Doing Nothing

June 15, 2010

“Doing nothing” is a fundamental principle in teaching the Alexander Technique. This odd idea about DOING NOTHING confuses many pupils; it is in fact a habit that the Alexander Technique can help one to develop. In our physicality and movement, “doing nothing” can result in buoyancy. What F.M. Alexander says about this is that in order to stop tensing (or the other extreme, collapsing as dead weight) and then moving, say an arm, the pupil must “inhibit” doing the movement in his habituated and inefficient manner and allow the teacher to guide and move the arm for him.

Only in this way will the habitual tension patterns in the pupil’s arm, and more so his entire self, be able to reregulate. It is in this way that the tension will reset itself into a more appropriate tonus. Our pupil usually will register this as relaxation; it is really a release of the old tension that has been his habitual way of holding the arm.

If he could release this insane tension he lives with, he would do it directly. He is not an idiot. But it cannot be achieved directly. In addition nothing done to him from the outside, massage, “body work” of any kind, therapy or relaxation techniques will last and free him up. These are all at best going to be temporary fixes.

His nervous system must learn to do this for itself. This is what the highly skilled Alexander Technique teacher is able to teach by slowly and gently guiding the student’s movement.

In guiding the student’s movement, the Alexander Technique teacher frees herself in such a way that the force of gravity, the slowness of the movement, the position of her arm and the pupil’s arm, and above all the utter freedom she has in her head, neck and upper back as she works, all act together as a catalyst to the pupil’s long forgotten freedom in the nervous system. It seems to jog the muscle memory so to speak. Then the mechanism frees itself. This is a most amazing sensation when it happens and little by little the pupil learns to not interfere with this state of harmony and grace.

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