My first encounter with the Alexander Technique

posted by Eivind on January 12, 2011, at 10:56 pm

On Rob Brinded's advice, I sought out the Alexander Technique for the first time today. I have decided that 2011 will be the year when I reclaim my body, when I learn to fully inhabit it. I don't want to be tense and out of balance anymore. I'm tired of it. It started with lots of childhood tensions and bad posture while sitting into the wee hours of the morning playing computer games, and it exploded at a ten-day vipassana retreat I did some five years ago. After that, I have had chronic tensions in my body.

I sought out an Englishman by the name of Nigel Hornby who teaches here in Oslo. Nigel was the first ever Alexander teacher here in Norway. It turned out to be an enlightening and very moving experience. I really liked Nigel, a gentle man in his early sixties with natural curiosity about life. His bookshelf made me feel right at home - it had Iron John on it among other fine pieces of world literature.

I explained him my problems and he was absolutely fascinated, especially by the story of how something that was supposed to help me (meditation) actually hurt my body. I quite like talking about myself (not always my best trait) and it was good to be listened to so attentively and genuinely.

As he started working on me with his hands, I noticed how I just didn't know how to be with the movements. He would move my arms and legs around and I got hit by sensory confusion. Should I control or relax? I imagined that I should try to surrender into the movement, to let go completely, and then he asked "what are you trying to do with your left arm here?". "I don't know, I responded," before I admitted "no, I do. I'm trying to relax into your movements."

"You don't know how to relax," he said. "You don't have a clue". Before he a little later said, "you don't know how to be with yourself." He was real gentle and we had a wonderful dialogue. He talked about how nobody knows how to be with themselves anymore, how nine out of ten people have back problems. He talked about why the way we talk about relaxation in the West is a huge problem, because most people's idea of relaxation is actually collapse. That is not healthy at all. So stop trying to relax, he told me. Whoa!

On one occasion, he stopped me when I started talking about what I do on this website ("sorry that I stopped you, but you have so many habits, you started tensing up again"). I was amazed by that. In fact, so much so that I felt immediately how profound that information was for me. In fact, I noticed I tense up pretty much every time I open my mouth. Because I don't know how to be with myself. Being with myself was an art that was extracted out of me by Western civilization. We shared our sentiments of grief over this.

My goodness. I really don't know how to be with myself, even after so much spiritual practice. My body shows it clear as day. I was incredibly moved by the insights I got in this lesson and am so grateful to have discovered the Alexander Technique. My arms felt completely different afterwards. I don't generally feel that awkward about my arms, but they just seemed so much better. In fact, I felt I had been given new arms.

Next week, I'm going back. I'm looking forward to seeing Nigel again, to get to know my body more – and to reclaim it fully in 2011. By the gods, I have missed it.

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