CAE Reading and Use of English Part 5
You are going to read a magazine article. For questions 31-36 choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.
Are you a ‘slumper’?
Amanda Stevens cured her bad posture – and her chronic back pain – with the Alexander technique.
Many people will have heard of the Alexander technique but have only a vague idea what it is about. Until earlier this year, I didn’t have the faintest idea about it – and saw no reason to think I should. But, hunched over a computer screen one day, I noticed that the neck and backache I regularly suffered were more painful than usual. I was brought up to think that the preferred way of dealing with aches and pains is to do nothing and hope they’ll go away, but I eventually allowed myself to be dragged along by a friend of mine to talk to an osteopath who had performed wonders on her. After examining me, the osteopath said: I can treat the symptoms by massaging your neck and upper back. But you actually have bad posture. That is what you need to get sorted out. Go off and learn the Alexander technique.’
I had regularly been told by friends and family that I tend to slouch in chairs but had been under the impression that bad posture was something one was born with and could do nothing about. With hindsight, it’s hard to believe just how far off the mark I was. Dentists and car mechanics, among others, tend to develop bad posture from leaning over patients or engine bays. Those of us who are mothers often stress and strain their necks and backs lifting and carrying children, and those who sit in front of computers all day are almost certainly not doing our bodies any favours.
After a little searching online, I found an Alexander technique teacher, Teresa Stirling, in my area of town and booked a first appointment. Three months later I am walking straighter and sitting better, while my neck and back pain are things of the past. I feel taller, too, which I may be imagining, but the technique can increase your height by up to five centimetres if you were badly slumped beforehand.
The teaching focuses on the neck, head and back. It trains you to use your body less harshly and to carry out the sorts of movements and actions that we do all the time with less effort. There is very little effort in the lessons themselves, which sets apart the Alexander technique from pilates or yoga, which are exercise-based. A typical lesson involves standing in front of a chair and learning to sit and stand with minimal effort. You spend some time lying on a bench with your knees bent to straighten the spine and relax your body while the teacher moves your arms and legs to train you to move them correctly.
The key is learning to break the bad habits accumulated over years. Try, for example, folding your arms the opposite way to normal. It feels odd, doesn’t it? This is an example of a habit the body has formed which can be hard to break. Many of us carry our heads too far back and tilted skywards. The technique teaches you to let go of the muscles holding the head back, allowing it to resume its natural place on the summit of our spines. The head weighs four to six kilos, so any misalignment can cause problems for the neck and body.
The Alexander technique teaches you to observe how you use your body and how others use theirs – usually badly. Look how a colleague slumps back in a chair with his or her legs crossed. That puts all sorts of stresses and strains on the body. Even swimming can harm the neck. The Alexander technique can teach you to swim better, concentrating on technique rather than clocking up lengths.
So who was Alexander and how did he come up with the technique? Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian theatrical orator born in 1869, found in his youth that his voice was failing during performances. He analysed himself and realised his posture was bad. He worked on improving it, with dramatic results. He brought his technique to London 100 years ago and quickly gathered a following that included some very famous people. He died in 1955, having established a teacher-training school in London, which is thriving today.
So if you are slouching along the road one day, feeling weighed down by your troubles, give a thought to the Alexander technique. It could help you walk tall again.
31 What does the writer suggest in the first paragraph?
She had been reluctant to seek treatment for her back problems.
She was initially sceptical about the Alexander technique.
She had little faith in the osteopath’s methods.
She was wrong to follow her friend’s advice.
32 What does the writer say about bad posture in the second paragraph?
She had thought that it only affected people in certain occupations.
She had been told that she would inevitably suffer as a result of it.
She had misunderstood what the causes of it were.
She had developed it after having children.
33 What principle of the Alexander technique does the writer identify in the fourth paragraph?
A person’s natural movements shouldn’t be altered.
The Alexander technique shouldn’t be attempted without supervision.
Familiar physical actions shouldn’t be performed in a strenuous manner.
The Alexander technique shouldn’t be combined with other types of exercise.
34 What does the writer say about bad habits in the fifth paragraph?
They are a consequence of actions we perform.
They inevitably cause physical pain.
They develop in early childhood.
They can be difficult to change.
35 What does the writer suggest about Frederick Alexander?
He was keen to make a name for himself.
He managed to recover his vocal powers.
He developed a form of exercise for actors.
He needed to leave home to develop his technique.
36 What is the writer’s main purpose in the article?
To explain the widespread occurrence of back pain.
To suggest that back problems can be remedied.
To explain how debilitating backache can be.
To challenge common ideas about back pain.