DON'T HOLD BACK !
Sitting here looking out at the sea I wonder to myself what am I doing.
Why am I finding it hard to switch off my mind from being elsewhere and just gaze at the expansive view and the gentle changes in the moving sea?
Why am I looking for something else? Why isn’t this simple moment enough right now?
Because I feel I have to do something. I have to do some work. The lists seem to be getting longer and to find some quiet down time is tinged in guilt.
I know better. What good is guilt? It takes from all mindful and congruent activities.
If I wrote a blog and share it won’t that be something off the list and the sea can be looked at after guilt and distraction free. Justification. A reward for completing a task.
The modern first world problem of just being.
I return my attention to gazing at the sea and allowing the gentle ebb and flow inform my breathing. Having acknowledged those negative distractions I become free of them. My eyes float up from the computer as I enjoy the view and appreciate the rare blue sky. Now I have found my body more than my head of thoughts. My chest opens and my belly has a deep excursion as breath gets bigger in my torso. The dancing white horse rippling in the sea make me smile as the flashes of white randomly highlight where the wind meets the water in the blue grey sea.
Simple. Easy. Beauty. Up. Smile. Big. Happy. Here. Now.
How would you define the wind?
The wind blows but how do we know it blows? It is invisible, is it not?
We may feel it on our face, appreciate the difference it makes to the temperature of a room, or see it move leaves on trees. We can’t see it, but we know it exists. We take its existence into account when building bridges or planning flight paths. While it may be invisible it has a direct effect on this physical earth we live on. It is important to the nature of things. It is even more important to recognise its presence. Ignoring it does not make it go away.
Your posture is the physical effect of everything you have thought and done in your life. You may not have realised that but every invisible thought you have effects your muscle tension and therefore the shape of your body. Thoughts and actions are repeated many hundreds of times a day and so shape you. You can see the results of a trauma or accident in a limp, or restriction of movement. You can tell when someone is feeling down by the way their body is. You can see small changes from the norm that leads you to suspect something is going on for someone.
My teenage body was busy adjusting to hormonal changes, hiding a quickly growing chest, dealing with being tall and sticking out among my group. I desperately wanted to fit in, not change, be the same. Little did I know that these normal uncontrollable invisible events effected my confidence, posture and my thinking; my whole life.
The invisible has an effect on form. Recognising the invisible force is important. In the case of posture, an invisible but controllable force is thought.
Alexander Technique can be like the wind. It is hard to define what the technique actually is but it has an effect on form. Alexander’s work is about focus. Focusing the thoughts or imagination of the mind on the intended activities of the body. And then allowing the effect of these thoughts to manifest in the physical form.
Wind blowing on sand will create a shape or imprint according to the direction of the wind.
Muscles of the body will let go or tighten with the direction of thought. Over time they will change in their coordination and definition so your whole body looks and moves differently. Your physical form is effected by invisible thought. When thought is in conscious control then you have power over your form, your posture.
Learning the Alexander Technique has helped me fit into me. My thoughts were focused on what others thought or escaping from where I was. Directing my thoughts to my body has helped me accept what is. My height and chest are not a focus or problem. My whole body is what I am interested in and so my form, my posture is alive.
Have you thought about your posture like that before?
Let’s play with it.
Imagine you have received some bad news, and have deadlines overwhelming you. You are feeling unwell and under pressure.
What have those thoughts done to your body? Is there more or less muscle tension? Where do you feel it?
Now let’s play again.
Imagine you have just completed all your deadlines, received accolades for your work, and your favourite friend is visiting town and you will be going to see your favourite concert/team/event.
Give yourself time to register these words.
How does your body feel now?
Has the tension increased or decreased? Where in your body are you feeling this information?
Was it easy or hard to imagine?
The fact is you have never left where you are. All that changed was your internal thoughts. Someone watching you would not know what you were reading, it would be invisible to them. But could they see a difference in your form, your posture? Could you feel a difference in your body, in yourself?
So posture is a continuous mindful experiment. How you think effects your shape. Ignoring it does not mean your round shoulders, neck tension, back pain or stress will go away.
I just saw a photo of myself. . .
And the judgement starts.
I should have smiled, opened my eyes, posed better, what was I wearing?!!!!
The usual trickle of judgement when a photo is put in front of me. Did I see the other 22 people in the picture? Of course I did. And they all looked lovely, so took up 1% of my attention. The 99% goes into the judgement of me.
I bet no one else in the world does that! I bet everyone reading this is so magnanimous and generous that their full attention is shared equally with every soul smiling, waving and posing. Not just focusing on the self, negatively or positively.
Sure we’re all like that. We are most interested in who we know, and who do we know better than ourselves. It may be a fine photo, but if there is something to observe, we are often more absorbed in a negative focus than positive.
So a regular raison d’etre for someone to come to Alexander lessons with me is posture. The initial conversation goes something like this.
“So why have you come to Alexander work at this time?”
“I heard this is good for posture. I saw a photo of me at a wedding recently and my shoulders are very rounded”
"So is your goal to improve your posture or to look good in photos?"
Have a think about this question.
Which resonates more with you? Looking good or improving posture? Could one help the other?
If you want to look good you could learn to pose better in those moments the camera is on you. But addressing your posture is what will take care of those round shoulders for your life, right?
Improving posture may be noble or a right answer but it holds little in flavour and commitment. Wanting to look good, or move well or be out of pain, have better goal commitments. Wanting to show off your dance moves or look good in a suit are timely goals that might just get you to commit.
So how do we relate to improving posture?
Sit up straight, pull shoulders back and hold. Is that how you do it?
Are you breathing freely? Does it hurt? How long can you be like that?
If it was that easy to improve your posture you wouldn’t be reading this.
Posture is NOT just sitting straight or posing for a photo. Your posture is how your body is in everything you do. Your posture is effected by how you feel and how you communicate. It may not be what you think you are communicating. Remember 90% of communication is nonverbal.
Posture is not something you act or that is separate to you. Posture is you. It is every move you make. Your posture reflects your thoughts and feelings, even if you are unaware of your body and what it says to the world.
The traditional sit up straight is a short term held posture that is often followed by a collapse into slump. What is the straight posture saying? What does the slump say? How is this a sustainable practice?
Now they say fake it till you make it. And that in itself is a practice.
What if posture was a game you could play to discover something new about yourself? What if you used playing with HOW your body moves, or sits or stands to be a game to redefine or understand posture? Why don’t we take back the word posture and let it be lived, make it alive?
This juicy flesh that lives on our bones can display thoughts, tell a story, whether you are acting or not. What is your story in this moment? Our bodies can move subtly when we apply our focus to little things.
Invite yourself to think up. Think about your head and the size of it and how it could float to the sky led by your two ears, if you let it. What does your torso want to do when you think about your head floating up? Do you notice your legs with this thought?
Give yourself some time to let your body follow the thought.
Does that change how your body moves, how your body feels?
Let us bring life to the word and acts of posture and see what we learn about ourselves. Let one thought lead and see how your body follows the thought. Let your body surprise you as it moves through different postures. Play. You can’t get posture “wrong”. That is a matter for interpretation. If you are dissatisfied with your current posture, play in a new way to invite something different. Invent and visit new postures and listen to your body for information, not your head.
Let me know how you get on.
Don’t Hold Back
In 2008 I took myself on an adventure to Central America. It was fantastic. A great big adventure, that is at the top of my travel memories. Before I left I set up a Wordpress blog to write an account of my travels. One day after a spectacular trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala I wrote a long blog. It was my first and my last, until now.
Why? Well I was too busy having a good time to stop and write. But also who would read it? Who cares about my holidays, apart from those who are on it with me? Once I had written it, I didn’t really want to read it again. I’d rather be in the moment enjoying the time, than thinking about how to capture it for others.
So 8 years later I am blogging. But this time it’s for another reason. People want to know what it is I do. Alexander Technique continues to be an unexplainable mystery, even to those who are well practised in the art. Every time I meet someone and they ask what I do, I hear myself saying something different every time.
“It helps you manage pain and improve performance.” (Vague)
“It opens up your choices so you can use your body in many different ways.” (Abstract)
“If you play golf it helps you be a better golfer.” (Subjective)
“Using your body according to how it is designed.” (Practical)
“Mindful use of your body.” (Zen)
“Turning on your internal superpower.” (Idyllic)
The truth is, if you know how your body works you can drive it well to perform whatever you want it to do. Driving your body well can prevent injury as well as enhance performance. It was after all a voice problem that led FM Alexander to recognise his habits versus natural movement. He learned how to allow your design to work for you, by getting out of the way, rather than working hard. Life can, actually, be easier.
I found this out too, when I applied the work. But I promise, you’ll get more of that later.
My aim with this blog is to reach people in meaningful ways and help them discover bits about themselves that can make life easier. This Alexander work needs to become a common tool for every woman, man and young person, and not just an elite tool for performers, or last resort for those in desperate pain.
It is in fact everybody’s birth right. These powers to heal, self-support and thrive are in you. It is just tapping into it that is the challenge. That is why we need a teacher, to show us the way.
Alexander Technique is not a miracle cure all. It is a set of tools to manage a healthy lifestyle, or to explore habitual barriers to create new levels of achievement, whatever your field.
It’s great stuff. Ask anyone who has used it. So my job is to share it with you.
Your job is to ask questions. Don’t Hold Back.
I look forward to meeting you.
I am Fiona and I am exploring themes of meeting resistances and allowing ways through. The constant weeding, recognising the stuff that's in the way to live easier.