This is the eight part of a blog series called Towards Effortlessness, the introduction to which you can find here. I will now move on to the analysis of question 3. "What are the 1-3 most important things you have learned/gained from the Alexander Technique?" The purpose of the question was to identify what unexpected insights or consequences the learning of the AT had over and above what the client was seeking from the technique.
49 respondents highlighted what we call “inhibition” in the AT. This is a tool used to learn to stop and weaken habitual patterns of reaction. An AT teacher instructs the client not to react to a stimuli immediately, but rather take a very short break before acting. According to different respondents, this short pause resulted in slightly different things. Here is a table showing what was highlighted by the clients. Below, I'll open up a bit about the themes that I haven't covered in my previous texts.
Something automatic switches on
There are no mistakes
Reprogramming of action
Improved stress control
Body-mind connection switches on
Freedom of mind
Improved psycho-physical stamina
Releasing the neck reminds of Feldenkreis
Nineteen respondents described the short pause as opening up the possibility of choosing how to act in situations, rather than being driven by a habit to act in the same way as always before.
"No need to react immediately. First take the issue or the message and leave it and then react. Then you have time to think about how to react and act in a balanced way."
"With the Alexander Technique, you can train your mind and body to choose what to react to and at what speed. That you don't have to be a slave to stimuli."
"Gives you time to listen to the intersection of internal and external communication, and as a result of the observation you can act in a completely different way."
"There are always options for how to act or react. It's more interesting to be curious and exploratory than to just go for something"
"When my mind goes into overdrive or there is external pressure at work, I often say to myself “I'm not doing anything immediately”. It always works, and I make better decisions after this micro-break."
Fifteen respondents said that stopping brings peace of mind, both in being and in doing.
"I have learned to stop overdoing and over-performing, I act more when I really need to. In many ways, I have found this to be a more effective and enjoyable way of being."
"I now have more courage to not do things as soon as the impulse comes (less execution) and just leave myself be."
"From the basic idea of the Alexander Technique, which is to stop acting immediately, I have realized the importance of maintaining peace in all that I do."
"...maybe the same phenomenon as in mindfullness, letting thoughts and feelings come and go"
Thirteen respondents highlighted the experience of stopping for a bit to create extra time, both for individual moments and for one's own activities in general. For them, the short pauses had opened up the possibility to stop feeling like they were in a hurry.
"I have learned to stop my habitual pattern of action, saying in my mind, for example, 'no to rush', 'no to stress'. This way, whenever I'm in a hurry, I can take a breather and get a different perspective on things."
"I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere, I always have one extra second."
Three respondents said they appreciated the insight that they are not doing anything wrong, they are just acting out of habit: "Habits can be changed, there aren’t so many things that I could do wrong now."
Three respondents said the most important outcome of the technique was that you can 'reset' and "reprogram" the whole body. One of these respondents (a health professional) noted that this must concern changes in the central nervous system.
Andrew McCann's article 2019 nicely illustrates not only what an Alexander Technique teacher means when teaching the short pause before action, but also what the student is dealing with in their own action when learning the technique. Indeed, something happens in the body just before we even realize we are reacting or acting. https://www.alexandertechniquescience.com/general/terminology/inhibition/what-we-do-before-the-thing-were-doing-new-research-on-anticipation-inhibition-and-posture/