Directing with the Whole (imperfect) Self

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on March 6, 2009 in Uncategorized

Happily, I returned to the work I love yesterday.  As stated in a previous post, teaching the Alexander Technique requires me to be aware of my entire self in a refined and ongoing manner.  In teaching, I extend the use of myself,  through hands- on contact, to my pupils to create a broad field of awareness, elasticity, and dynamic ease.

This required refinement that seems infinite in possibility is one of the reasons that I chose this profession.  It is far more than a job to me; it is a way of being, a joyous exploration, and a means of contributing to the world.

Giving lessons with one leg in forced full extension increases the demand for my refined attention, for non-end-gaining, and for active allowance of new solutions, previously unknown to me, to present themselves.  There are several protective reactions that I need to actively inhibit.  One is the temptation to let my stiffened leg go dead.  The immediate clues are that my knee aches, and my torso narrows, especially through the tops of my arms, as support from the ground has been reduced.  If I stop, energize through both legs, request a balance of tone with what is available to me, discomfort lessens, and I can re-widen so that my arms are connected to my renewed contact with the ground.

The other protective reaction (which I have noticed in students with knee injuries or pain), is to pull up off my injured leg.  This also results in a narrowing through the torso and knee discomfort, as my weight is no longer moving through to the ground, thus reducing overall elasticity. Scary as it may be in the moment, if I direct my weight through my legs into the ground, despite limitations in the injured leg, I then experience an increased volume of support in my torso, and can begin to spring up with more ease.  Anxiety also quiets.

I may have to repeat these inhibitions/directions a hundred times, a thousand times as I teach.  In this way, I will strengthen new neural pathways of response, which will in turn strengthen the muscular activity that is truly supportive.  The Technique is always indirect.  We don’t fix the part, we clarify larger intention, which cues the nervous system, which changes muscular tone, which results in a new experience of overall support and coordination.

I have a month of full leg extension during which to unlearn contractive reactions with this condition of self, and to signal new, expansive responses.  Then, if  all has gone well with bone healing, I will have a brace that allows 30 degrees knee flexion, and a new condition of self for continued direction.

As always, my intention is that these posts convey information that is useful for students and colleagues beyond my specific situation.  My hope is to keep the balance tipped toward awareness, and steer clear of the non-productive pitfalls of self absorption which lurk for anyone recovering from injury and pain.