The only man I know who behaves sensible is my tailor;
he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.
The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.
George Bernard Shaw
I was talking to a fellow swimmer in the hot tub at my local Y this week.
I run into this guy in the pool from time to time and we often chat about various things. He knows that I teach the Alexander Technique but we haven’t talked that much about it.
This week however, he was particularly curious about the Alexander Technique. He asked me, “after enough training is it just on autopilot? Do you automatically adopt proper alignment and stand up straight?”
As a younger teacher, I probably would have winced and tried to explain then and there that the Technique has nothing to do with standing up straight. But I took a different tack.
I explained to my acquaintance that what you really get better at, what becomes more on autopilot, if you will, is your ability to be present with yourself in whatever you do.
Being present allows you to make more conscious choices about how you are going about things—keeping in mind the relationship of your head-neck-back in particular.
But doesn’t it sound better to just let everything be on autopilot, you ask?
Well if you and your environment were always the same—then maybe.
The problem is you and your environment are constantly changing.
As things change you adapt and create new habits—most of the time without even realizing it. At the same time old habits, that may have served you well at one time, may no longer be appropriate.
Growing up, I was an excellent student in school. I didn’t struggle much with my lessons. But I also studied a lot and always did all my assignments. When I was assigned a book to read, I read the whole book from cover to cover. No Cliff Notes for me! And that made sense when I was in school.
But it took me until I was in my 30’s (I’m embarrassed to say) to realize that I had a choice whether or not to finish a book. Because my environment had changed—I was no longer in school—it didn’t matter. And if I read the first 50 or 100 pages—or heck even the first 25—and I really disliked it—I didn’t have to finish it.
I remember the first time I realized I had this choice and made it. It was incredibly freeing!
If you sprain your ankle, for a time as you heal, you will need to favor the injured ankle. You will need to keep full weight off it. As a result you will create a new habit of how you stand and walk that is a bit unbalanced—because you are injured.
But once you have changed—healed—that way of standing and walking will no longer be appropriate. The ability to be present allows you to be aware of that and make a conscious decision to walk more balanced with equal weight again on both feet.
The Alexander Technique will make you into your own sensible tailor.