Category Archives: Learning Alexander Technique

Seeing

Have you ever thought about how you see the world? I mean literally see the world, not what is your world view.

Without moving your head to look around, take a moment to stand or sit quietly and see what you can see.

Notice how you are seeing. Are you going out to see things i.e. are you actively looking, pulling towards what you are looking at? Does your head move when you look at something?

Notice how big your field of vision is. Are you seeing straight in front of you or do you have a wider view?

If you are looking at something close does it feel as if your eyes are on stalks?

There’s no need to judge any of this, just notice.

The Alexander Technique is concerned with identifying unhelpful habits and changing them. We have habits of seeing just as we have habits of movement. These might involve frowning, straining, pulling your head forward, pushing your chin out. It is easy to focus on one small area and lose the bigger picture. All of these can be uncomfortable, they can create tension and might hinder rather than help your ability to see.

So what is the alternative?

Look again but this time allow what you see to come to you rather than you going to it. You could invite your eyes to rest back in their sockets as you look. Without moving your head, explore how wide your field of vision is. What colours or shapes can you make out at the edges of your vision? Don’t strain, simply allow your awareness to include them.

Has anything changed for you?

Allowing sights to come to you and widening your awareness can be a more restful way of seeing and can help you feel more open. Every now and then take a moment to notice how you are seeing and see if you can do less and see more.

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.

 

 

It isn’t what I expected

This is often what people say when they have had a couple of sessions learning the AlexanderCat looking surprised at a marrow Technique and putting it into practice. When I ask what they were expecting the answer is usually, a series of exercises to do, or definite feedback along the lines of that’s right and that’s wrong.

A big part of learning the Alexander Technique involves being open to doing things in a new way, to becoming more aware, to learning the art of non-doing (more on non-doing in a future post) and to changing habits. Ultimately it is about focussing on how you go about something rather than the desired end. You might spend a lot of time in lessons stopping, not trying and non-doing – this is not what we’re used to in other parts of our lives and might not sound that interesting, but it is amazing what you find out.

That feeling of going into something expecting one thing and finding another can be challenging, and even off putting for some people. However, staying with it can be liberating, it can be a relief not to have to find the ‘right’ posture or do things the ‘correct’ way.

The Alexander Technique is a process which you can apply in everyday life, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. It is about being curious and trying things out, what happens if I think stop and notice where I’m holding tension before I do something; what happens if I invite something to be different. In other words, it involves increasing awareness, being present and thinking a bit differently.

Alongside this, the Alexander Technique involves becoming interested in the way we were designed to move. To do that we look at ‘living anatomy’ – applying knowledge about anatomy to our moving selves. I find it fascinating that although we don’t consciously think about where our head/neck joint might be or where our hip joints are, we operate according to some out of conscious idea of these things. Ideas which are generally not very accurate. By helping people become more accurate in these ideas, you open up different ways of moving or being or standing.

I have found that most people who are open to giving a go to something unexpected, who are willing to trust the process, let it unfold and gradually develop their understanding, enjoy learning the technique. They become skilled at applying the technique in their own lives and in their own way to issues that are challenging for them. In doing so they get to know themselves better and find new, more comfortable ways of being.

At the start of Alexander sessions, people often say ‘it isn’t what I expected,’ by the end they often ask, ‘why isn’t everyone taught this at school?’

If you think you’d enjoy finding the unexpected, why not give the Alexander Technique a go.