Tune into any of my lessons, and chances are you’ll spot the following pattern:-
Karen – so what do you need to do in order to(*) pick up a cup of tea?
Student – reach out with my arm
Karen – Exactly. And while you’re reaching out with your arm, what do you need to do with the rest of yourself?
Student – (pause to think) Nothing!!
It’s a big step for a beginning student, realising that the rest of yourself
- is very important;
- needs to do nothing at all(**)
- is almost certainly over-tense
But once students become comfortable with these concepts, they start to experiment with the process of stopping, or letting go, and to recognise stopping for themselves.
Once they start to realise what they are stopping, they also start to realise what they are not stopping. Despite the huge improvements they are still creating a large amount of unnecessary muscle tension. They are still quite a long way away from “nothing”.
But that’s ok.
In 15 years of Alexander Technique I’ve never seen anyone who has completely achieved this particular brand of “nothing”. Some people have got pretty close, but even the best teachers I’ve ever met still have some unnecessary muscle tension.
All Alexander students(***) are working to get closer to nothing. To gradually do less and less of the unnecessary stuff. And each time we get a bit closer, the rewards get bigger. That’s why we keep having lessons, keep reading the books, keep thinking, keep asking questions, keep pushing the boundaries.
To get closer to nothing.
(*) or any other activity
(**) “Nothing” isn’t technically correct. There is a small amount of muscle work needed to sit upright while you drink your tea. But it’s so small as to be almost invisible, so for practical purposes, “nothing” works quite well.
(***) teachers are also students