It’s Week 5of my online Alexander Technique course pilot, and this week’s Thinking-in-Activity lesson is Bending. To begin, let’s find our middles. A standard habit of thought is to consider the ‘middle’ of the body to be somewhere around the belly button. Nope. Re-mapping is required if this is how you think about middle.
The mid-place of our body’s structure is at the hip joints. Now that’s another body mapping challenge, as we often think of the iliac crest as our hips. Nope. They form the pelvis, and the pelvic bowl. Keep going. Hip joints are further down.
The best way to find hip is to stand with thumbs along the crease that forms when you lift your leg up from the knee, like a prancing horse. That’s the locale of the hips, and believe it or not, it is also the mid-point of your body. Legs/feet are the same length as head/torso.
Now, back to bending. We bend, most efficiently, ease-fully, and comfortably, when we move from the hips, NOT the imaginary waist. We are multi-jointed and move at joints. Hips, knees, ankles.
Drop a pen on the floor and before picking it up, employ Alexander Technique thinking: Observe Self. (Note your impulse to pick up the pen, without thought.) Inhibit/Pause. (Don’t pick it up. Just stand there.) And finally, Direct: ‘I move back with the pelvis, and forward/over with the head/spine.’
Here’s to healthy and happy bending (see youngsters above)—-
Watchinga New Zealand rugby team perform the haka before a match, Paloma finds herself barely breathing in amazement at what she sees on the television screen. In a later journal entry, she writes this:
‘I’d noticedhim right from the start (a Maori player), probably because of his height to begin with but then because of the way he was moving. A really odd sort of movement, very fluid but above all very focused, I mean very focused within himself. Most people, when they move, well they just move depending on whatever’s around them. At this very moment, Maman just went by in the direction of the front door, and you can tell from the way she’s moving; she is headed toward. She’s going out shopping, and in fact she already is out, her movement anticipating itself…when we move, we are in a way de-structured by our movement towardsomething; we are both here and at the same time not here because we’re already in the process of going elsewhere, if you see what I mean.
To stopde-structuring yourself, you have to stop moving altogether. Either you move and you’re no longer whole, or you’re whole and you can’t move. But that player, when I saw him go out onto the field, I could tell there was something different about him. While the others’ dance gestures went toward their adversaries and the entire stadium, this player’s gestures stayed inside him…and that gave him an unbelievable presence and intensity.
So I watchedthe game attentively, constantly on the lookout for the same thing: compact moments where a player became his own movement without having to fragment himself by heading toward. And I saw them! I saw them in every phase of the game: with a player who’d find the right speed without thinking any more about the goal, by concentrating on his own movement and running as if in a state of grace. But none of them came near the perfection of the great Maori player who was running without moving, leaving everyone else behind him.’*
Paloma’s ‘heading toward‘ is Mr. Alexander’s ‘End-Gaining.’ My wish for each of us today is a moment when we are no longer getting ahead of ourselves, and can ‘become our own movement.’ No fragmentation or de-structuring required! It’s an Alexander-Technique-worthy pursuit—-
*The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery, 2008. Europa Editions, translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
(With thanks to Barbara H., who mentioned Barbery’s book, reminding me I was due for a re-read.)
Miss Vivi, Extraordinary Guest Lecturer, will visit the OSU Alexander Technique studio today, providing students with the opportunity to observe ease-ful and glorious Use of Self.
She will, merely through being herself and exploring the world of the studio floor, demonstrate the second Alexander Technique ‘Law of Movement,’ as Barbara Conable terms it in her book, Learning the Alexander Technique:
II. In movement, when it’s free, the head leads and the body follows. More particularly, the head leads and the spine follows in sequence.’
The rest of us, to varying degrees, will demonstrate the first Law of Movement, as described by Barbara:
I. Habituated tensing of the muscles of the neck results in a predictable and inevitable tensing of the whole body. Release out of the tensing in the whole must begin with release in the muscles in the neck.
May you find yourself at ease today, practicing non-interference with your inherent balance and support. It’s available to all of us with a return to our beginnings—-
‘The first stepin learning how to work on yourself is to observe others. Looking at the world around you with Alexandrian eyes is extremely instructive, and pleasurable too …….and if you search carefully you will find admirable instances of good use around you.
I drawenormous inspiration from looking at….great athletes and dancers and musicians, at animals both wild and domesticated…such models of good use are worth imitating.’
Pedro De Alcantara, Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique
Morning on the hill. Feast your eyes on this elegant form. To know a fawn was lightly treading the meadow around our little cabin as Mike and I slept snug inside is to know there’s astonishing beauty all around us, always. The wild world does provide us with inspiration—-
Sidi Hessel’s 1978 book, The Articulate Body, was a serendipitous find at yesterday’s library book sale. For $1.00, a treasure came home with me, and its first section, ‘Articulations,’ is precisely what was needed to supplement content for this fall’s Alexander Technique class. Where are the joints, how do they work, and how can we restore their full mobility? Questions for me and the students to explore.
And the first stop on that journey? Finding head on spine and moving from this primary joint. The head leads and the body follows, or, as Barbara Conable specified in How to Learn theAlexander Technique, ‘the head leads and the spine follows insequence.‘ Watch a cat get up from lying down. You will most certainly see a demonstration of head leading, what Mr. Alexander termed Primary Control or primary movement. And with ease at the joints comes vital expression of body and self.
Hessel soughtto convey this dual understanding of jointed-ness with her use of the word ‘articulate,’ as ‘having to do with being jointed,’ and also, ‘skillful, fluent self-expression.’ We only move at joints. The articulate body is a physical structure able to move easily and fluently and expressively. Here’s to articulation!