The Power of How: A journal about The Alexander Technique and Movement

How we pay attention: final notes on Alexander Technique at Movement Research

I want to give a giant THANK YOU to all of the people who attended the Movement Research open Alexander Technique group class in April. Movement Research is having their Gala tonight! I wish I could go! but I canʻt so – instead, Iʻm posting the final installment of notes from my class. Sorry itʻs so late!

Affordable, high quality Alexander Technique group classes continue at Movement Research every Wednesday, 12:30 – 2. Plus many other AWESOME WORKSHOPS AND CLASSES. This is the cutting edge of movement work. Donʻt miss this awesome opportunity!

NOTES: In the last class of the series we reviewed all of the material covered, looking for connections between the principles of the technique as they are commonly understood, and our experiences in the framework of the classes. Our focus was on the sensory function of our nervous system and on an experiential investigation of the sensory and motor functions of the first 5 cervical nerves.

We worked from sensation first, investigating the immediacy of sensation through our skin, which is the organ that separates the inside of us from the environment in which we live. We investigated the sequence of innervation of all the areas of skin (dermatomes), starting from C1 or the first cervical nerve and traveling all the way down to the tail.

One insight appeared regarding the relationship between “inhibition” and “direction”, basic principles of the AT.

In the Alexander Technique, we use the practice of inhibition (a function of the central nervous system in which voluntary movement is inhibited) in re-integration sensory and motor functions. We discovered together that one way to do this is simply to give more attention to the sensory input from the surface of our bodies – which means we simply shift our attention away from motor function (making movement) to sensory experience. Taking time to allow this shift in attention had positive results for everyone – sensations of aliveness, support, being fully present and attentive, breathing more easily were all reported. Changes were also observed in the experience of receiving touch from the teacher – more pleasant, revelatory, surprising responses were experienced from students.

This is a different use of “inhibition” than the traditional one of “stopping habitual movement.” Itʻs an inhibition not of “tension” but of how we pay attention. This was the biggest discovery for me, and for many participants.

We also explored a concept common to both the Alexander Technique and many forms of developmental movement: that head-to-tail length and integrity is of primary importance in organizing movement, and that “headward direction” is essential in creating head-to-tail length, mobility, and integrity.

Each participant received hands-on (sensory) support in clearly defining the meaning of “headward direction” – a coordination of head and spine that is complex to describe in language.

Spinal integrity is necessary for the voluntary musculature connecting limbs to torso to function smoothly, expanding outward along the spiral pathway determined by design of muscles and bones, lifting the body up off the ground skyward and providing postural support for our movement. In FM Alexanderʻs terminology, this is referred to as a “lengthening and widening” of the voluntary musculature to produce smooth, expansive movement in whatever direction the person wishes to go. Another way that we use language to describe this relationship is the directions: Head to release forward and up, torso to release back and up, legs to release forward and way, arms to release away from torso – to create movement. A sensory awareness that simultaneously includes all part of the body as fully as possible – which we achieved via attending to sensations on skin – seems key in our ability to allow expansion (which means inhibiting contraction) of the whole self in relation to gravity.

This last element of integrating particularly the arms in supporting the torso was our main area of investigation in the last class. Exploring movements of looking down and up, side to side, and crawling forwards and backwards in a prone position were starting points. All of these movements were explored with an intention of “not narrowing or shortening” the head/spine/limb relationship. Many participants reported feeling much more supported in their uprightness afterwards – walking, running, standing – than they had previously. Areas of strain and discomfort disappeared as the use of all of the voluntary musculature was much more coordinated and activated.


May 13th, 2013 • No Comments

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