The Posture People

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E ven as you read this, you’re probably hurting yourself. And the posture fanatics who practice the Alexander Technique want you to do something about it. The technique preaches better living through better posture; practitioners say New Yorkers desperately need to get with the program. We hunch over our desks, slouch through park-bench smokes, and charge the sidewalks headfirst, necks bent toward cell phones. “I lived in New York and had plenty of time to observe,” says Alexander Technique guru Galen Cranz, Ph.D. “Everybody’s a slumped mess.” So this week, the American Center for the Alexander Technique will attempt to get us to de-slouch as part of International Alexander Awareness Week. The program includes a free posture class and a discussion on “The Alexander Technique and Body Conscious Design: Shoes, Chairs, Interiors and Beyond.” Cranz, a professor of architecture at Berkeley, has devoted her life to proper seating (her book is called The Chair). She says that the city’s stance problems are ingrained: Our subway seats encourage slouching, as do taxi, bar, and bus seats. And nobody has ever felt well aligned in a Broadway theater. Cranz advocates high “perching” at a 120-to-130-degree angle instead of typical 90-degree sitting, which creates a C-shaped slump in your back. Since perching isn’t an option, well, anywhere, Cranz offers these tips for city spots.

How to Sit Right
“Those plastic molded seats turn the pelvis and rib cage slightly in on themselves. We Alexander students used to carry plywood, so we could sit on a flat surface.”

Bar Stools
“Don’t do that ladylike thing where you pinch your legs together and strain the hip sockets. Keep your legs spread to hip width and your feet flat. Sit up and lean forward, rotating the pelvis forward. The waist is not a hinge.” What to do with your arms? “Drink, I guess.”

Restaurant Booths
“Booth seats are often flat, which is good. It creates a platform, which allows the pelvis to remain open. You can sit Indian style, like a Buddha. Don’t sit cross-legged—it congests the pelvis.”

Broadway Seats
“Sometimes Broadway seats rock backward, which is good for movement. But the seat is usually too soft, and you sink, which can reduce circulation. You need to put a cushion behind you so your spine remains straight, directly supporting the neck.”

Bus and Taxi Seats
It’s hopeless. “We’re not designed to hold one position for very long. Try to sit on your sit bones. I carry a special orthopedic cushion and use it in cars, subways, and airplanes.”

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The Posture People