Day 2 of preparations for filming Ease on Skis, my mentor Erik Bendix's program incorporating Alexander Technique into ski training. Despite the gap of twenty years since I learned to ski in the foothills of Pennsylvania, I made my way reliably down the practice runs I took at Cataloochee Ski in western North Carolina before this trip. My first day (yesterday) on the slopes here in Hasliberg, Switzerland (a huge leap up!!) went well enough, but my boots were too big and my legs got sooo tired and sore from the length and difficulty of the runs.
Clicking back into my skis today, I felt a flush of awkwardness — wait, didn't I just warm up to this a day ago?? How again do I make these foot flippers work?? Our crew of five has been stopping after each chunk of a slope, for the team to check in and confer on the next section. Seeing my discomfort, Erik offered suggestions for the following stretch. Much as I tried, I could not think myself out of my body's reaction to fatigue and concern. I found myself doing exactly what Erik's method warns against: flinching back away from the slope — which not only caused me to stiffen but also sent my frictionless skis forward, accelerating my descent, without control. I could not fight the impulse to pull back and found my voice choking up and my eyes brimming with tears. Fear was alive in me: still jet-lagged, my legs ached so and I worried I would fall and be injured. Especially given all my training and work as an Alexander teacher, I felt embarrassed that I could not follow the instructions that I KNEW would improve my ease. How humbling, to be at the mercy of fear!
Then, something shifted — clarity arose about what it meant to follow my head down the mountain. Not by putting it forward from my torso, which had the rest of my body fighting to find balance, but by letting my heavy noggin nod forward at the top of my spine. Exactly as I tell my own students. And, voilà! I pitched myself forward over my ski tips, letting my face fall as I thought my whole self tall, and I heard Erik exclaim “Yes!!” behind me as I sailed down the next bit. Which seemed shockingly easier. Ohhhh… Unbelievable. It really is the simplest matter of letting go of your head 🙂