“People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Saint Augustine
When I mention that I’m an Alexander Technique teacher people tend to either look at me quizzically or sit bolt upright and say something about their posture and how they wish they had better posture or their once-upon-a-time ballet or piano teacher had told them something about the Alexander Technique.
So, what is it?
It’s a whole lot more than postures and sitting up straight. It is a practical intelligent approach (that has been around for more than 100 years) to understanding ourselves, and being curious about our habits, tensions, responses, reactions and movements.
It prompts us to ask: what role have I played in how I find myself now, physically, mentally and emotionally? What have I got to do with my aches and pains and neurosis? How much of my healing and knowledge can I outsource and how much can I do myself?
In quiet, kind and indirect ways learning the Alexander Technique is learning about oneself.
Awareness and attention are some of the big keys to reach this lofty goal. At first it may seem strange to notice what we naturally do on autopilot. But by noticing we may be surprised to learn that we are causing our neck pain, our anxiety or whatever else ails us, by the needless tensions that we deploy all the time. By watching our simple movements like brushing our teeth, or getting into the car, or picking up the book we can find new ways of moving that release tension rather than create it.
I have been totally staggered by how this re education of myself doing things I’ve done forever – sitting, standing, walking, have now become so easy, graceful and dare I say joyful? And this knowledge is mine, about me – not inherited from the doc or dietician or blog – that I can use whenever I want.
So, I try to explain that this sometimes-opaque Technique is not a set of dos and don’ts. It is not a set of postural exercises. It is a way of consciously integrating our responses to our environment so that daily life can’t erode our innate sense of balance, co-ordination and power. It gives the tools to stop and look into what we are already doing; how to eliminate stereotyped responses, how to deal with habit and change and therefore how to remain in easy graceful uprightness.
It is both preventative as a system of wellness and helpful when pain and dysfunction have already set it. People come it for back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, during pregnancy, sporting injuries, musicians use it as do many actors to help them do what they do better and without injury.
Right now, notice where you are. What is your connection to the chair or the floor? Where are your feet? Are one or both on the ground? Where are your shoulders? Does your chin edge forward or tuck back? Is your breathing shallow or have you stopped breathing altogether? Do you feel heavy or light to yourself?
You are not right or wrong. You are noticing yourself in action.
Now think of your shoulders dropping and imagine ‘unhooking’ behind your belly button to allow your lower carriage to arrive on the chair. Think of allowing your head to move away from your torso so that your back lengthens and widens. Your head moves away in a forward and up direction so that the back of your neck stays long, and your chin is somewhat parallel to the ground. Sigh out, close your lips and let a full breath come in.
These thoughts or as Alexander calls them, directions, are invitations to your system to release tension and bring yourself back into balance – to ask for the appropriate muscle tone for what we are doing. Our thoughts are powerful, and Alexander discovered that his mind had a controlling effect on his body and while he was trying to get something right, he was creating a build up of tension in his neck muscles which effected his entire body. We can intervene anytime. We can direct back into the natural length that our mechanisms and reflexes were designed to do.
Working with a teacher allows one to see and feel what is perhaps under the conscious radar of our knowing. A teacher uses a hands-on approach as a pupil is guided into new ways of moving and thinking.
I have grown taller, become happier and switched on my ability to notice myself in finer and finer detail (with curious attention; not frustrated judgement). I have received so much wellness from learning the Alexander Technique and I know that it is an education that is valuable not only for me but everyone! There is a small but strong AT community of teachers in Jozi. Book yourself some sessions to explore your mind-body connection and achieve self-mastery.
Visit my website: www.carynkatz.co.za for more