I was reminded yesterday how stopping to notice where one is tightening and/or shortening can bring about release of that tension. It really does take place in the mind with a teacher’s hands guiding you more into the upright, you can really become aware of the release of tension when you are thinking about where you might be holding or stiffening and how you might go about seeking release of this, becoming aware that you are bringing yourself (with the aid of the teacher’s hands) more into the upright than previously. This can only be brought about by stopping to observe oneself, one’s habits of tightening and shortening, taking the time to stop and notice, not rushing, something which takes time to cultivate in oneself. I wasn’t expecting to sense the release between my throat area and my sitting bones, but there it is, it’s all connected. As soon as I released in my throat area, my sitting bones also released more downwards, without the holding which was clearly a habit of mine.
This is just one example of the work which we do with a teacher, one individual to myself. There is a reason for wanting to be in the upright in that this is where the head leads us, although most of the time we’re not in the upright at all and the hands of a teacher will clearly show us where that upright is for us. Of course we will revert to our habits of shortening when not with a teacher, but it is the repetition of being shown where that upright is that lies central to any lesson as well as inhibition and direction. I was inhibiting my habit of stiffening and directing myself more into the upright. I’m grateful to the teacher who encouraged me to release where I did yesterday, whether or not I can re-discover that sense of release next time is another matter, but the very fact that I was able to find it once means that it’s accessible another time.
If you decide to take lessons, it may seem as if nothing is happening during these sessions, but in fact if you learning to stop and become aware and observe yourself, then perhaps hopefully you too will experience a sense of release of the musculature such as I did. It may not seem like anything much to you, but it was a revelation to me to notice where I was stiffening and holding throughout my organism. It’s a slow process, the Alexander Technique is by no means a quick fix at all, it takes a lot of time and patience to enter into this experience and it is a never-ending experience should you decide to explore it further. It can, and indeed does, help those (like myself) who are in chronic back pain and neck tension, as it should quite rightly do seeing as it’s main focus looks at the head-neck-back relationship, but it is also much more than this. It retrains your brain to think much more about your body and how you move within that organism, ease of movement not in the sense of movement in the context of the gym or Pilates, but rather a much more subtle movement involving the head, neck and back.
Stopping to notice, how many of us take the time to really notice where we are tightening and stiffening throughout the day? An Alexander Technique lesson provides us with the opportunity to do just that for what is a very short amount of time. A teacher’s hands guide you, they don’t ‘do’ things to you, particularly if you are in pain and guide you into a more comfortable, pain-free way of being in the upright.