Today after my Alexander Technique class, a thought popped into my head as I drove home.
“How do I know something?”
There have been some real eureka moments I’ve experienced during my AT classes or just after class when writing in my AT journal the past four months, but how does the “eureka” occur?
1. To know something, you have to notice.
2. To notice, you have to stop what you are doing to become aware.
3. To become aware, you have to see, hear, smell, and feel.
4. To see you have to look, to hear you have to listen, to smell you have to inhale, to feel you have to let go.
For me as a AT student, it has been becoming Aware, and Letting Go, that have had the most beneficial consequences to my overall recovery from the year-ago whiplash and remaining neck tenderness I’ve been rehabbing.
Today (as usual) during the last half of the class, I was relaxing on the table listening to my San Francisco teacher, Elyse (Body Project) teach, or perhaps occasionally I brought up some thought that popped into my head. As usual and at the same time, I was feeling her magical hands under my shoulder blades coaxing that last tense neck muscle to let go, or under my hip coaxing that left sciatica soreness to let go and the muscles to melt into the table. I think it feels a bit like slippery butter melting or pudding liquifying, as we said today, and we both laughed at the images!
In fact, before AT I’ve never felt like a pancake not during or after massage, hot tubs, yoga, PT, acupuncture, meditation, stretching, traction, walking, sex (well, maybe sex!), or other. Only AT has allowed me to feel like a pancake: totally and completely flat.
That’s the only way I can explain it: flat, flat flat, one with the horizontal, one with the table, a thin line of a self that is completely at ease and weightless. I can only recommend the blissful feeling to you (esp. if you are a type A person or suffering a lot of stress in your life). AT gets me there.
But on the table today, let go my muscles did. Elyse, too, always feels that process when I let go in one area of my body–something that is still hard for me to believe. That’s because movement seems so subtle from my viewpoint, yet she says it is quite obvious. I know she notices, because typically she comments immediately after I let go in a big or small way. Magic! She’s clearly noticing and being aware, and so am I.
Letting go for me is all about noticing and being aware. It’s only when I bring my attention to the body part that Elyse is touching and communicating with (yup, it’s a type of communication for sure!), that the muscles can and will relax, or it can happen when I give myself suggestions that Elyse has taught me to use when I’m going about my daily life. I have to pay attention and remember those suggestions, and note how my shoulders or left hip, or neck feel — or very little happens, other than my body behaves as it has all of these 74 years. It falls too easily into routine, habitual, familiar postures, stances, and tensions.
I mused out loud that it has taken me soooooo long to develop those postures, stances, and tensions. that I realize that will take a lifetime to re-learn how to let go. A feeling of discouragement wafted by, but I put it out of my mind and went back to being aware of what Elyse was doing and saying to me, and being aware of what thoughts popped into my mind and what “let gos” were happening. Elyse reassured me that it does take some time to change ones nervous and muscular responses, but that practicing and re-practicing and re-practicing works, and changing happens more quickly after a keen “notice” or something we don’t like or feel comfy with in our body. I find that to be true at this present point in my learning of the Technique. But sometimes I find I also turn my head to look over my shoulder at discouragement coming on from time to time.
Awareness is something I try to incorporate and teach to my students during coaching programs in corset waist-training. It is only when we take smaller bites (unlike the person pictured!), count each bite 30 times (of ice cream, too), and thus, slow down the eating process in that and a few other effective ways, that we become aware of our habits. Only then can we really see, smell, and taste food, and begin to let go of destructive choices of food and eating habits.
The corset is merely one tool that forces most of us to slow down when eating (and dressing and moving fast), especially later during training when the corset becomes slowly a bit tighter and then tighter, and we wear it longer and longer without loosening it up for the occasional over-indulgence in food, and resulting discomfort we feel. Or we rush around too fast and become slightly out of breath. The corset forces us to notice how we feel, to slow down, and to become aware of the body by bringing our attention to it.
I’ve noted that noticing is an easier process for my women students than for my men students. Many men have a socially-conditioned limited self knowledge when it comes to bodily feelings as well as emotions. I’m not sure they identify stress as easily as women do, so how can they give it up if that is true? They have first, to notice and become aware that they are stressed out, or that their bodies are tight and tense, before they can let go.
The strategies and steps I’ve developed as a coach in corset waist-training (described in detail in my book of the same topic) are designed to bring my student’s attention back to the body and to the moment or hour that they must remain in the corset according to our agreed-upon schedule and training contract. Reporting to me every other day, writing in their journal, and communicating with a Training Buddy that I assign them (a former student), all help to bring awareness into their daily lives so that they more easily can reach their reasonable waist-training or weight-loss goals.
I’ve yet to find a corset enthusiast who also has trained in the Alexander Technique, but I’m hopeful someone will reach out to me so we can share our experiences. Might that be you?