An unusual and surprising thing happens when a student is first introduced to the Alexander Technique. Usually suffering from pain, discomfort, or dissatisfaction in one's performance or appearance, the first time student is immediately given the experience of choosing a careful, reasoned response to simple everyday activities such as walking, sitting and rising form a chair.
This action of choosing how to respond to an impulse to act is based entirely on indirect procedures designed to coordinate the organism into any activity, not just those activities which the student identifies as the source of their discomfort.
The procedures laid out by the Alexander Technique are almost entirely mental procedures. Put another way, the habits of coordination which are responsible for causing your pain or poor posture originate in your mind. They were learned long ago and over time have come to feel 'right' to you. However, what feels 'right' is rarely if ever what is 'natural' - which is to say true to what Nature intended.
Consider this example: Look carefully and you will notice that most adults either crook their necks down, or they brace themselves up by the lower back in an effort to 'Sit Up Straight'.
So stopping in the Alexander Technique sense is a letting go of the will to act. This has the effect of nullifying the habitual uncoordinated responses that limit your mobility. Take note here that it is the intent to act which is so closely bound to the destructive habitual responses. Therefore, it is precisely this intent to act which must be stopped. In Alexander parlance, we call this Inhibition.
The link between intention and muscular tension cannot be overstated. Every single muscle cell is connected directly or indirectly to a neuron in the motor region of the cerebral cortex. The second-grade version of this little fact: the mind and the body are One. Not in some abstract, intangible way but in a very real sense - affecting your health, well-being and poise.
The key is to interrupt the habitual response with the means whereby the system may be coordinated into an unfamiliar but preferred manner of use
Whenever my students suffer from rigidity in the neck and shoulders (an almost universal condition), it pays to convince them that nothing save their own desire to stop the habit will produce satisfactory results. The way to stop the habit is very simple: one must have the experience of preventing the will to act or respond in the familiar way. Furthermore, one must reason out and direct a preferred albeit unfamiliar coordination of use. Sadly, simple does not mean easy - as it is often the case that modern life places far too many reasons to act with compulsion rather than reason.
We call this non-doing. You are doing what you set out to do, but the intent to act has taken a back seat to the procedures you take to get there. The benefits of non-doing know no bounds. Firstly, you are doing something totally new and in the moment. Moreover, your action (or 'doing') is now coordinated with your thinking. This makes you more present and alive to what is in the Now. You are giving your mind and body a respite from the Startle Response as you teach yourself a manner of Being with less effort.
Thank you for stopping by!
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Adolfo Santamaria is an Alexander Technique teacher and amateur sunset watcher residing in Los Angeles, CA.