Taking your Alexander learning into the outside world
During a recent lesson, a client commented that while he could get a great amount of release during Alexander Technique lessons, he was struggling to recreate that release by himself.
Ah yes, indeed. I remember during my teacher training wishing that one particular teacher could just accompany me all day, keeping their hands on my neck and back as I pushed the trolley round the supermarket, did the dishes, got the kids to do their homework and tidy their rooms, all the way to bedtime. How beautiful my use of myself would be with that help!
But of course that is just wishful thinking, and very impractical. So here are some tips on taking what you learn in an Alexander lesson into the outside world:
Awareness, awareness, awareness: starting in the lesson. When you're on the table, and things start to let go, release, the tension starts to melt, exactly where is that release? Where were the teacher's hands when that happened? Did you think any particular thoughts to allow that release? Observe, be aware, even if it all seems very subtle. Was it happening near the surface or somewhere deep in your musculature? Notice all of this. It may not be possible to exactly recreate the release in the outside world but you have a starting point!
Take the effort out: I know I keep saying this, but the harder you try the more elusive that release is going to
be. Sorry. Stop trying so hard. I know that's difficult! My favourite way of making myself stop trying so hard is to "let it come to me". By which I mean, let the ground come up to meet your feet, let the sights come to your eyes, let the sounds come to your ears, let the air come to your skin. Try it, right now. Notice anything?
Recognise that it's difficult to get somewhere that is completely foreign to you: by which I mean, in the beginning, when we start lessons, all we know really is our everyday habit. It is really hard to get to a place of release when you don't know where or how that is even possible. For fans of Philip Pullman, it's like trying to know about a parallel universe from this particular universe - you can't. Alexander Technique lessons offer that portal to other worlds (ooh, I'm quite pleased with that!!). So don't beat yourself up for not being able to find the release, you need more insights into what's at the other side of the portal.
Do your homework everywhere: I can honestly say that you will get more out of Alexander lessons the more "homework" you do. It doesn't have to be heavy-duty homework - remember, it's just a thought. Keep it light, but make it a new habit to notice. When you get out of bed in the morning, notice if habit accompanies you during sleep; as you shower or brush your teeth, notice how you are standing and what you are doing with your neck and back; as you stand on the tube platform, let the platform come up to your feet and the sights to your eyes. Just keep noticing. Then, when you spot the tension, introduce the thoughts that help you to release them. Feel free to be creative, the thought that worked yesterday might not work today.
Also, do the semi-supine and use it as an opportunity to focus on you 100%. It's called constructive rest, it's your opportunity to notice what is going on and to let go.
Keep coming for lessons!: rather obvious this one. The more lessons you come to, the more information you will have to hand. It takes time to "unpeeled" the layers of your habit and the best way to do that is to have lessons. You don't have to come weekly forever, you come weekly until you have understood the principles. Then you apply the principles and come for lessons to make sure you keep them going, and to notice new things in your work.
I hope this helps and makes sense. As always, talking about the Alexander Technique can seem a little esoteric, but honestly, it's not, it's highly practical work. Just keep noticing and keep thinking.