Heather Stegmaier, M.AmSAT

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Entries in Directing (1)

Thursday
Nov072013

Think Up to Change Your Experience

We all know this beloved children’s song:

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)

And eyes and ears and mouth and nose…

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!

(Apologies if it gets stuck in your head now.)

When we were kids, movement and body parts made sense. It was easy to sing this song and touch your toes, moving with ease the whole time.  As we get older, these things become more challenging. Why is this?

Of course, physical fitness, injury, and disease are important factors. But what if you are an active, healthy adult, and still deal with physical limitation in the form of chronic pain, stiffness, or mal-coordination?

The way we use our bodies plays a huge part in our daily experience. As you age, you probably developed poor coordination or postural habits over time.  These habits interfere with your body working optimally. This doesn’t have to be something that develops in middle-age. We develop postural habits at any age. Think back to sitting in school all day, learning how to write, or trying to be cool and fit in as an adolescent. Every stage of our life can create poor postural habits. We call this “misuse” in the Alexander Technique: anything that interferes with your body’s natural ability to be poised, free, and mobile.

So instead of ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’; I offer a different tune to my Alexander Technique students:

I allow my neck to be free,

so that my head can rise forward and up.

My back is lengthening and widening.

My knees are forward, and my heels are down towards the ground.

This isn’t actually a song, but what we call Alexander’s Directions.

Directing in the Alexander Technique is a cognitive skill. It’s one of the “mind” parts of mind-body. I work with my students to teach them how to turn on the part of their brain that is capable of thinking spatially, or in other words, conceiving of the space around them.

Try this now:

  1. Either standing or sitting, bring awareness to yourself.
  2. Conceive of the space above your head. Let’s name this Up.
  3. Now conceive of the space below your feet. Let’s name this Down.
  4. See if you can conceive of Up and Down simultaneously.

After trying this, how do you feel? Did anything change in your body throughout your experiment? Maybe at the very least, you feel as though you can expand into the space around you.

You can try this experiment with all three dimensions: Up/Down; Forward/Back; and Left/Right (Wide).

Alexander’s Directions employ the same skill of spatial thinking, or conceiving of your body in space, as does the Up/Down experiment. These directions are not just something you say, they are very specific conscious thoughts to facilitate change in yourself. A way to move from ‘misuse’ to conscious coordination.

The benefits of learning this skilled way of conscious thought include:

  • Better coordination
  • Improved muscle tone and mobility
  • Improved mental focus and clarity

With the help of an Alexander Technique teacher, you can start to put Alexander’s Directions into practice.

I allow my neck to be free,

so that my head can rise forward and up.

My back is lengthening and widening.

My knees are forward, and my heels are down towards the ground.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below! How do you experience spatial thinking on a regular basis? Is your attention always down? If so, how does thinking Up change your experience?

Please leave a comment below.