How Does A.T. Change You?

What’s happening when a person learns Alexander Technique? What would they expect to learn? After having learned A.T. – are there requirements that must be done to continue to gain its benefits?

Part of this answer has to do with the nature of skill and practice itself. Turns out there are different categories of skills – I’m going to describe and contrast two of these: practice skills and perceptual skills. Some of the misconceptions about Alexander Technique has to do with not really knowing that different categories of learning results exist. To learn Alexander Technique means you gain both of these – but the most unusual is the perceptual learning skill.

Some of learning Alexander Technique can come purely through practice.
Of course, there are many skills requiring practice. These sorts of skills will be sensitive to cumulative effort. The quality, timing, direction, relationship and sequences of this effort will determine the nature, speed and the results of this practice.

There are also insights that need to be coupled with practice to get past the pitfalls of unintentionally installing the wrong routines. It’s a pitfall to unknowingly practice what you don’t want along with what you intentionally want, which can become a later nuisance – even to the point of pain. Not knowing what you want to train – (or just being a clueless newbie who mistakes blind repetition for practice) can get you into a double-bind corner. That’s why it’s an advantage to get some tips from someone who has previously gone down the road you’re about to travel. Of course, it becomes an advantage to recognize a potential mentor who is skilled at teaching as well as possessing the skill you want to learn.

What makes Alexander Technique unique is it offers is a tool to clear the slate of the unwanted effects that were installed through practicing by mistake.

As you gain some level of skill using practice, the basics tend to always stay with you. (Although when you haven’t been practicing, it’s often dismaying how far you have fallen behind what you used to be able to do.) Though the potential of where you can go with practice will fade when you stop doing what gives you more advanced advantages, having done the skill at all in the past gives you the understanding of the nature of practice itself. So you’re able to re-train yourself again if you lose your advanced abilities that you gained through practice – you’ll learn faster the next and subsequent times through too.

But – one of the features of this category of “practice” is you need to actually do the practice to get the benefits. The more time you devote to practicing and the high quality of practice you’re able to use, the further you get in rewards of skill.

So along this line – anything you can do to remind yourself to practice will offer faster results.

Perceptual Learning
More unusual, there are also types of skills that come under the category of Perceptual Learning. Examples are the ability to sex chickens and plane spotting, which are pretty specialized skills that most people might never want to learn. As a result, this type of learning isn’t really discussed very often and not much is known about how or if this sort of learning can be reversed. But what I do know that this sort of skill turns into a perceptual ability that cannot be so easily shut off. Strange issues can come from not being able to resist using a perceptual ability once it’s trained.

A personal example for me comes from a livelihood skill that got trained by my standing close to a wall and judging whether or not what I was doing on the wall was level in relationship to the building as I was doing it. I was a muralist, so this skill was very handy to have learned. This odd ability involving my peripheral vision judgment had a backlash. It caused me to not be able to tolerate a specific pupil distance measurement common in my eyeglasses. If this measurement is not therapeutically widened beyond it’s intended function of centered pupil distance, I get headaches. I bless each day the ophthalmologist who discovered this solution for me!

My point is this: perceptions can open and remain open once this sort of perceptual learning has been accessed, like a door that you cannot lock again after it has been unlocked. With this type of learning, it’s as though you’ve been initiated into a whole new world that contains a capacity that feels as if you’ve always had it. It involves a reaction chain on a basic level that “gets an update.” Once you have perceived these perceptual differences and learned to respond to them, you cannot close up this perceptual capacity. (Or perhaps there are ways to close off this perceptual learning that I’m not familiar with. I imagine it would need to work underneath the perceptual reaction to somehow refuse to “go there.”)

This sort of learning seems to happen like magic – one moment you couldn’t do it, and the next you could with increasing accuracy. Even a master of an ability in this category might not really know exactly how they do this thing, but they can demonstrate their ability to do it.

How do you gain this sort of learning? One way this sort of learning is taught by guessing in the presence of someone who can do it successfully. They give you feedback whether you’ve done it or not done it successfully in a binary way. At some point, you gain the ability to give yourself this mysterious perceptual feedback you got from your teacher – then you “have” this skill, poof!

Of course, skills can be a mixture of these different categories. Alexander Technique is like a “hack” for practicing that also affects your perceptual abilities – the kind of perceptual learning that opens your awareness in an irrevocable way.  Alexander Technique allows a shift in a mysterious change in perception of ones’ own ability to internally sense and influence internal perceptual response strategies. It’s like your awareness of a sixth sense inside yourself has gotten turned on. It offers a way to attend to yourself as the instrument that drives the result of your desire, somewhat like the benefits of meditation – only you gain the capacity to apply this change with a paradoxical surrender of your goal while in action.

The other curiosity is how immediately A.T. integrates into whatever else you want to affect. To get the benefits of it after you invest in learning A.T. doesn’t need to involve a big time sink. It needs only momentary, pin-pointed intention, like a handy tool you carry in your back pocket. The best time to use this tool is right before you go into action. It involves a tiny, specific perceptual shift of potential self-awareness and a follow-through of action you can use to free yourself that “sets the stage” for success. This action is an intentional physical lengthening of yourself, a sort of system reset order that’s guaranteed to free your own habitual responses. You’d couple A.T. with a specific goal because you want to refine, improve or build it. A.T. also works to sift, mitigate or prevent what you didn’t want that got accidentally mixed up with what you wanted. Or you might just want to change your consciousness.

For me, practicing Alexander Technique enhances pretty much everything else I can do. It’s true multi-tasking in the form of practical mindfulness that refines whatever I’m becoming.

Benefits of Alexander Technique

 

I suspect that once you read this, it will make Alexander Technique sound like snake oil. But think about it for a moment. Imagine if you could get a user manual that would sharpen your own fallible human perception while providing easier movement. Wouldn’t that be a useful foundation for the unlimited learning of anything skill you’d want to do?
It’s tricky to put Alexander Technique into words, but here are some ways to describe it…

  •  Learn living anatomy and effortless control of freer movement. By uncovering what’s in your way that you have forgetfully only gotten used to doing.
  •  Learn to refresh muscle memory, so you can respond to what’s new instead of reacting with the old same thing.
  •  Gain insight, impulse control, evoke flow, & speed up training & practice time
  •  See where someone is going to move next, (great for being behind a video camera.)
  •  Get more benefits & discoveries from practicing your favorite skill by using effortlessness. Experience a signature feeling of a “flow or lightness” during lessons and practice.
  •  Find out how to learn new tricks, even when you feel like you’re an old dog. Find out how to get better at what you love, even if you’ve given up on it!
  •  Uncover strange, new abilities and senses that you never knew you had – by freeing your perceptual assumptions.
  •  Sharpen impulse control, go beyond conditioned reactions and assumptions and set aside negativity – all by making a physical movement in an easier way.
  •  Get a first-hand experience of directed body-mind unity, “flow,” a peak experience!
  • Aside from time it takes to learn, benefits of Alexander Technique carry into any other activity. To use it, you “direct” yourself differently; no special practice hour once you know the skill because it combines with every action.

 

 

Six lessons will get you a taste, and usually in less than thirty lessons you can have a useful skill for life.  Sign up for and experience an Alexander Technique lesson series or workshop today!

Cumulative

One of the central principles of how Alexander Technique works is based on the concept of a domino effect. Small actions, (in the form of tiny routines) pile up and become powerful influences. “You become what you repeat” is one way of expressing this often skipped-over super power to both suffer and affect change in yourself.

A studied ability to perceive subtle foundation movements is what seems so magical about how an Alexander Technique teacher can pull the rug out from underneath apparently self-caused difficulties.

An example comes from the situation of professional performing musicians. At what age did the musician learn to hold their musical instrument? How big was it then – and how big were they as kids when they first learned to make sounds with it? Height might be a factor; certainly hand and arm size; what sort of reach was possible? Put the answers to these questions in perspective, and issues with repetitive pain injury can sometimes be solved with immediate practical ergonomic adjustments.

Because of the power of our self-confirming misconceptions, humans will move the way we imagine that we are able to move. How to approach this bias? We can change this effect through questioning and insight as in the musician example above. We could used hypothesis, comparing by remembering what our situation was like for us in our past. Then we can craft experiments with what we uncover. This might lead us to even better questions, such as: How far across was that goal post area when we first got played in a standard sized soccer field when we were kids? How high was that basketball ring when first learning compared to how tall we are now?

Another way to influence change is to design many different ways to practice whatever we have discovered. If it can be counted, it can be made into a game, right? But be careful what you count, because this focus is what will quickly jump out to become priorities.

Another technique for sifting out an unwanted effect from an already learned routine is to slow down. Varying the rate of the activity will reveal formerly unnoticed differences. Once these often crucial differences have been revealed, they can be incorporated into a faster paced action.

Best chance for change needs about three weeks of commitment to install new habits. It takes around seventy repetitions to make a new skill reliable; although after around seven or eight times even the most awkward and strange movements will begin to feel “normal.” Perhaps collect game pieces that symbolize achievements as “rewards?” Logging practices has been shown to be effective, as has practicing just after performance when “mistakes” are fresh in your mind.

To wrap up – piled up tiny actions can become exponential. If you’d like to reveal these mysteries, you can go slower, you can examine your foundation assumptions you can work on practice design. Once you know what is happening underneath your assumptions, you can redesign a way to practice your desired new improvements, given you can partly do what you imagine is possible. If you cannot yet do what you want, you can work on your foundation mannerisms as a whole and you can ask for help from an observant coach or Alexander Technique teacher. Once you have ways to practice, you will uncover perceptual discoveries as well as progress in your goals. Don’t just skip over these perceptual curiosities! Reflect on these surprising discoveries to put them to best use, or you may unintentionally practice mistakes. This is how you’ll get more benefits from practice as never before – Better yet – record and share your discoveries in some way – then the processes you followed will become as valuable as your results.

Why Observe?

Key to getting past self-imposed limitations is the ability to interrupt unnecessary habits of going into action.  We’d would do this in preparation for our “best efforts;” so we can investigate if there might be an easier way to proceed, after we put on pause our self-interference. It’s like a re-fresh or re-boot for our strategies of learning – not just this time, but as a revision of a template or a franchise of learning.

But…doesn’t anyone do this as they learn?

It’s tricky to not get distracted by specific content. What results we are able to get because of our methods? Our literal & goal oriented preferences often skips over how method or mannerisms fuels or limits possible results.

It’s not merely all about getting ourselves to substitute some potential improvement we think will work better. Isn’t it sort of a hamster trap to train a supposedly “better” replacement routine, only to find later that what seemed “better” has now become yet another rut that needs addressing? Why not learn a process like Alexander Technique that can be applied to better any workable solution – a process that will not be short-sighted?

OK, let’s say we’re convinced that observing is a good idea.

First, it helps immensely to establish some criteria for successes, so we can recognize improvements on the front end when it might happen unexpectedly. It’s handy to have multiple ways to spot what we want, to recognize potential. We’ll want to know whenever we stumble on something potentially valuable in a nascent form. The reason this is so essential is because if something that happens is really new, it might slip by unnoticed by us, underneath our radar. Plus, we might dismiss it’s usefulness purely because of it’s quality of unfamiliarity.

To recognize and measure potential success, I want to sell you on the value of noting what feels effortless. When we’re after “effortlessness,” (or efficiency) what we are after is subtraction, clearing, to get less, even to get…nothing. When doing new things, carving new pathways in our brain while learning, commonly people experience drawing a blank – and this is a good thing. Blanks are areas where we can learn from.

So, how do we tell the difference between “no results” and less unnecessary effort, which has characteristics that feel like…nothing?  Thinking skills help fill in blanks here.

You can use strategies such as populating establishing observational categories. It’s trickier working bare bones with features that we normally don’t notice when we just ask ourselves, “What did I notice?” With categories, you can go down the list and compare for matches… Categories such as:

  • Qualities – What qualities did my experience have?
  • Priority Sequences – What came first, next and how does time of arrival affect results?
  • Timing – Are there things happening together regularly that determine results?
  • Direction – where am I located? Can I conduct or control the situation?
  • Relationships – How do all factors work together? Best recombination possible?Filling in the blanks from these categories will help you sort out what happened that offered that strange feeling of effortlessness…

Self-observation helps us to notice differences between “before” and “after.” Being able to describe the “before” part is useful. For this to happen, we also need to put on pause the former solutions that have partially worked previously. I like to think of these former solutions as “working titles” hanging on the wall, so they can be suspended temporarily.

Then…we craft a suitable experiment. We conduct our experiment. We observe what happens… Decide how we can use results. Rinse and repeat…

This is some of the writing I’ve been doing on a series about how to get benefits from practice based on the working principles of Alexander Technique. Of course, I fill in the missing siplifications in the above paragraph in future posts.

What do you think? Is it useful so far?

Template For Change

I’d like to tell you how Alexander Technique worked for me to uncover & cope with my own underlying psychological motives and assumptions. This strategy solved a firmly entrenched childhood impasse that was causing me irrational social problems.

I’d like you to take the time to consider this because this same strategy has since worked for myself and other to solve many uncontrollable emotional issues where the source of the emotional motives were hidden or masked.

My own issue was blurting out shocking, hurtful diatribes at an inappropriate time. What sorely needed updating were my outbursts designed in childhood to avoid my wounded feelings of isolation and exclusion. But I didn’t know this on the front end. My childhood solution was such an effective denial that I never felt the original emotion that drove me to design the reaction of “bring out the club” when the polite conversation was fencing at a dinner table. My saying something “shocking” was designed to stop the conversation and avoid feeling my emotions. It worked too well! Without knowing what was behind the reaction, change was unlikely. What was going on was an over-sensitive trigger recognition system that worked splendidly…yet the problem was it was on too much of an over-sensitive, uncontrollable hair-trigger to be at all reasonable…and it was getting worse!

I believe the Alexander Technique is an essential tool to get such answers to such these complex psychological issues. The strategy is something that works on any psychological impasse of self-influencing “bad” behavior:

  • 1. Identify the situations where this objectionable irrationality is happening that involves “jumping to conclusions” that triggers the behavior.
  • 2. Use self-observation to trace back to become aware of oneself the moment before the conclusive, reactive “jump” happens… (Warning! There will be lurking the uncomfortable motive for acting unreasonably, and this emotion will embody a physical postural attitude & will be intense!)
  • 3. Free up that posture connected to the wounded feeling physically using Alexander Technique; breathing or whatever else you think might work. If it doesn’t, find something you can do in that moment that will work.
  • 4. There’s a reason that Alexander Technique was so handy. This discipline allowed me a true physical change of postural expression of this unwanted emotion. What you want to get is an awareness of your reaction that keeps getting triggered to go off in certain situations that will offer you new ways to address the issue & your own objection & drive to change it. If you don’t know how to use Alexander Technique, you might try something different to influence the situation in a more positive and effective manner. (But you will probably have to experiment to find something that truly works.)
  • 5. To design another alternative, identify the positive desire for a solution that contains positive values for everyone, not just the absence of your own suffering.
  • 6. If you trust the people present, announce your motives. If not, try out one of these possible solutions covertly to see if they might work to bring about positive, mature ways to influence your emotionally challenging situation. To the extent you are successful, you’ll be able dispense with the old, inappropriate childish reactions to uncomfortable situations. You may even reveal a talent you didn’t know you had.

Here’s How I Did This:
My first job was to note what situation was going on when I’d blurt out shocking, snide remarks. At first I was so blinded, that I only figured out I’d “done it again” by the comments of people days later. So my job became to catch myself doing it closer to the moment I was about to do what I didn’t really want to do.

Once I questioned whether I needed to use such an intense reaction in obviously inappropriate situations, I found I couldn’t redirect it until I uncovered my motive’s origin. I could temper the effects of what I’d said after the fact, maybe I could hit a “pause” button after I launched into doing it & turn it into a joke…but that didn’t change the problem that kept causing this reaction to come up. The moment before I opened my mouth contained the hidden, denied root of emotion.

To find all this, I had to trace the reaction back to when it started – this is what took some time & practice. How do you pay attention to something that happens when you’re not paying attention? I turned the challenge into a personal, ongoing project.

When I finally got to catch this unwanted reactive habit of mine, at the moment ~before~ doing my habitual solution, what I found was so uncomfortable that it was extremely dismaying to avoid repeating the habitual solution that I did not want to do. My impasse & emotional pain that I was feeling (about being excluded in this case) was expressed in the habitual postural attitude of my body. Oh, was it uncomfortable to hang out there! My body showed me how I felt emotionally with very physical signals of a hole below my rib cage that I sagged to cover.

But I had a tool – Alexander Technique. Without a way. to be able to physically move away from these limitations, I would be stuck feeling these awful, gunky routines of complex historic hurts. I could justify whatever I thought I needed to do to deal with this bad feeling, blaming & inciting others to hurt me further as I lashed out. The additional pain I could create with these hurt reactions made it worth this trouble to change.

Avoiding hurting emotionally would be a completely understandable justification for repeating the habitual remedy that I wanted to update. I suspected that my childhood ways of dealing with this pain was unnecessary, ineffective and an overcompensation for the problem.

Hanging out in the moment feeling these awful feelings, I realized how ANY remedy would be justified if an emotion feels extreme enough. Feeling angry feels more powerful than feeling sad. This would especially be true if a person doesn’t have an effective enough tool for dealing with their “stuff.” (I believe this sort of impasse is what drives people to kill!)

Using Alexander Technique allowed me to pop out of the physical reaction of how I was expressing the emotional hurt and be able to perceive it for what it was – It was the outdated adding together of insults. I could now so easily understand and compassionately forgive myself, (even congratulate myself) for designing such an effective coping mechanism when I was just a kid, even if it was something I needed to change now. Since I could recognize the core motives now for what they were and also how I feel now, I could freshly choose a more global and compassionate way of dealing with all these factors that could take into account other people and not just my own self-involved feelings.

My problem had been I blurted out snide remarks designed to hurtfully shock others who I thought were excluding me from their conversation. My own positive core motive that I could now experience was a burning desire for everyone to be fair, to include everyone present and to nurture feelings of playfulness and belonging together to maybe build something new.

After I described what I positively wanted, I had an idea. I assumed these people weren’t trying to be mean to me on purpose. Maybe I could insert whatever I had to say into the conversation, matching the faster pace… Then slow my own talking speed very slightly and bring the conversation around to gracefully include myself again. Since I was being left out of the conversation accidentally on purpose, the other people accepted me including myself again an all was well.

Strangely enough, this worked. My reaction stopped happening too, once I had an easier way to express how I felt.

In retrospect, I was lucky – my first idea of how to influence the situation worked. But I believe that with so much riding on the outcome, as I used this same process again on other issues – it also worked again. From these successes, I now have the track record and the persistence to keep going with additional possible solutions if the first strategy would not have worked.

Please take my experience and use it for your own purposes as a Template For Change!

Fooling Ourselves

For those who wonder, “What is Alexander Technique?”
Find a narrow door…stand in the doorway. With the back of your hands, palms inward, push outward and count to 30 seconds.
After that, walk away from the doorway and wave your arms around…they will feel light and as if they’re rising by themselves.
Before you put your own explanation on what just happened, imagine this for a bit…

When you pushed, you applied force long enough to “get used to it,” then you stopped using that force…so you experienced the lack of force with your sense of weight in your arms. This sensation is a sensory indicator that you’ve changed something, it doesn’t happen unless something has been changed. This sense of lightness and effortlessness is the indicator you’ll learn to spot as proof you’re using Alexander Technique to undo cumulative, collected unnecessary effort. The tricky part is it will not happen unless you have made a change comparatively big enough to evoke this lightness.

Humans can “get used to” everything! But…what does Alexander Technique have to do with this experiment?

Imagine that you’re about to apply force that isn’t necessary to merely inhabit your body and walk around, talk, lift your arms, etc. Because you do this all the time, you don’t realize you’re applying this force. Preparing to go into action with a certain amount of force present has become “customary effort” that exists in every movement you make.

It is force that you’re not aware of using, so you cannot know that you’re applying it where it doesn’t have any effects you want.

 

Essentially, humans are capable of fooling themselves once they get used to doing whatever they have adapted to do.

 

How can you stop what you cannot tell you’re doing or not?
What way do you proceed to deal with that?

That’s what Alexander Technique answers!

 

Alexander Technique makes unnecessary stress disappear, making whatever you’re doing (or not doing) easier to perform.

Alexander Technique gives you another way to “talk your walk.” You may imagine possibilities and know better, but with A.T. you can actually do as you intend.

 

  • It’s taught using a combination of a few types of education. These include:
  • sharpening impulse control,
  • how to “see” potential movement in other people
  • practical training of fun strategies that undo habitual limitations,
  • animal training applied to humans (sort of like Karen Pryor’s TAGteaching,)
  • some knowledge about living anatomy & cognitive brain science
  • how perception & adapting works in different situations.
  • how innocently deceptive our sensing of “required” effort is and how to sensitize it
  • and in person, hands-on guided modeling shown by a qualified A.T. teacher.All of this is meant to be put into action in a whole package when we do anything we’d like to improve or through gradual, cumulative improvement.

    Using Alexander Technique results in discoveries, epiphanies, intuitive insights and “talent” where we imagined we limited.  (An added benefit for many is regaining lost height!)

Assumptions

What does Alexander Technique have to do with assumptions?
Rather than replacing “bad” habits with “good” ones, using and learning Alexander Technique frees up how you assume you “must” move.

If you study, what will you be doing?
Beyond the teacher’s selection using the examples of a routine activity such as walking, rising from a chair, or using your voice, other goals of “where else do I apply this?” are often left to the student.

Because the public is literal and goal oriented, Alexander Technique teachers are often urged by marketers to pick a specialty. This special interest is built into the educational process as a niche to attract students. Students later find out they can apply what they learn to any activity and gain additional benefits.

You may not know all about what Alexander Technique is. But if you like to sing or do your favorite hobby…you know you want to enjoy that more often with benefits and insights. Certainly everyone could use more stamina at the end of the day after work and less stress while working. Alexander Technique is also a solution for people with physical movement limitations, if these issues originate or get worse from repetition.

You Were Sold On Reading…
The reason to learn Alexander Technique is sort of like learning to read. Imagine if you didn’t know how to read and you had to be sold on the benefits of reading? Imagine if someone said, “Everyone needs this! You can apply this skill to exploit any interest!” Would you be skeptical? Because, like reading, Alexander Technique is the real deal – but it takes education and commitment…and using it. (Fortunately, it doesn’t take special practice time, but only extra awareness to integrate A.T. into any movements!)

Unlimited Applications – Open-ended Progress
Alexander Technique comes from the performance art field of acting. If you were an actor, being able to assume other postural mannerisms of a portrayed character should be part of your skill – otherwise you are “type-cast” as a “one trick character.”

If your interest was horseback riding, you can imagine how studying your part of the relationship between horse and rider can allow the horse to perform better. Because then your horse doesn’t have to compensate for an imbalanced or fearful rider. Animals “read” your body language, so Alexander Technique helps the animal understand what you mean when you are giving training indicators to them too.

Are you giving examples as a coach or teacher to others? Alexander Technique will make your examples more refined for your students. You’ll find out how to get better at your skill, even if you’ve gone farther at it than anyone else.

Do you talk or must sell yourself as part of your job? You can learn speaking & communication skills that involve body language.

Do you speak a language that’s not your native one? You can minimize an accent and learn new mannerisms that are consistent with your non-native language.

Do you play a musical instrument? You can clear away whatever mannerisms you accidentally retain if you’re always learning to play new tunes – or new instruments, or digital support for your musicianship. Alexander Technique also works to revise the way you learned to hold and practice your instrument that may be self-limiting your progress.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t do any of those things.” But, now that you’ve got some examples, can you imagine how these points would benefit any sport, hobby or skilled work – because all of these benefits involve the study of physical mannerisms…?

What’s your interest? Whatever you enjoy doing or work at doing, you can have more stamina and continue to get better at doing it…once you make the commitment to study and use the Alexander Technique.