People generally come to the Alexander Technique because they want to change or improve something. Posture, back pain, performance, anxiety or playing an
instrument, there are many possibilities, as AT can be thought of as the ‘how to allow greater ease, poise and better co-ordination’ in anything relating to mind, body and emotions. In my experience to create the conditions for effective change, or to be open to learning new things we need to attend to our attitudes and thoughts around change, which can be habitual, unconscious and as ingrained as our physical habits of being and doing.
In one of my first blogs, December 2017, I wrote about ‘3 Important Qualities that Allow Change’. Inquisitiveness, self-compassion and our willingness of be with the unfamiliar. Now I would like to expand on this theme and share my thoughts arising from my own experience of learning and teaching AT. In my teaching room I have a quote attributed to Einstein ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them’. In other words we need to be open to thinking differently if we want change to occur.
- In Alexander Technique lessons we teach principles which create a different way of thinking about how we work, rest and play that allow better poise, ease and co-ordination. This means we learn to free ourselves of unhelpful habits and create more helpful ways of doing the things we do. However, change can be strangely scary, as well as of course exciting, and both emotionally and physically a little uncomfortable due to its unfamiliar nature. Consciously we may feel we want to embrace change, but unconsciously we may resist it. ‘Better the devil you know’ may be lurking in the back of our minds undermining us, as it craves the comfort of the familiar, even if the familiar is pain. I think it is really useful to acknowledge this unconscious resistance that may occur during the learning process, and treat ourselves with compassion if we notice it occurring. It’s important for students to know the process of change is under our control, we can choose the speed of the change and make sure transitions are as emotionally and physically comfortable as possible. In fact many studies show that the best, long term changes of habits occur when we allow change in small and steady increments over a period of time.
- In AT lessons we experience a different way of learning from what we may be used to. It is not just an intellectual process, but more importantly it’s experiential. We can not learn Alexander Technique purely from books, we have to play with the principles, which hands on teaching makes possible, and learn to embody it through our physical participation without over analysis. It’s similar to meditation in that way, it is a practice, no matter how much we might read about and have a theoretical understanding of meditation, we will not gain true understanding until you sit down and have a go! Learning to play an instrument and or mastering any sport is another example of experiential learning. The experiential part of learning is primary, and the intellectual is there quietly in the background, supporting the process. Alexander teachers encourage a ‘quietening’ of mind and body to allow application of the principles in activity. This in turn allows students real ‘aha’ moments when theory becomes a known reality and we gain true understanding.
- When we learn experientially in particular, it’s important to feel ok with getting things ‘wrong’, we have to risk it. We learn so much from allowing this process of exploration to unfold, and all experience informs our learning. If we only try get things ‘right’ we stifle learning and create emotional and physical tension. Its helpful to reflect on our attitude to learning. Do we worry about what we might label ‘making mistakes’? If this is the case, possibly as a result of earlier education experiences, can we let go of this belief and give ourselves permission to be experimental and have compassion towards the part of us that doesn’t like getting things ‘wrong’.
- Following on from above, notice self-critical and negative thoughts, understand their power and negative influence on learning and change. Actively choose to compassionately note when they arise in the learning process and replace them with more helpful, constructive ways of thinking. We may often talk to ourselves in far harsher terms than we would ever talk to a friend, mistakenly thinking its the spur we need to change. Less judgement, more compassion. Ultimately, it has the opposite effect and can just make us feel bad about ourselves. If we only notice what goes ‘wrong’ have a go at a ‘positive, negative, positive sandwich’. For example, notice something that went ‘well’, something that can be ‘improved’ and create a self-compassionate intention to work with that going forward. All experience is valuable, You only have to watch a toddler learning to walk. They don’t think to themselves, I am rubbish at this walking, I’m not going to bother, stick to what I’m good at, fast crawling! No- they endlessly experiment with great curiosity and tenacity until eventually they are running around! They have a wonderful ability just to be with the process, its all play, this sense of playfulness such a useful attitude for us to come back to as adults. Rediscover the joyful side of learning and changing.
To find out more about lessons, please contact me using the contact button at the bottom of the page. or go to The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique to find a teacher near to you.