When Alexander teachers asks you to “inhibit,” it does not mean they want you to repress your deepest feelings in the Freudian sense. Rather, it is an essential part of freeing up your body from unconscious habit. Alexander students are keenly aware how quickly habits of tightening, shortening, and contracting sneak in and overtake you. In an Alexander lesson, you learn to refine your awareness so you can catch yourself before you engage in the same-old, same-old knee jerk habits (like scrunching your neck, swaying your back, locking your knees, gripping your shoulders, holding your breath, and the like). When you have enough control to stop before you start, you are said to be “inhibiting.” And it applies to mental habits too, like the automatic response to the cookie jar… at least theoretically, that is if the cookies contain chocolate.
Out With the Old
The key here is that if you don’t prohibit the old way of doing something, you will not be able to allow room for a new way of being in your body. It is an essential component of transformation of the whole self. If you empty the nervous system pathway and say a resounding “no” to the habit, you become less of a victim of “tradition” and more master and creator of new possibility. To “not do” becomes every bit as important as to do, maybe more so. It is very challenging to slow down in our fast-paced, tweet-a-second universe. However, try your best to wrap your head around a simple one-word thought: pause. Maybe add two more words to your self-talk: slow down. If you wait a few seconds before you respond to the task at hand, you will be thinking less about your goal and more about yourself (your ease, your breath, your balance, your well-being). Thus, you will have the mental space to let go of your tried-and- true, overwrought default mode and embrace your potential. And you will be happier in the meantime, because you will be present for your decisions. It is the key to breaking through a rut and getting to the next level of anything.
A More Quiet Neutral
I believe that this is why at times yoga (or physical therapy) falls short for people in pain. It’s more trying, more tightening, more effort. It’s great if the effort has the effect of balancing you out, but most often the muscles that like to work jump in and work hard, and the sleepy muscles yawn and go back to sleep. It’s because you have not communicated to the muscles whose knobs are turned to “11” on the amplifier to just settle down and quit showboating (to use an electric guitar analogy).
So when an Alexander teacher says, “leave yourself alone,” or “you are not moving your arm,” or “don’t even think about standing up,” you are being asked to go into a more quiet neutral space and be open to a lightness and expansiveness you didn’t even know was possible.
The next step is: “think your directions.” And that’s the topic of the next blog entry.