Story 2: A Woman Living With Scoliosis

Ilana was a young vibrant woman who had just returned to New York after living in Israel for several years. She was looking for an Alexander Technique teacher. She had studied the Alexander Technique in Jerusalem, and found it a very effective approach to managing her scoliosis. When Ilana called I was at the beginning of my teaching career, and familiar with the issue of scoliosis from my days as a physical therapist. Scoliosis (Greek for crookedness) is an idiopathic spinal condition characterized by pathological lateral curvatures of the spine. It often runs in families, affects women 4x as much as men, and has its onset in early adolescence. ( Back Trouble, Caplan,D., Triad Press,1987).

Ilana had been diagnosed as a teen with a significant double curvature of her dorsal and lumbar spine. She had taken the traditional medical route: wearing a Milwaukee Brace from 15 to 19 years of age. It was a truly horrible experience with questionable results, according to her recollection. She reports her curves were in the range of 60 degrees, severe by all medical standards. She refused surgery when it was suggested by her doctor at Columbia/ NYC .

She was interested in integrated approaches and while living in Israel she began taking lessons in the Alexander Technique to manage her pain. She found the lessons so effective that finding an Alexander teacher was a high priority upon her return to the United States. I found her an adept student who employed the Alexander principles in her daily life and was responsive to the hands-on work. She was a good kinesthetic learner.

Ilana has experienced several health challenges during our 20-plus years of study. She has survived two bouts of cancer, and has given birth to 2 healthy children. It is her scoliosis that remains the major problem we tackle in her Alexander lessons. She experiences periodic episodes of spinal pain in her low back and neck. These episodes can interfere with her capacity to work both in the home and at her profession. She is followed medically by her orthopedic surgeon and her chiropractor who are a part of her healthcare team. Ilana will tell you unequivocally, that it is her Alexander skills that have made the greatest difference in her ability to stay active; to sing, to hike, to swim, to cook  and to manage her household. These are all strenuous tasks requiring strength, coordination and the best use of herself.
It is my observation that her health has been maintained through supporting the mobility and strength of her compromised spine and ribcage. Whispered “Ahs” , her use of monkey and constructive rest daily, as well as her ability to inhibit/pause, are the key elements to her success.