By Omid Bahramzadegan
The Alexander Technique can be both easy and challenging to learn. It is so easy, because you don’t have anything to do. It goes hand in hand with nature, and all natural events are effortless. You might as well change the name to The Art of Resisting the Temptation of Doing Something [Yes!, from Leland]. However, it requires you to unlearn all you have learned through decades of your life. So it can be quite challenging. You can’t dispose of the habits which have rooted in your subconscious overnight [Here, the editor, Leland, disagrees. People break habits of a lifetime in a moment, all it takes is becomming aware of the habit so that you can decide if you want to break it]. And that’s why Alexander teachers always say that it’s a process, not a quick fix. Once again, it can be a piece of cake, because all it takes is to be open to noticing what you are doing, and maybe choosing not to respond to a stimulus so that you can think before you act in a habitual way. But doing so might be hard at times since we’re living in a world of stress and distractions. We can come to this conclusion that it has its ups and downs like the life itself.
It has come to my attention that the words you hear while learning the Alexander Technique, are carefully and wisely chosen, and they deserve your utmost and undivided attention. Just before this session, Leland commented on my post. In his comment, he put emphasis on the words “allow”, and explained how different it was from the word “try”. This had a tremendous effect on me. It helped me understand I was trying to follow the instructions, instead of giving them permission to take effect.
This lesson, we covered everything, but mostly we worked on walking. Using Michael Jacksons dancing as an example, Leland taught me wonderful things about walking and the freedom of the swinging leg. He also used Tai Chi, which I’m slightly familiar with, and showed me how to shift my weight. In Tai Chi, you fully balance yourself on one foot, then you plant the free one in the direction you want to push, and you shift your weight to the other leg. This shift utilizes the laws of physics, and since the whole body moves smoothly toward a direction, it produces a lot of force, using minimum effort. It felt so good that immediately after the session I started practicing on my own. The next day I was walking and using things I had learned, when suddenly, I realized how stiff my neck and spine had become. It was an important lesson for me that whenever we focus on one part of the body individually, we might stiffen the rest. Perhaps the neck is the most important and we should never ignore it? In other words, it is like trying to do something.
In Alexander, the main habit seems to be “pulling down”. It is excess tension and we do it all the time, and more when doing things or responding to a stimulus. I tried to have a clear picture of pulling down, which I’m going to share with you. Imagine someone fires a gun behind you. Your response is pulling down. It’s a natural reaction of protecting yourself. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say a stimulus is a kind of pressure. But it’s interesting that even though you’re completely aware of what you’re doing wrong, and despite knowing the solution well, sometimes nothing changes. For instance, I was sitting today and notice that I was pulling down. I used everything I had learned, but nothing worked. Remembering Leland’s words, I started discovering and realized that fear of having a bad posture was preventing my body to respond to the given directions. I had a strong desire to look good in that moment, and couldn’t stop trying. As soon as realizing this, utilizing the Alexander Technique became possible. Maybe we sometimes assume that nothing changes by thinking, but we’re wrong. The body responds, whether we notice or not.
At the end of the lesson, Leland said that he had taught me as much as he could over Skype. I had planned to study the Alexander Technique for at least a year, and this came to me as a shock. I believe there’s still a lot more to learn about this fantastic knowledge with such a wonderful teacher. It was a great feeling to know that by the end of the week, I could have Leland teach me more and check me up for any wrong doings. We decided I would work on my own with Leland’s book, The Secret to Using Your Body, and then have another book once I had finished. But my gratefulness was at its height today, while I was walking home and feeling so light, free, and happy. My only regret is not being capable of convincing my friends to study the Alexander Technique. It’s a pity since they don’t know what they’re missing.