The art of achieving change

22 Dec 2011

First of all, one thing we can say for certain is that ingrained habits are extremely difficult to change. How often have we all reached the optimistic conclusion that we should start doing things differently, only to fall back into our old patterns?

I spent a long time unsuccessfully trying to change many things such as: trying to sit upright, leave on time, take on less work, play the violin without squeezing with my left thumb and stop sleeping on my stomach.

From the moment that I began taking Alexander Technique lessons and became a teacher, bit by bit these habits began to undergo permanent change. So, how did it happen? Like this…

First of all, I became more aware of myself in the moments before I made the choice that I actually didn’t want to make, or performed the action that I actually didn’t want to do. So what exactly happened mentally and physically?

Let’s take ‘leaving on time’ as an example. Previously, I used to leave the house so late that I had to run to the station and slip through the doors of the train as they were closing, drenched with sweat and totally stressed. I had already been thinking for a long time that I really should stop doing this. So why was I never able to leave home on time?

After thoroughly observing and analysing the situation, I realised that the cause of the problem was that I could not stop what I was doing just before I had to leave. For instance, if I was playing the violin I simply had to just finish practising that particular page. So I gave more priority to my (senseless) goal than to my own well-being. Change began with the realisation that in any case I could never finish all the things that I  wanted to complete in that moment, and that the quality of my practising could not possibly be very high in such a hasty frame of mind.

Next, I began to feel much more clearly how I physically reacted to leaving so late. My breathing was restricted, my stomach was contracted and my muscles were cramped. When I became aware of this I felt even more discomfort: my body was in fact clamouring for relaxation and my mind longed for peace and calm. Due to my obsession for ‘finishing things off’ I had totally failed to notice this!

Step by step I learned to recognise it sooner, whenever my perfectionism and obsession for finishing things off threatened to take over. When I felt myself falling into this pattern I paused for a moment: I accepted how I was feeling and consciously made the choice to relax my body with the help of the Alexander Technique. As a result of this combination of physical relaxation and a calm mental state, I was able to start calmly packing my bag and to leave well on time. What a relief!

Alexander Technique is unique in that it increases your awareness of both your body and mind: to really achieve change it is necessary to deal with both at the same time, in this way they can have a reinforcing effect on each other, greatly improving your chances of success.

Alexander Technique helps you to discover your underlying convictions or desires that get in your way. Alexander Technique also helps you to let go of the accumulated muscular tension that accompanies these underlying convictions or desires.

So here we have a real ‘win-win’ situation!