I am always pleased to see a client again when there has been a significant gap since their initial course of Alexander Technique lessons. Someone came in last week for this very reason, understandably apprehensive as he thought that after a number of years it would be back to the beginning and he would have to do a full course. Well, you can imagine his surprise when he benefits so quickly in the lesson.
What he may have forgotten is that we all (including you and me) have an inbuilt instinct for healthy poise. It is in our genetic make up and has been through millions of years of evolution. It’s part of being human. Just like the new born foal, lamb or calf which lands on the grass all sticky and wet and then proceeds to stand up. The umbilical cord is still attached and it may fall over a few times, but stand up it does…..and it can’t even see clearly! For a foal it is all to do with survival, so the new born can follow it’s mother out of danger and suckle for food.
Being vertebrate mammals, humans too have the same instinct and it exists within us until we die. I have worked with people over a hundred years old who have improved their poise to become freer, more upright and better balanced, so it’s never too late. It is this instinct for natural poise that we tap into during Alexander Technique lessons. Our body knows how to work in a healthy co-ordination….if we let it and inhibit the wrong habits from interfering.
You cannot ‘do’ good posture. Any attempts to ‘do’ it end up with us making far more effort than is necessary, using the wrong muscles. Trying to do it correctly just uses the same faulty co-ordination that put us wrong in the first place and we are interfering with this natural process just as much as if we were slouching or stooping. The fault is not in the posture, but in our muscular co-ordination that brings about posture and movement. You cannot ‘do’ it, but you can ‘let’ it happen. Good poise will happen if we cease to do the wrong and harmful things that interfere with it. These harmful tendencies have probably become habitual over the years and it is the elimination of these outworn habits that is dealt with by the Alexander Technique. The AT teacher provides gentle hands-on guidance in everyday movements such as standing, sitting or walking and the ‘pupil’ gets the personal experience of using their musculature with better co-ordination. In this way, we retrain our subconscious and the muscles out of wrong habits. When it is working well it all feels effortless.
So although my client who I had not seen for some years felt that he “had forgotten it all”, he had not completely. The Alexander lesson served to remind him of the principles and the procedure by which he can consciously help himself. I encouraged him ‘not to try and do it correctly’, as he would have done what felt ‘right’ (in accordance with his habits). I reminded him to ‘inhibit’ during various movements to prevent his habits from influencing his co-ordination…. he got out of the way of himself to ‘let it happen’ while my hands ensured he got the correct experience to retrain his co-ordination. He ceased ‘pulling himself down’ and allowed his spine to lengthen and torso to open out. He was very pleasantly surprised when it all came back so easily and he walked out expansive in stature and free and agile. We just need a few more lessons so he can keep it going for himself.