freedom for life

The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Friday, 19 April 2013 07:01

Being Free In Your Tensions

There is a common misconception about Alexander Technique that it is about standing up straight. This is often associated with the common misconception that it is about posture. It is about neither, although posture improves and people do often end up being more upright and therefore straighter. One has to be very careful here in using both upright and straighter. When people try to straighten themselves they often succeed by physically bracing themselves and shortening in stature rather than allowing themselves to lengthen to occupy more of their full height. This is something I sometimes see at parties, if someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them that I teach the Alexander Technique. To demonstrate their knowledge of the Alexander Technique they shorten, hold their breath and do the very thing that Alexander Technique recommends not doing!

Lengthening is required for people to straighten up. It lessens the ways that they twist themselves out of shape by inhibiting the distortion that comes with pulling down in the use of themselves. The judgement of this, in our felt sense of ourselves, is usually woefully inaccurate. Alexander told a story about teaching a young girl who was badly twisted out of shape. Once he had helped straighten her out by getting her to lengthen, she had the impression that she was now twisted! Another problem is that action and use is spiral not linear in its nature. Linear thinking, which is common leads to puling down and introduces rigidity and distortion into the frame, as well as stiffness in movement interfering with both poise and fluidity of movement.

Poise and lengthening, like straightening, is never a direct aim. It is an outcome of the aim to find a way to be free, so that the breathing is released. From that everything else follows. So it is important not to try and directly lengthen or straighten up, which is what the people above are doing at parties. What is important is to inhibit this and then find the tensions where one is shortening and narrowing and release them so that the work for standing up upright begins to fall where it should on the extensors and deep muscles of the back. That way lengthening starts to occur, as well as straightening up. It may still leave someone twisted - straightening up is not always structurally possible - but it will leave them free, with their breathing released, within their particular and necessary muscular tensions. Being free within your tensions of whatever kind is what Alexander Technique and Conscious Control are all about.

Published in Lessons from the Chair