During an introductory Alexander Technique lesson this week, there came a point when my new client looked slightly puzzled and it felt like I could almost read her thoughts: ‘This is really strange, my back isn’t hurting now but I don’t understand what’s made the difference. OK it does all sound logical…..but are you seriously suggesting that just thinking a bit differently in my daily life can help me overcome the back pain I’ve had for years? And in even if it could, how on earth can I remember to do this ‘Alexander thinking’ all the time?’
Of course, I don’t really know what she was thinking but I certainly recognise how hard it is to make such a mind shift. After all, mostly in life we’re led to think we need to do something, and to make big changes if we want to get anywhere. So, faced with aches and pains we either just grit our teeth and get on with life, or we might perhaps sign up for an exercise class. To suggest that we don’t need to do different stuff, just do what we do differently, does take a bit of getting used to.
From an Alexander perspective, it’s the way that we do things that is important. The tendency is to run on automatic pilot, not being particularly aware of how we’ve just picked up that bag, or how we bent over to wash our hands etc. And there’s no problem with that if we’re able to carry out our daily activities with the same beautiful movement coordination and balance that almost everyone is born with. Unfortunately, we’ve had to adapt ourselves to this complex world of cars, chairs, computers etc – a world rather different to the one we evolved for. In adapting, we’ve developed ways of moving, sitting, standing that aren’t ‘natural’ just habitual.
So if we’re stuck in habit-mode, how do we get out of it? One way is through the experience of discovering how to do things differently – which is what you get in an Alexander lesson. And what you also get is guidance on how to put this into practice for yourself. How to ‘stop and think’ so that you can prevent your usual, unthinking reaction and instead make a conscious choice of how you would like to proceed.
Like learning to drive a car or ride a bike. At first it’s seemingly impossible on your own and you need the regular help of an Alexander teacher. Gradually, through your lessons, you build the skills and understanding and eventually it becomes second nature to think, move and be in a way that ultimately just makes life easier.