Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Alexander Technique deals first with clearing your thinking so that you are able to move in the direction that you wish to move, and not where your unconscious habit would take you.

So, before setting out, you pause to remind yourself to let go of your habitual tension patterns. And then, after the pause, it is a matter of committing to your new direction.
Ultimately, direction is a movement from point A to point B. But, in the Alexander Technique, we’re much more concerned with how we travel that distance.

In bodily terms this “how” is determined by a “primary movement” that comes before any actual step we take in the direction of point B. This “primary movement”, which has its definite physical manifestation in the dynamic relationship between head-spine-ribs-girdles-limbs, is governed by two “mind” aspects.

The first “mind” aspect is body awareness (body map). During lessons we strive to raise our sensory appreciation of our body parts, and their relationships to each other and to the whole.

The second, and most important “mind” aspect, is perhaps unique to the Alexander Technique.

Having determined "how" we want to travel from A to B, the Alexander Technique concerns itself with making sure we start and keep moving in said direction in the manner that we decided. What we don’t want is our habitual tension patterns to sneak in on us the moment we spring into action and undo our “primary movement”.

There are infinite ways of getting from A to B. The “primary movement” ensures that we do so in such a way that we’re not interfering with our natural postural reflexes. Alexander called it “lengthening (and widening) in stature” which is akin to “decompressing your joints for movement” or “creating space for movement to occur.”

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Two of the top benefits of the Alexander Technique are health and posture. These are, however, not exclusive to the Technique.

The objective of the Alexander Technique could be described as “lightness and freedom of movement with minimum effort.”  But here once again the Alexander Technique does not hold a monopoly.

What distinguishes the Alexander Technique from other mind-body disciplines isn’t so much what comes at the end of the process, but rather the emphasis it puts on how we get there. And the key is in the THINKING PROCESS involved.

During Alexander Technique lessons you get to learn some of the anatomical and physiological aspects of movement, but this is not where the true core of the work lies. When we think about the structures that we’ll be moving, we’re not as interested in the actual movement as we are in the clarity of the thought and intention behind the movement.

The learning process in the Alexander Technique centers on clarifying the thinking process that gets you into movement. Alexander called it “quickening the conscious mind.” It’s about working with the reasoning, discriminating, creative and decision making capabilities of our minds.

If our bodies are not responding to our conscious wishes perhaps it isn’t because they are structurally unable to do so, but rather because we’re having unconscious wishes that conflict with our conscious ones. These “unconscious wishes” are made manifest in our muscle tension patterns.

We fail to realize this because the unconscious wishes have been there for so long they have become part of our “self-definition.” To go in a new conscious direction, we must first become aware of what direction we’re already unconsciously heading in… and let go of the conflicting wish.

This is really what the Alexander Technique is about: If you wish to go left, you’ve got to first pause and remind yourself to stop your habit of always going right. Because if you rush left without thinking, that is, without “inhibiting” your tendency to go right, you’ll end up going nowhere fully or satisfactorily.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

On 18:12 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    No comments

Most sports and art forms have an “ideal posture” to practice them. Books and articles on them will describe this ideal posture, and sometimes offer muscular exercises that will help you achieve it.

However, if visually identifying what we need to change and doing muscles exercises to correct deviations from perfect form were enough, we’d all have good posture and no one would have back pain from bad postural habits.

This visual and muscular take on posture presents 3 problems.

Firstly, it assumes that he who receives the instructions knows his own body (has a clear body map) and can adopt the recommended posture without undue tension.

Secondly, it assumes that he who gives instruction and he who receives it, both interpret the concepts in the same way. Truth is we all have our own conceptual and sensorial definitions of our different body parts (“the neck” might not be exactly the same in my body map as in yours).

Thirdly, it assumes that we have to “work our postural muscles” with specific exercises, otherwise we’re bound to “go downhill” with gravity and age.* 
This view does not recognize that it is our heritage as homo sapiens sapiens to be proudly erect without undue effort if we do not interfere with the postural reflexes of our elegant design.

If instead we adopt the view that nature made us upright bipeds, and did so quite satisfactorily, then we shouldn’t so much “learn” to stand upright as “un-learn” to stand crookedly.

As homo sapiens sapiens we’re inheritors of a basic “software” that enables us to stand on our two feet in easy balance. This “software” is made up of a set of reflexes that we integrate, with greater or lesser success, during our early development. Since we all have the software, perhaps all we need is a little re-programming.

Hence, the best way to work on your posture is first to recognize what you must “stop doing.”

We must go to the deeper causes, to what is under the surface and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Self-knowledge is at the base of good posture.

* I don’t mean by this that you should not do exercise to correct muscle weaknesses that go hand in hand with bad posture and lack of joint mobility. What I do encourage you to do is to work those muscles ‘functionally’ and considering your body as a whole unit. You should be conscious of the balance and integration of your whole body during movement, and not just work the “weak muscles” in isolation.