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Inhibition and direction

In an Alexander Technique lesson we refer to two main principles, inhibition and direction, which are taught by means of using the chair and table.

Inhibition refers to stopping when met with a stimulus such as getting out of the chair as soon as a teacher’s hand is placed on your back and neck, at least not until you have thought out the ‘means whereby’ you are going to complete that movement, which is to think through your directions. Inhibition involves stopping, so as to observe what one is doing with one’s body, whether one is shortening and tightening anywhere, bringing our full awareness to this before we decide to move in any one direction. It also involves paying attention to our breathing, to see if we are holding our breath or, when speaking or reading, to bring out attention to where we would like our voice to reach in terms of those listening.

Directions are thoughts which we give to ourselves, which encourage the lengthening and widening of the musculature, such as “head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, knees forward and away”. There are countless others, of course, but these are the ones which are always repeated during a lesson, asides from the others. Direction can also most certainly refer to the direction in which you wish to go, which in terms of the Alexander Technique is up, with the head going in a forward and up direction on top of the spine. Direction can also include your entire thinking and mood, if you are thinking in an upbeat or downcast manner for instance, this all plays a part when it comes to our postural mechanism.

So there is always an interplay between inhibition and direction, inhibition occurring first, followed shortly afterwards by direction, but the two actually work together, not separately from one another, just as the head and neck are not separate from the rest of ourselves, but rather form a whole mechanism.

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