Everyone likes to be seen, heard, and invited. This is the basic truth of the human animal. We are communal creatures and we thrive in the warmth of our friends and loved ones.
Can you offer the same warmth to yourself? In the Alexander Technique we use inner speech, or directions to optimize our movement. We become aware of tension, we pause to stop the tension and we give our “orders” – directional thoughts that bring the body into optimal alignment. But sometimes this process can bring up fear, shame, or resistance. Rather than simply noticing that our neck is not free, we feel bad about it, and then pile on the self recriminations for not practicing enough, or not being able to learn the technique fast enough.
I suggest a different approach.
Switch from awareness to listening. Listen to you bones and muscles and joints. Let them know you are ready to hear what they have to say. They might be shy from many years of neglect, or they might be quite talkative. Be prepared to listen to your body.
Similarly, see yourself the way you might view a friend, a child or an animal. Do the flaws fade when you acknowledge the person’s worth and effort? Can you give yourself credit? You have shown up, and you do a lot of work. Give yourself your fair due.
Invite your head to move freely on the top of your spine, your bones to dance and wiggle apart from each other. Invite your ribs to move freely with the breath, and your back to support back and up. Invite yourself into presence. You belong here! But if you and your parts can’t show up to the party, that’s just life. No need for anger or recriminations. Offer, and be ok with the the offer not being accepted this time around.
The Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving Kindness) can nourish, strengthen and energize you during difficult times.
In the Alexander technique we use directional thoughts to expand and open the body (Neck to be free, to allow my head to move forward and up, to allow my back to lengthen and widen…etc). These directions can be viewed as a physical embodiment of the energy of Metta. I’ve written more about this here:
To practice Metta let your mind descend into your heart. Repeat the following four phrases to your self. Imagine radiating the messages from your heart through your whole body. Observe the physical manifestations of these thoughts. Allow the phrases to become personal. If an image or sense memory comes up go with that.
- May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm (neck to be free)
- May I be peaceful and happy (head floating up)
- May I be healthy and strong (back lengthening and widening)
- May I navigate the world with skill. May I take care of myself with skill. (Arms and Legs release away from torso)
Note that these phrases are wishes not affirmations. Insisting that you are safe in a dangerous world might bring up disbelief. If negative feelings are triggered, that’s also normal. You can either note the emotions and return to the phrases, or apply R.A.I.N. That is (R = recognize what is going on and name it. A = allow the emotions to be without amplifying or suppressing. I = investigate the story lines around the emotions. N = nurture your self and non-identify.)
It’s very beneficial to spend a long time practicing loving kindness directed towards your self – something our culture does not encourage. Self compassion is often confused with narcissism. You may also send the loving kindness energy to a mentor, a friend, an acquaintance and a difficult person (don’t start with your biggest enemy, choose someone who is mildly annoying at first), and then expand the loving kindness to all beings everywhere.
If you enjoyed the practices, some other names to look for are Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodrun and Tara Brach among many many others. Or, find an Alexander Technique teacher in your area, and experience what it’s like to move in the world with more energy, resilience and strength.
Read all about Alexander Technique in our award-winning blog.
British Medical Journal report on the benefits of Alexander Technique