“Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” The White Queen, Alice in Wonderland
One of the hardest things for a pupil to take on board is the idea of nondoing – the idea of not needing to do something different but merely to stop doing the unnecessary. For example, in a lesson, it is pointed out to a pupil that, in the act of sitting down, they are tensing and contracting muscles in the neck which results in the head being pulled back and down. They will agree that it is reasonable to assume that if they don’t tense these muscles, the head will remain beautifully balanced, releasing forwards and upwards and will not be pulled back. However, despite understanding the reasoning and logic, when it comes to putting this into practise, the pupil will often struggle. They will find it almost impossible to trust that nondoing (inhibiting the habitual response) will be enough. There is often a belief (though the pupil may be unaware of it) that they will have to ‘do’ something to ensure the neck is free and that the head is releasing forwards and upwards.
In many ways, it is such a simple idea – that if we stop doing the ‘wrong’ thing, the ‘right’ thing can do itself. That if we stop interfering, overdoing, overtensing, we will experience release. And yet, these limiting beliefs (that we have to actively ‘do’ something to effect a release) will be apparent as a pupil tries to let go of tension in various parts of the body.
Another common and limiting belief is that practising the Alexander Technique is hard. Certainly, learning to use our thinking in a way that we are unfamiliar with to change habits that we have spent a lifetime re-inforcing, probably isn’t going to happen overnight. It requires awareness, conscious attention, practise and repetition. But the belief that it is hard, laborious, time-consuming, requiring effort and determination, is all part of our habitual pattern of misuse.
The key words in the direction ‘let the neck be free to allow the head to release forwards and up’ are ‘let’ and ‘allow’. There is nothing we can do directly to make the neck muscles release. If we try to do something, this just becomes an interference creating more tension or a state of collapse.
Often, what we believe, becomes our experience. If we have an expectation that something is difficult or challenging, then that is how we will experience it. It is worth paying attention to the thought that come up as we practise the Alexander Technique, as they can be helpful in identifying our limiting beliefs. In time, we can come to realise that these limiting beliefs are simply part of the habitual reaction which we are inhibiting.
Note: these posts represent my current thoughts and experience of the Technique and will probably be most helpful for existing students and new teachers of the Alexander Technique.