Monthly Archives: August 2019

Thinking matters

We know that thinking anxious thoughts can increase our heart rate and make our palms sweaty. Thinking about sucking a lemon can make us salivate, especially if we have a really clear image of the lemon cut into a wedge, and that moment when we bite into it – try it!

Thoughts have a powerful effect on our physical selves.

People tend to think of Alexander Technique as being about moving differently or changing posture. It is about these, however, the changes are brought about by increasing awareness, noticing and thinking differently rather than doing something differently.

In Alexander Technique, the thinking is known as directing and is the antidote to trying to correct things. It uses that powerful connection between our thinking selves and our physical selves.

The key to directing is having in mind what you want to happen and simultaneously stopping yourself from trying to make that happen. If your neck is tense, you may want the tension to be less. Instead of stretching or moving your head around, directing is thinking what you would like, and sending an internal message to ask for that, i.e. in invitation to your neck to do less.

Sadly, this is not as simple as it sounds, our desire to do, to make things happen, to solve things is strong. Simply thinking an invitation and waiting for it to happen is a challenge. But it is possible and as with all things you have to start somewhere.

Why not notice what is going on in you, have you got some tension somewhere? Be clear about what you want to be different and invite it to happen. You may need to send the invitation a few times. See it as an exploration, what happens if I invite my neck to do less?

When is a stop really a stop?

A stop in Alexander Technique terms is the moment when you notice and interrupt a habit, a behaviour, a response to something, and undo the tension that goes with it. What is the point of such a stop?  It creates new possibilities, reduces unnecessary tension, and allows us to do things differently.

There seem to be endless roadworks where I live at the moment accompanied by unexpected traffic lights. Suddenly there is a red light ahead. Our response to red lights tends to be to stop and wait with everything in us ready to continue, eager to continue. The light goes green and off we go.

Imagine an alternative stop, one where you let go of that readiness, that forward momentum, let go of what you are doing or thinking, let go of muscle tension and simply be. This doesn’t need to be a long, slow process, once learnt a complete stop can take a few seconds, and surprisingly it creates space, alternatives are possible.

Whether you’ve been inward focused and stuck in your head, or pulled out of yourself and into a task or an interaction with others, a stop can allow you to find your feet, know there is a space around you, know where you are and let go.

This stop is a moment of re-finding, recalibrating, reorganising and reintegrating yourself. It allows you to make choices, lets you change track. You might decide to continue with what you were doing but with less tension, you might change to doing something different or to not doing anything at all. But whatever you do next – a stop – a ‘full’ stop can allow you to move forward in a calmer, easier way.

Why not give it a go? When you read this try the following:

  • become aware of the space around you
  • notice what is going on in you
  • unclench tense areas e.g. jaw, hands, or let your shoulders drop,
  • notice the support of the chair,
  • think what if I let go of the idea of doing anything? No need to answer this.

Now make a decision about what to do next. Notice if anything has changed.