Well it’s been ages since I wrote a post so I’m going to marshal my thoughts and make some notes… this is just a brain dump for now.
I haven’t had any lessons for a few months now, have been thinking about another one but never really got round to it. I’d love to do a long course having a couple of lessons a week, but just couldn’t afford it at the moment… I read that you might be able to get it on the NHS if the doctor refers you, but I don’t think there are any NHS-registered teachers in my area – boo.
List of bad habits
First, an updated list of bad habits (or muscular “sets”) I’ve noticed that I do, so far – the list tends to grow as I notice new things, and interestingly have only noticed some of the oldest habits recently.
- Pull my head down. I only noticed this recently, but when I noticed it, it instantly took me back to when I was very young (and very shy) and literally tried to “keep my head down” and so not be noticed.
- Tense my shoulders, I think this is related to the first one – a general fear reflex.
- Pull my shoulders back, which involves the big muscles down the side of the back. This was an attempt to avoid the slump forward, which was probably caused by over-use of the computer and hence shortened pectorals.
- Try to “stand up tall”, which involved arching my back, which ironically makes you shorter.
- Tense the muscles at the bottom of my back. This came from when I went to see a physio years ago and she told me I needed to strengthen those muscles to improve my posture. After tensing them throughout the week to try and build the muscles, she looked and said “good” at the next session, and this stuck.
- A set of related “sets” from a while ago when I tried to obtain a good posture, I think I came up with this while running – when you’re in motion you can immediately notice the effect on your movement, and I think at the time it did some good. However, I now think it was the release after I did these things that was actually the thing that helped me improve my posture.
- Tense my neck
- Tense my chest to puff it out
- Tense the shoulders to make them big and wide
- Lift my chest (I have a couple of different “sets” which do this – the one I discovered while running and another one I developed later while trying to imitate that)..
- Drop my ribcage down to activate the deep abdominal muscles
- Sucking in the stomach in an attempt to look thinner (this involves two different “sets” which used different muscles)
- Push my hips forward, tense my buttocks and lock my knees back, an attempt at forcing a good posture by “posing” from years ago
- Tense my hamstrings – no idea where this comes from, nothing voluntary I can think of, but maybe I’ve just forgotten.
I’m pretty sure most of these habits interfere with most of the things I do – it’s a wonder I can get anything done at all 😀 and quite a tall order to “not do” them all at once and do something at the same time 🙂 Still, small steps will lead you there in the end…
Strategies for release
Some new approaches and things I’ve noticed again are important:
- Before any attempt at “doing” the technique, an important first step is to be “not afraid”. Don’t “try” to do it in a way that needs a result, just see what happens. Relax and be inquisitive.
- Be in the moment. My natural tendency (and maybe everyone’s) is to try to “do” the technique and drift off, doing it automatically. It’s better not to bother than doing this, or you just reinforce the bad habits and make them harder to separate from the actual releasing of tension.
- Projecting directions of each vertebra “wobbling” freely and sending pulses outwards, then pulsing and releasing up to the next vertebra seems to work nicely. However it seems to work better not to try and link this to any particular location in my body. Just find the bottom of the spine, and then start doing it, one vertebra at a time, then up to the next one. Forget that it’s somewhere in the body and just relax as you do it, inquisitively and without fear.
- I’ve thought before that you could avoid repetetive mind chatter by stopping the associated muscular tensions. I also think it can help when you’re lying semi-supine (and otherwise) to try and stop the mind chatter – approaching from a different angle I guess.
I took up Olympic-style weightlifting as a hobby about 3 months ago, as it seemed like a good way to get fit and practise the Alexander Technique. This went really well for the first 2 months, then one day I thought I’d practise my lifting technique with light weights without warming up… and hurt my back. Had a physio appointment a couple of days ago and another next week… doesn’t sound like I’ve done anything too serious 🙂
I think lying down semi-supine each day has great benefits if you can remain in the moment and do it. I’m redisovering an ability to free my neck which I had before and lost… I think I got into a habit of lying down and just “doing it” which ended up developing into a habit of pushing my head down to try and acheive the same feeling as what a genuine release would do (bad).
Anyone interested in the Alexander Technique, who hasn’t already done so, should make sure they check out http://alexandertechnique.com/. I’ve used this site loads over the years and it has a great selection of links and resources… The site owner asked me today if he could add a link to this blog, which I’m very pleased about – if my experiences help more people along their own personal path then I’ll be very happy!
Until the next post