Friday, 18 July 2014

On 18:05 by Victoria Stanham in ,    No comments

“I’ve got a slumping habit.”

That sentence is missing some information.

A habit is a pre-set response to a specific stimulus. Slumping your spine is a response you’re giving to what stimulus?

What is this stimulus? Why did you slump the first time? Was it a physical (pain) or emotional-mental (fear) stimulus?

Perhaps the original stimulus is no longer there at all.

But, from that first time you used curving your spine as a response, to the present day, you’ve repeated the gesture so many times, that is has re-calibrated your inner compass, and your “feeling” of being “straight”, your inner map of having the bones of your skeleton aligned, has nothing to do with what true alignment really looks like.

Whenever, and for whichever reason (esthetic, pain, functional), you decide to return yourself to a truer sense of alignment, your first big challenge is going to be re-calibrating this “body compass”.

Why is this a challenge? Well, because the new alignment will “feel wrong”. Even though it will be more comfortable, lighter on your joints, and coupled with a wonderful sense of occupying all your available space, it will just not feel like the “real-you” at first.

¿How can you re-calibrate this inner sense of alignment?

You’ll need 2 things.

1. Someone or something outside of you that can give you necessary feedback for the re-calibration of your compass.

2. Application and experimentation in your daily life of your discoveries.

External feedback: If your feelings are off-target, then you cannot trust 100% in what they are telling you… That is, you cannot trust your interpretation of the info they are giving you. You need to learn how to more accurately interpret the sensory feedback you are getting.

If you have ample time, patience, and the soul of a detective-scientist, a mirror may be all you ever need. Mr. F.M. Alexander went that way, and that is how we have the Alexander Technique nowadays.

But if you are lacking that Victorian discipline, then the quickest and more practical alternative is to get yourself a teacher. The best part about getting some outside help from a teacher is that you have more avenues of feedback than the purely visual feedback a mirror offers.

A teacher can also give you:

a) bodily information through touch and movement;
b) aural information through the use of sounds and voice;
c) conceptual information through anatomy, philosophy, physics or any other body of knowledge, that can help you organize your ideas about your body, your balance and your movement.

Experimentation: Habits are strong and it is difficult to realize that we’re using them constantly. If you are decided to work on your posture and alignment, and you already have new feedbakc to work with, you need to start using it in self-observation.
Your answers will come in 3 stages.

First: You won’t even realize that you are slumping until something external to your bodily calibration tells you (a mirror, a crick in your neck, a reminder on your phone to check your posture). The impulse that leads you to slumping is still happening outside your conscious awareness.

Do not despair. The good thing is that you are becoming aware on a daily basis of how much you slump, and now you have the tools to do something about it. Give yourself your directions, re-align your structure, give yourself some space. Repeat this as many times as you are able to remember throughout the day.

Second: You new challenge is now to catch yourself earlier in the slumping process. Perhaps you need to set yourself more memory-aids (mirrors, alarms, post-it notes), anything that will remind you to scan you body for slumping tendencies.

The more you get into the habit of scanning yourself regularly, the earlier you’ll start catching yourself when slumping is starting to occur. This can give you the chance to practice stopping before being completely collapsed.

As an added bonus, all this periodic and regular releasing of unnecessary tension is in itself re-calibrating your sensory compass. You’re getting better at telling when tension is accumulating in places where it shouldn’t be.

Third: Your challenge is now to recognize what stimulus is tipping you into slumping-mode before the slumping appears.

This requires more self-knowledge, but since you’ve been practicing self-observation in the second stage, you’re well prepared to tackle this new stage.

This is the truly interesting phase of the process. It is this stage that really tells us a lot about ourselves. When you become an avid detective intent on catching the information your body sends as it is sending it, you start discovering fascinating stuff about yourself.

With time you’ll start to note all type of bodily sensations (tickling, tingling, expansions, contractions, changes in breathing, etc.) that give you a heads-up as to what your forthcoming reaction will be to the person, situation, thought or even weather-conditions you are facing. And all of this before you’re reaction has become a full-blown affair.

So now you have the option to stop before the habit-tsunami takes control of your reaction, and adjust your response to what is most effective for you and your goals.

This week’s challenge: Catch the Feeling!

If you already have the basic guidelines on how to align yourself without tension, then this week I invite you to observe the process of giving in to your impulse to collapse.
 (If you have no clue about what guidelines to follow to re-calibrate your inner-compass I reccommend you try my 4 introductory lessons or contact an Alexander Technique teacher in your area).

Simply give yourself your directions and get on with your day. Check to see if you can catch yourself earlier and earlier in the process of slumping, noting what thoughts, feelings or situations are those that tip you over.

If a “beter posture” is your end, then all your answers are in the means-whereby you reach it.

See you next week.

Victoria


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