If lessons in the Alexander Technique are partly about finding balance, how do we find this balance within ourselves? I know when I first came for lessons I was very much out of balance, with a busy mind and muscle groups which were contracted and tense. It wasn’t until I experienced a teacher’s hands working with me, that I felt all wrong, as if I was being asked to be in a ‘position’ that felt uncomfortable somehow, not realising that in fact what felt wrong was in fact right for me. The imbalance I found was to do with the way in which I was standing and sitting, putting way too much effort into both accompanied by the tendency to look down rather than up. Nowadays I like to discover balance by not attempting to get anything right but to experiment a bit more, to see what it would be like if I let go a little more. But how is this balance changed? Well, the head weighs a phenomenal weight and is balanced delicately on the top two vertebrae, the top of the spine. This balanced weight is crucial when it comes to our entire frame’s balance on a daily basis. If we have a tendency to look down, then our entire system will be pulling downwards as well and this affects one’s manner of thinking also, we will be thinking in a downward manner and pulling down simultaneously.
The balance within ourselves can be found by lying in semi-supine on a regular basis and allowing the body to come to quiet this way, but also experiencing the hands-on guidance work of a teacher, which seeks to restore the muscular system into one of pyscho-physical balance and unity. This means that they can observe where a pupil is tightening, bracing or contracting muscle where this isn’t required and encourage instead a lengthening and widening, a freeing up of the entire system. Equally, they will very much encourage the head to be in a forward and up manner with their hands, which in turn encourages the body to be in better balance all round, the head no longer languishing in the downward manner to which it has been accustomed as a postural habit.
The quietening down of the muscular-skeletal system is something which takes time, but which can be achievable with a course of Alexander Technique lessons. Balance will be found to take over from anxious thinking, tensing and contraction of muscles and poor posture or poise. It can also be found in the way in which we use ourselves whilst performing daily activities such as walking and bending, activities when, if slowed down, we are able to observe our patterns of misuse and learn how to improve this use. Balance will also be found in our breathing, whether it remains shallow or whether it can become freer by paying more attention to it as we lie on the table or are worked with in the chair. The more we progress with the Work, the more we may come to understand just how out of balance we actually are and what we are able to do to come more into a sense of balance, which very often means doing less on a muscular level. If we learn to start doing less where doing is unnecessary, then we may begin to find release where there was tightening, balance where there was imbalance and so forth. Also, balance needs to be understood on a psycho-physical basis, namely affecting mind as well as body, it not being just a physical thing of coming into more balance but also one which is affected by our mental capacity to think through how we wish to be and this is a very important point. If one’s thinking becomes more balanced this leads to greater clarification and understanding of the Work and what it is asking of oneself and a greater sense of groundedness is often experienced. So discovering an improved sense of balance within ourselves plays a very important role during a course of lessons, in fact it is probably one of the most striking things to emanate from these.