From known to unknown, new habits replace the old

When I came to the Alexander Technique it was with a lot of lower back pain and excessive neck tension, not to mention lack of poise. It was exactly a year ago that I wrote a blog about how things were beginning to show glimpses of improvement, but at that stage I realise now they were just glimpses. Clearly something was beginning to change slowly, very gradually.

For the past few months I have seen change, change which I just couldn’t have imagined back in the time when I was taking regular lessons and indeed during my training, although I’m aware of the very big changes which also took place back then. Since July I’ve experienced ease, comfort and lack of effort in an everyday activity which the majority of people take fore granted in terms of their digestive system. I haven’t changed anything particularly, have been walking as much as I can as I usually do, ensuring I keeping up my fluid intake, and have been sleeping much better, small changes here and there. SInce the summer I’ve been able to go to the bathroom regularly more than once a day which is something which was near nigh impossible for years previously.

Clearly my mechanism is more balanced than previously, but I fully realise that this is in fact just one small step. I’m absolutely super delighted about this. I’m also very aware of the location of the kidneys, just below the diaphragm on each side of your body below your ribcage, and how much thinking about lengthening and widening in the torso is definitely so important in this respect. I also no longer find myself tightening around my stomach muscles. Many people, quite rightly, think about and indeed come to the Alexander Technique to relieve back pain and neck tension, but there are a myriad of other benefits which the Alexander Technique provides which essentially all boil down to us either under-using areas of our mechanism or over-using them, when what we’re after is a balance in the entire mechanism. Take for example the voice, many of us under-use our voices, whereas we may often have a tendency to over-use the muscles of our torso and back.

The Alexander Technique isn’t about looking for results in terms of what might happen during a course of lessons and teaches us that the ‘means whereby’ as opposed to end-gaining is the approach to follow if we really wish to discover freedom in improved co-ordination. We also very much learn about how different parts of the mechanism make up the greater whole and that stopping is a key skill to learn in terms of improving our sensory awareness and learning inhibition and direction. I certainly wasn’t doing anything in particular in terms of addressing a “problem” which had become chronic, but I was thinking about the Alexander Technique in relation to stress, reading around the subject accordingly and generally looking after my mechanism as best I could. Of course what I was experiencing, as with everything else, was change as part of the total pattern; if we’re collapsed, we are very much shortening ourselves over our internal organs, whereas if we are wishing for a neck free, lying in semi-supine regularly, bringing our thinking towards the length and the width which we all possess, without trying to do it, practising inhibition and direction as much as we are able, this alone can bring about change when perhaps we’re least expecting it. A teacher friend of mine in Florence reminded me in the summer that this is just the beginning, not an end in itself, and to quote the words of Joseph Rowntree we go from “known to unknown”, something in which I very much believe.

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