Last week in Alexander we looked at a number of ways of exercising different parts of the body that had to do with restraint (or what we’re calling inhibition). We discussed restraint in speech: making the conscious choice to not speak until the breath has settled into the exhale, to make for a more resonant speech. We also worked on standing on one leg, then the other: the point of this exercise was to find the hip joint and the difference between the standing and free leg, but I also noticed that it was difficult for me to simply let the foot fall directly under the knee, rather than pulling it back; this was an interesting (to me) example of inhibition that I had not been aware of. Inhibition that is unaware is, of course, what we usually mean by inhibition.
After working on it for some time (both in session and afterwards) I finally managed to let the foot go, but my inclination, for whatever reason, is still to pull it back as soon as I’m up on one leg.
One of the major points dealt with in Alexander is of letting the neck go; meaning, letting it go the way it naturally wants to go, to lengthen while the head moves forward and up. It seemed to me a very subtle movement, but when I called it this, I was corrected: not subtle: radical.
We tend to associate the word “radical” with “revolutionary,” but the etymology is enlightening. It comes from the Latin radix, radic – which mean “root,” and from Middle English, where its sense was “forming the root” or “inherent.” So to say that an action is radical is actually to say that it is fundamental, that the action cannot have direction if it is not radical. If lengthening the neck is radical, then how unnatural is it to walk around holding the neck tensely! Quite.
The neck, the head and the shoulders are all part of a releasing process that happens in Alexander work: neck lengthens, head goes forward and up, shoulders away from each other. These things happening in tandem contribute to the “ballooning” or expansion effect that we’re looking for; the sense of the body expanding into space, resonating in a sense, rather than shrinking back into itself. We associate this kind of shrinking with inhibition, but interestingly, in Alexander, to “inhibit” the action actually means to notice it, and thereby give it more conscious direction.
Is this kind of inhibition more radical than our usual definition of inhibition? Quite. And process continues.