I just returned a few hours ago from my third Alexander Technique lesson with Elyse. Once more, as after the first session, I did not need to put my neck collar on to provide relief from a whiplash injury last November (it’s a lovely microwavable soft supportive collar) until about now. (The link provided is to one f the best videos I’ve found that shows what the AT is all about, featuring the first graduating student of Mr. Alexander’s class in Englad, Marj Barstow. I recommend that if you have any interest, take the time to watch the entire video).
I’m still thinking about all the points Elyse made during this session, mainly about “Un Do.” If I try too hard to “release my neck, let the top of my head float upward,” it might happen — but if I thereafter double check with myself to see if my neck responded, then somehow this works against progress! Better for me to practice expanding my awareness outward from my body (feel my “personal space” as Elyse describes it), and only give gentle suggestions to my neck, then focus attention elsewhere and see what happens.
Likewise, one really can’t force relaxation; it happens if one lets go. The miracle so far for me in the AT table work part of the class (about half is standing up, discussion and practice, while the other half is lying prone on a massage table), is that after Elyse applies her gentle hands to my scapula, back, hips and legs, for the first time in my life I feel my body lying totally “flat” on the table. It’s an odd thing to say. Of course I’m flat! But the feeling of “flat” differs from shivasenen in yoga at the end of the class,or the alpha state in TM or any kind of quiet meditation, in part because in AT you keep your eyes open in (sometimes sleepy) awareness and can talk and think while you body lets go. However, the overall feeling varies a great deal.
Go figure that one!
Still the principle reminds me of what I say about corset wearing.
One needs to learn to let go and let the corset hold and mold you, not suck in your breath and try to get as small in the waistline as you possibly can. If you “try” to be smaller to permit lacing down, it most likely won’t work. Progress in lacing down is made not only slowly, but by having a “right mind”, that is, one of “letting go”. That requires some un-doing, much as the Alexander Technique apparently urges (nothing is ‘required’) in order to improve posture and release body tensions, as I’m learning. It is when you can relax and let go into the corset that you can lace tighter!
Seems like a number of things in life require letting go and un-doing. “Let go and let God” is a slogan of AA. Many disciplines seem to have related principles, but the application of them has slightly different results. Of course I’d love to hear from those of you who have practiced the AT successfully, and how it worked for you.