3 Not-So-Obvious Truths I’ve Learned from the Alexander Technique
I’ve been taking Alexander Technique lessons for 12 weeks now, and it is starting to seep in to my subconscious.
The Technique is a combination of body awareness, mindfulness, cognitive behavior, and biomechanics. I started taking lessons because my on-again off-again neck crick was stuck in the permanently on position, and visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist were only making it feel better for a day, max.
Then I was assigned an article on the Alexander Technique for relief of back pain, and I asked my expert source how to tell if the technique might be right for you. She said, “Any time you see a chiropractor or get a massage, but the benefits only last a day or two.” Ding, ding, ding. I did some Googling and contacted a local teacher the next day.
Fast forward three months, and here are my biggest takeaways:
Saying no gives you options
In terms of AT, saying no means choosing not to do something in your old, habitual, don’t-even-think-about-it kind of way. Say, hiking your shoulder way up high when you pick up your heavy computer bag. If you tell your shoulder no, don’t stick your nose in this business, then you create an opportunity for the body to figure out a different, more effective way to do the same task. Same thing for saying no to an invitation or opportunity instead of a knee-jerk yes. Once you’ve said no, you can decide what would be better for you at that moment, and then go do it.
A lot of tension is there for no reason
A big piece of the technique is learning how to notice what’s going on in your body throughout the course of the day–when you sit down, when you stand up, when you brush your teeth, answer the phone, stir the soup. What happens when you start noticing is that you see all the ways you tense up or over-work. My big revelation in the last week is that I realize I almost never stand on both feet with my weight distributed evenly. I’m on one foot or the other, other hip cocked, so that one leg is constantly working too hard while the other is doing next to nothing. (Do you do it too? Check it out next time you’re brushing your teeth or standing at the stove.)
The body responds best when you’re nice to it
So let’s say you’ve discovered that your neck muscles try do all the heavy lifting when you bend down to pick something up (by hiking your shoulder up close to your ear). When you can resist the urge to jam that shoulder down and instead invite it to release, your body will respond with a lot better alignment and lot more ease. Another way to put it: When you peacefully remove a bad habit, a good habit will naturally arise to take its place. When you replace a bad habit with another bad habit (yanking your shoulder down), you only perpetuate your misery.
A real life example of this might be that you’re completely over-worked and stressed to the max, so you decide you need to do something drastic to combat your stress. Rather than giving yourself some downtime so you can unwind and hear what your subconscious is longing for (gardening, maybe), you sign up for a hot yoga class because you want an expressway to relaxation. But you’re so tight that you pull a hamstring 2 classes in.
On top of these three pearls, my neck is light years better. Woo-hoo-hoo! I’m even back to doing headstands and shoulderstands when I do yoga. Speaking of, I’m off to do a little practice right now…
Take care, and keep breathing!