Alexander Skills Sets: Easing Resistance

In Alexander Technique, we seek to elicit a more even distribution of weight through bones and joints by using intention and thinking to spread tone more evenly through more of the elastic tissues (muscles and tendons) that provide postural support and movement.

F. M. Alexander could see that he tended to misplace the weight of his skull behind the top vertebra, and he described this as "back and down".

back and down

As he gained skill at interrupting this habit of over-shortening the muscles at the base of his skull, he described the outcome as "allowing the neck to be free to allow the head to move forward and up".

forward and up.JPG

Because our habitual position is familiar and comfortable, we don't feel like we are tipping our heads back and down. We don't get cues from bodily sensations that would inspire us to re-balance our heads. Alexander recognized that in the absence of these bodily cues, we need to choose to re-balance our heads through a conscious decision.

I have been teaching private students and training teachers for over 2 decades and I am always looking for simpler, clearer ways to help my students understand this concept and gain the skills to make changes.

One idea that occurred to me just a couple of weeks ago is how we can often perceive when we intentionally increase or decrease resistance in our muscles. This choice is easily observed in the mobility (or lack of it) in our joints. In theater school, we would play a game called "machine", where each person would choose a movement, like part of an assembly line, and we would move together. We could be a rusty machine that's hard to move, like the tin man asking to be oiled; or e a droopy machine; or a springy machine; or a smooth,  gliding machine. By intending, it's easy to adopt a quality of movement that has more or less resistance in it.

Try This: If you have ever ridden a stationary bike, or been on an elliptical trainer, you are familiar with the dial that allows you to raise and lower the resistance on the motion. The more resistance, the more effort it takes to generate movement, the lower the resistance, the easier it is to move.

Consider Alexander's directive to "allow the neck to be free" as a decision to lower the amount of resistance in the neck, starting with the muscles at the base of the skull. Be sure to couple turning down resistance with the intention that the head can then balance forward and up.

The idea of increasing or lowering resistance can be used on other joints, as well, including wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. You can also release resistance in the abdomen and ribs to see how this impacts the fluidity of your breathing.

See what other places you can turn down the resistance. Be sure to couple lower resistance with a re-balancing of the head.