While walking to the class I teach at the “College for Seniors” I encountered one of my students who has kyphosis – he is dramatically hunched forward in his thoracic spine, so that his head is carried in front of his chest. He nevertheless remains quite physically active, but has obvious concerns about the effect of his posture on health and vitality.
Although the class is titled “Poise, Posture, Presence” I’ve emphasized repeatedly that it is not my aim to tell students a “right” way to do anything – sit, stand, walk, climb stairs. Instead they’ve been observing themselves and each other, questioning their habitual approaches to ordinary activity (in attitude as well as muscular “readiness”), and investigating how to allow better balance and psycho-physical organization to coordinate movement.
This student shared a success that, to me, epitomizes the power of Alexander Technique to effect subtle yet profound change, the gem of which is self-determination.
He described: “Every day I reach up to a shelf to retrieve about ten different prescriptions. I open the bottles, take out a pill, screw the cap back on, and replace each bottle on the shelf. Invariably I knock one off the shelf or drop a cap or spill a bottle’s contents and have to clean it up, which takes extra time and energy. But I’ve started pausing for just a moment before I pick up each bottle from the shelf, and before putting each lid back on. I’ve been inhibiting a less-coordinated movement so I have time to think about what I’m doing. And in the last week I’ve not dropped a single bottle!”
When it comes to “improving performance”, the Alexander Technique doesn’t prioritize fine art or executive presentations or Olympian athletics over small, mundane actions like keeping hands steady enough to re-cap a pill bottle. Perhaps more than any grand act, these tiny moments of accomplishment accumulate to formalize our sense of self, how we know ourselves – capable of awareness and directed intent for whatever we wish to achieve in life.