repeat.
As your weight totally shifts onto your one foot on the stair in front of you, simultaneously allow the opposite knee to pop forward, heel to peel off the ground, and the leg to swing through in order to land on the next stair. Pause. Un-grip through your neck and back again. Repeat.
Key Points to Remember:
-You want your head, neck, and back functioning as one unified vector from your hips to the crown of your head leading you forward and up the stairs. (See diagram).
-Keep that vector unified by keeping your head poised on top of your spine, and by not compromising your low back through letting it arch forward or down.
-The primary direction you want to go is UP. If you find yourself sinking or crunching down at any point, especially through your hips, renew your intention to aim UP.