11.08.22: AT Lesson: No Zombies

We got back to Wendy's for an Alexander lesson, which was much needed. The schedule worked out that we could make it over on a Monday evening, which put things a bit in a hurry, but we made good time. I was pretty tight from work that day, and was looking forward to a bit of relief. Wendy greeted us at the door, and let us know that they were doing some work upstairs, so we would both be doing our lessons downstairs and I was eager to see what she had in store for us. We both sat down in the chairs she had waiting, and she checked in with us to find out how we were feeling. Both of us were doing alright, aside from the usual issues, which was a good thing.
She started with me, and it took a while of working with breathing and repositioning to help me release all the tension I was holding on to from the day's work and hustle to get home and get ready for the lesson. Once I was relaxed and in a better position, she guided me through effortlessly standing up, and then I walked around the room for a bit. It feels so easy when everything is tension free and lined up correctly.
She then gave us a bit of the information on the structure of arms. Arms begin as free-floating structures that drape over the top of the ribs. Structurally they aren't really attached bone-on-bone, and are held on by soft tissue. As a result, they are very free to move and have a large range of motion. She began by helping to draw attention to the scapula and the role that they play in the wide range of motion. She put her hands on my scapula and had me reach up, out to the sides, across my body, and down exploring where the scapula go with each movement. It is fascinating how far they really do move spreading across the back of the ribs. She then placed her hands on my upper arms and instructed me to raise my arms out to the sides. I did so, and she helped me note which muscles we habituate to using and how much effort it takes to "pull" the arms upward. She then put her hands under my arms, and guided my arms upward in the same motion that a bird would unfurl their wings. She repeated the process again, and the lightness that accompanies the motion is dramatically different from the struggle to lift when using the upper arm muscles to pull upwards. The motion seems to simple, but yet we do not follow the path of least resistance, or effort!
She guided me through exploring the range of motion of arms by focusing on the fingers first. Using the fingers to initiate movement helps to sort circuit the usual brain pattern of movement that generates so much effort rather than ease. The motions become easy and fluid rather than heavy. Practicing reaching upward added another layer to the range of motion. When many people reach upward, they tend to settle back into their heels, brace in their knees, hips, and arch into their back. It creates a lot of strain through the body and reduces the ability to accomplish the task. She instructed us to think upward through every motion (even the downward motions!) and to not rock back, but use the 'monkey stance' as a tool for reaching upward by adding a slight bend to the knees and hips to balance the body as you reach upward. It creates a greater sense of lift, and actually increases the range of motion.
She finished with me and began to do the same work with Jim, helping him to release tension and then beginning to guide him through the same arm exercises that she took me through. After having watched me, he was picking up on things much faster than I was able to. She guided him through the same series of exercises adding in the monkey stance when reaching for things up high. I had to laugh as we were talking about the habituated pattern of rocking back and slumping in order to reach upward. Jim did it, and he looked like a Zombie! So the rule became that Zombies are not allowed!
I can feel things beginning to shift as I go about my day, but finding the release of all the tension is the elusive key. It isn't something that can be done or forced, it has to be allowed to happen. Over time I am sure it will come with more ease, but in the midst of being within the 'conscious incompetence' phase it is that much more uncomfortable than the blissful unconscious incompetence!
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11.09.06: AT Lesson: Up from the Front