Eavesdrop on any Alexander lesson that involves the legs, and sooner or later you are likely to hear the following conversation:-
Karen: so what do you need to do to achieve this?
Student: I need to bend my legs
Karen: Yes! At which joints do you need to bend your legs?
Student: …. (pause) Ankles
Karen: Good. What else?
Student: nothing else
Karen: o – kay
Just to give my eavesdroppers some context, the lesson is probably on something like walking, running, getting in or out of a chair, going up or down stairs, putting boots on, etc. So what would it look like if, in the process of carrying out one of these activities, you were to bend at your knees and ankles and nowhere else?
Possibly without the purple lycra.
If you are standing and you bend your knees, your upper leg bones will move backwards. If you don’t also bend your hips, your torso will follow the legs backwards. Unless you want to do a limbo dance, it really, really helps to bend forward at your hip joints as well.
Now in reality, I’ve never had a student attempt to limbo. Yet. When they show me bending their legs, their torso stays pretty much pointing upwards. Which means that people are, in reality, using their hips.
So why am I making such a fuss?
The answer, as always, has to do with the student’s thinking. Because if someone believes their hip joint doesn’t need to move, or, worse, that it definitely should not move during a particular activity, there are consequences:-
1) They won’t bother noticing what is going on at the hip joint, and so keep getting their old, habitual problems
2) In order to create a feeling of ‘not using the hip’, they will turn on all sorts of unnecessary muscle effort which will compress and distort the hip, pelvis, lower back and legs.
Then they wonder why it’s not so easy to get out of the chair, walk or run. And the first step to sorting out the problem:
DON’T FORGET THE HIP JOINTS
Photo by Anneli Salo via commons.wikimedia.org