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Archive for June, 2010

Mirror Neurons

Alexander Technique has been classically conveyed through the invention of a form of guided modeling of motion. Not all Alexander Technique teachers teach using this means, (because of a class situation where one-on-one isn’t always possible nor constructive.) But all Alexander Technique teacher can use their hands in this specialized way because they’ve been properly educated.

The quality is a signature lightness of “non-doing.” An Alexander Technique teacher who is properly trained can use their hands to follow you doing whatever motion you’d like to do, while giving you a suggestion of how to prevent your habitual routines that limit freedom from running the show.

What that means is an Alexander Technique teacher can suggests the direction, timing and quality of motion for the student while the two people are linked hands-on. This happens because the teacher demonstrates on themselves what they want the student to also do for themselves.

What actually happens when an Alexander Technique teacher puts hands-on?

The way it works is a very mysterious process. Through training, most Alexander teachers can be an example for their students much better than they can explain what is going on.

What a teacher is actually doing when they put hands-on a student is applying Alexander’s principles to their own coordination. Then, without interfering, managing to put hands-on the student. IT is this “without interfering” that is the tricky part that takes so long to learn.

The student “makes like a sponge” and emulates the ability the teacher has move beyond their own personal limitations in their own thinking and response. The effect is, both people lengthen their own muscles in a sympathetic concourse – they dance together. The person who is more relaxed encourages the person who is less relaxed to free whatever is in their way of moving easier – or at least it usually works that way. Sometimes what happens is the person who has a stronger ability to choose new ways of thinking influences the quality of thought of the person who’s thinking is fuzzy or indistinct.

It’s been said: “Those who do, work at it – and those who don’t – teach it.” But Alexander Technique doesn’t work unless the teacher demonstrates the principles in their own ability to go beyond their own physical, habitual limitations. You’ll know it’s not working as the student because the teacher’s hands will become heavy and you’ll feel as if you’re being “handled” or are having something done “to you.” An Alexander Technique teachers’ hands feel as if you are being guided; they suggest a direction, quality and means – but the student is responsible to initiate or follow.

There hasn’t been an explanation for why this works or what is going on until mirror neurons were discovered in brain research.

This talk on mirror neurons assigns them an emotional and empathic basis. But the sort of brain power that drives the ability to “learn though emulation” is what drives the Alexander Technique.

Can learning the Alexander Technique give a person additional empathy? Many of us who learn it have imagined so. But having any sort of discipline involving awareness develops the ability to be in charge of oneself and the effect a person has on their actions that effect the world.  To discover and express one’s hopes, dreams & vision for the constructive, practical effects of one’s beliefs – being able to surpass one’s own personal limitations  – this would be a handy skill in anyone’s toolbox.

Many disciplines that offer more control over the various qualities of one’s life give this benefit. The Alexander Technique offers a form of control that includes indefinite freedom to refine, perceive and clear out what is unnecessary. That’s what makes it different. It doesn’t free you up in order to tell you what to do next – it merely frees you to do whatever you want to do next.

An handy ability to have in one’s toolbox of life skills, don’t you think?

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Everyone is wrong because we all have a limited point of view by nature of it’s point in time, to varied degrees. We’re wrong in relationship to it’s point in our lives, it’s point in relation to our experience or lack of it – our ability to carry through on our knowledge or skill and many other factors.

Defining something as “not making sense”, chaotic, divine or magical is usually because we do not perceive or understand it’s organization – yet. This urge to define is both what makes us wrong -and write. Or Right and Rong. Or Rightly Rung.
Edward de Bono, grandfather of lateral thinking, calls being right “using proto-truth.” Meaning, we use the best, most operative truth known for now.
It’s a happy thing to realize one’s wrongness – especially when the surprise comes from a perceptual mistake. Wrong is an education – now you can make it right. Whereas before you could not percieve the difference that made a difference. Or you didn’t care to make it right because right is too costly.
As my mechanical friends tell me: Proper maintenance is usually quite a bit less expensive than repair.

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Predicting

How do we predict what is going to happen before it does? We come up with a little routine for what we’ve already experienced, just in case something similar happens again. Then we’re prepared.
There’s a price to pay. Adapting to learn a habit (involving a habit or routine of motion, especially,) will make the sensation of doing the routine disappear. Habits of movement and response are designed to fade into the background, to disappear and run as “installed” routines. These routines are designed to trigger on an “if…then” recognition by the brain of the need for the routine to happen.
Habits and routines are handy to have installed. The reason it is useful for a certain habit to bury itself into the construction of a routine is so other habits, (in the form of gradually acquired skills,) can be chained onto previously learned habits.  You can say, “Go!” and the whole routine should go into action and it will play out, even if the whole sequence is very complex and took a long time to train.
Learn to do something unnecessary by accident, and it will become chained into the sequence of having learned the skill. Tricky to undo those problems – which are problems that you cannot tell are happening from the inside. You’re just doing the thing you learned to do the way you learned to do it. However, since you invested time and energy into training this routine, you don’t bother to revise it in the light of new circumstances. It’s easier to train yet another routine instead. This is one of the drawbacks and a basic error of perception.
We don’t see the need to “uninstall” the old programs and routines. We just forget them. The problem is they may come back to haunt us, because we’re probably still doing them, depending on how a routine was installed and if it was used often.
A basic error of perception is that people assume they know where they are in space and how much effort is required to get them or their extremities from location to location. People often forget that they trained themselves to adapt to some extraordinary circumstance previously. They may be starting from a different location or relationship with balance and effort than they would correctly assume.
What most people do not know is the sense of judgment about location, effort and weight is a relative sense – not an “absolutely true” one. In fact, humans merely are able to register only relative differences in our kinesthetic sense. Most people do not know this fact and believe they know what is happening with themselves because they can “feel” it.
Because of the nature of adapting that humans are so talented at doing, this example is true for how people learn skills and perceive the world to make sense of “how things are,” not just the kinesthetic sense.

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Have been looking around the web for more information concerning Alexander Technique and timing. Sustained practice in a new skill that challenges one’s abilities to exercise their version of “control” takes a toll, because people thrash around while they are learning and do not apply themselves skillfully – yet. It’s obvious to most people that sustaining a state of “special” awareness is taxing.
Found documentation that proves applying self-control is something that makes people tired by itself. Now we know that exercising self-control is taxing to the brain. http://is.gd/cC5V0
People know this instinctively. If they don’t have experience with how much A.T. helps their stamina, they could imagine A.T. would make them tired because it requires awareness and resisting one’s habitual routines. People who do A.T. know that toll becomes less by learning to apply the skill of learning efficiently.
So, how can those of us who teach Alexander Technique describe how it is different or “better” for this application? Here is a blog reply to the issue: http://post.ly/iPAh
Let’s go a little further – such as “Studying A.T. makes continuing to learn easier” Or “A.T. shows a template for using awareness for noting progress of improvement that increases stamina.”
But HOW do we do this? Certainly part of it is purely practice and gaining the ability through doing it, getting tired, doing it some more and so on. Like any form of exercise, practice enlarges one’s abilities.
There’s an even more selective way to practice that yields results painlessly. My experience in teaching this is to recommend applying Alexander Technique in a very selective way. So, rather than just sustaining a “wide open” sense of awareness with the volume knob turned to “up,” you strategically apply A.T. when it’s most effective. This most effective time to apply some A.T. thinking and directing is right before an activity is begun. How you start something has quite a bit to do with how you may continue to do it. In effect, it’s the “set up.” Then use A.T. periodically as you notice yourself dropping down in a sort of expiration date of timing as the original intention fades out. Once you know what you tend to habitually do, then renew the directing of yourself with a rhythmic sense of timing…
It also works really effectively to set regular break times and stick to using them for a five minute semi-supine lie-down break. This works best when it is regularly scheduled and used even if you do not feel tired yet. As humans we forget to do this until we start to feel tired, and doing so is akin to “closing the barn door after the escape.”  Lying on your back with your knees in the air and some head support for a a five minute break every hours or so is one of the most effective tips the Alexander Technique has to offer. It works!

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