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Getting to know the Psychophysical Movement Approach©


What led me to train to teach the Alexander Technique is much like what drew me to my work as a Dance/Movement Therapist. As someone who has been a life-long dancer, my body has always been my greatest and most trusted resource. Both dancing in communion with others, and putting hands-on my students in the context of an Alexander Technique lesson operate very similarly for me in terms of the present flow-state I experience when I am working with people. Giving a lesson is a practice of learning where my hands belong for each student so that I can accurately transmit the direction I am giving with my hands to the students’ ongoing awareness. Once I “find the fit” with my hands the rest of the lesson becomes incredibly organic. Tommy Thompson, is a master teacher of the Alexander Technique who is also the founder and director of the Alexander Technique Center at Cambridge, MA. I studied under his guidance from 2016-2018. Tommy has taught the technique all over the globe since 1975. He was the person who first facilitated the idea for me that putting hands-on a person is like putting your hands into an ever-present and flowing stream. There is no part of touching someone’s body/Self which is static. I am deeply connected to that experience as a dancer. I know that the moment is never fixed, that the moment is a movement, even when one can be observed as still. There is no such thing as not moving, changing, or growing. The largest human delusion as far as I am concerned is that a person doesn’t have the ability to change. And that is something I address directly in my work as a teacher.


When I first meet with a student, I tend to start things off by saying something along the lines of, “I am not interested in what’s “wrong” with you, I’m interested in what is possible.” Most every student walks in with a problem. Most often the problem people want addressed relates to physical pain, injury, loss of mobility, anxiety, and/or to find a deeper sense of peace and connection to their body. They want to be “fixed”, and they want an answer to their problem. This makes perfect sense to me, otherwise, why would they be seeking my help in the first place? They want that answer to be one that can be attained quickly like a transaction of sorts, much like our day-to-day manner of living. In the initial lesson students ask questions like, “How many lessons will it take before I am better?” I always feel apprehensive when this part of the lesson comes up because it seems somewhat of a tragedy to tell the person that I don’t know, or that the timeline of improvement they will experience is somewhat of a mystery, which will be dependent upon their own developmental process of integrating the new information into their life. In these moments I return to The Golden Rule I learned in studying to be a therapist, as well as in teaching the Alexander work, which is of putting “hands last”. It’s not my job to change someone or to fix them, and if that intent should arise, I must make sure to step away and return when the intent has shifted back to celebrating and appreciating the person for whom they are, rather than to use my hands to mold them into who I think they ought to be.


Frederick Matthias Alexander's (the creator of the Alexander Technique), had core concept he called "inhibition", which means to harness your conscious thought process to "say no" to whatever is your habit. It is a way of halting the classic desire to "jump the shark" and to follow the stimulus immediately into whatever is your classic response pattern. For example, if a person feels emotionally triggered, their habit may to be start spiraling into a negative thought cycle. In the Alexander Technique, you would address this by inhibiting, or consciously refusing to respond to the stimulus (the trigger), by inserting a pause in its place so that the response pattern (spiraling into negative thought), is unable to occur. This process involves being able to harness one's own intellect to be able to 'not do' the thing one always does. Tommy had his own adaption of inhibition which I found was much more profound, and less rigid. Tommy called his version “withholding definition”. He described it as a way of lessening one’s commitment to who one thinks they are, so that one can allow for more of who one might be. When practiced over time withholding definition can form a kind of spiritual practice. When you cease to define life, you begin to experience more of it, and far more pleasantly!

 

When I place my hands on someone, I am touching the life-force within that person and I’m feeling the flow within that person’s particular being-ness. When I dance, a similar process occurs. I dip into my own stream of awareness, and I feel things as they are. I see things clearly with nothing clouding or obstructing my view. I am part of the dance of everything that is happening in the ever-present ‘Now’. When dancing I am very aware of my state of embodiment. There is the recognition of ground and the solid reality that I can behold with my eyes, smell with my nose, hear with my ears, feel with my hands, and taste on my tongue. But there is also the quality of mutability and transience, of wordless and silent awareness that is occurring simultaneously.

When I teach the Alexander Technique and as I engage people in the healing art of dance/movement, I find that this connection to presence is my gift to the student, and to myself. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, one that feels good every time it is practiced. There is no negative side effect to being present. To return to the moment is healing if nothing else. When a student can comprehend the psychophysical new awareness that they are having, there is a satisfying and distinguishable pause to their classic story of who they are. The narrative of pain and going round and round in circles evaporates as the person begins to process the new experience they are having. And when I notice this moment occur it’s when a warm soft energy can be felt drifting all the way through me. It feels that every cell in my body is blasting apart the mundane and habitual, the falsities and the lies, the cultural indoctrination of inferiority that so many of us feel, and the shame and guilt of things we regret or wish we could change. When the person is quiet enough, they can receive all which is new, and all which is possible. There is a recognition in them that what is happening ‘Now’ in this ever-present moment is truly what is real.

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Alexander Technique

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