By Everett Goldner
It’s been a couple months since my last Alexander session – in the interim life has gone on and considerations of how I physically inhabit my body have faded into the background while I’ve been occupied with all of the usual demands life makes.
If I look back to a year ago, when I was just starting my first Alexander sessions, and consider my body-awareness then and now, I would say that the difference in how I habitually hold myself and move is subtle (but obvious when I sit now and think of it). I don’t hunch the way I used to; if I begin to lean forward, while sitting (in front of my laptop, say) and put needless pressure on my lower back, I straighten out after a few seconds and let it go. Because it doesn’t serve anything.
That this kind of pressure in the region of the back doesn’t serve anything is obvious – and would be obvious to anyone who has some basic body-awareness whether they’ve taken any Alexander or not. What is not obvious if you haven’t done any Alexander is how much that self-imposed pressure is not really confined to the lower back even though that’s where it’s concentrated and felt the most. The pressure is actually a full-body phenomenon. It’s felt in the lower back because something about the way I’m sitting is putting excess weight on that spot; I can feel this intuitively even if I can’t pinpoint the progression of it through my body. But I can feel that as my head angles down toward the screen (as is my tendency) rather than out and away from the feet (the Alexander idea being that the head and feet are always directed away from each other), this down-angling is a causal agent of the lower back pressure. If I take a moment to shift my gaze out (it’s not like this means I have to look away from the screen, I just have to widen my focus a bit), the lower-back pressure diminishes.
When I look at my Alexander experiences as a whole up to this point, I think the major points I’ve taken away and retained to some degree, are:
Your body is meant to be expansive. Many people move with their body contracted, curved inward. Aside from closing you off to the world, this also closes off your options about how to move – it restricts you and actually makes you less safe because you can’t react as easily to all the physical obstacles we encounter daily (cars, crowded subways, passing bicyclists on the sidewalk.)
At any given moment, you have more options – vocal, spatial options – than you have become accustomed to thinking you have.
Alexander is a journey, not a destination: as soon as you think you’ve reached a destination, the “goal” becomes something else.
Releasing tension and unwanted pressure in the body is not a matter of doing anything; it’s more a matter of cessation of extra activity.