An Alexander Technique enthusiast told me the other day that she feels that her experience with using the technique is like a voyage into the unknown. I immediately related to her view and commented that such an attitude where she is 'venturing' beyond what she knows in relation to previous experiences will enable further improvements to her poise and well being.
There are some pitfalls to be avoided when learning something like the Alexander Technique to improve our posture, but if we can avoid them we will make the best of progress. One main potential problem relates to trying to 'do it right'. But we have no recent experience of having 'good poise' and any attempt to 'do it right' will only be based on our current feelings, but they will not be accurate because they are affected by our tensional habits. As F.M. Alexander said, "You cannot know a thing by an instrument that is wrong*." Indeed, the new ways of standing, walking and sitting may feel entirely wrong at first, but only because we are so used to doing things 'our way'. But 'our way' may be causing all sorts of problems. When we start to change, the 'right way' feels wrong at first.
When Alexander 'pupils' (pupil = anyone who has one-to-one sessions for their personal benefit) have the idea of unlearning instead of learning, they are in the frame of mind that will most help their progress*. What we have to unlearn are our habits, but because these are so ingrained, we probably do not even know we have them until an Alexander teacher points them out to us. If people go on believing that they 'know', it is impossible to eradicate anything*. If we put ourselves into what feels like the 'right position' when we have a defective co-ordination (most of us), we are only getting into a position which fits with our defective co-ordination*. You cannot do something you don't know, if you keep on doing what you do know*.
When we have Alexander Technique lessons we are ultimately wanting a change to our current situation. It will be different from any experience we have had in recent years, but probably very similar to the way we were as young children; free, well balanced and expansive. Indeed, with the technique we are only learning to do consciously, what is actually happening naturally in nature*. But because we have habits, we need to 'consciously' unlearn them.
The new sensations of 'holding' ourselves differently and moving differently will probably feel quite odd at first but will soon become familiar. With each new lesson, we should want to get a new experience. We should experiment to find out "What happens if I do it (stand, walk, sit, bend) differently?". Don't prejudge or anticipate; keep an open mind; be prepared to do things like walking and standing in ways that feel quite wrong. Then we truly are in the right frame of mind to experience something new and benefit. It won't hurt and it's not a cause to worry, but new sensations and new experiences can be a little alarming at first but we soon realise it's OK. Have the attitude to 'see what happens if you do it differently. That's when the biggest rewards will come to you.
Yes, it truly is a voyage into the unknown. But it's a wonderful one...
Thanks for the idea to write this, Karen.
*The above was written with liberal use of many of F.M. Alexander's own aphorisms.