I’m always experimenting with new Alexander Technique self-directions and the other day I came up with this one: “I am not constricting myself” – a variant of the more frequently used “I am not compressing myself”. Both of these are Negative Directions, and for both the Freedom Direction version could be “I am free”.
Alexander Technique directions, and the Technique more generally, provide a powerful way to avoid creating excess tension in response to external events.
You can learn more about Alexander Technique self-directions from this episode of the Alexander Technique Podcast:
Like other directions, this new direction can also be applied to specific parts or regions of your body. For example: “I am not constricting my neck, or “….my face” or “…my feet” – the list of possibilities is limitless.
I decided to learn a little about the animal whose very name refers to constriction: the dreaded Boa Constrictor. I discovered that contrary to popular belief, Boas are not usually dangerous for humans and they don’t actually squeeze so hard that their prey stops breathing right away. Rather it kills by constricting it’s victim just enough to shut off blood flow to the brain and heart.
We humans sometimes act as though we were a self-constricting species. We’re prone to tighten our bodies in all sorts of harmful ways that interfere with our natural functioning.
This is nothing new. Sure, there’s a lot going on in today’s high-stress situations, excessive use of video screens etc. that can be a stimulus to self-constrict. But we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. The Bible, for example, has many references to self-constricting: stiffening the neck, hardening the heart and so on. In one particularly scathing rebuke, God says: “I am planning such a misfortune against this clan that you will not be able to free your necks from it. You will not be able to walk erect.” – Micah 2, verse 3
Unlike the Boa’s victims, we don’t usually die from all this harmful self-inflicted tension. But it certainly gets in our way, and can lead to severe and chronic pain, poor posture and the like.
And unlike the Boa’s victims – rodents, lizards, mice and the like, who are painfully aware they are being constricted – we often have no idea that we are doing this to ourselves. The effects of our habits of self-constricting have become so deeply ingrained that they have often come to feel normal.
One of the reasons I sometimes prefer to use the word constricting instead of compressing in a self-direction is that, for me at least, it conveys more the idea of an action originating from within us that we’d like to stop. I also like the word because those self-constricting patterns are often exceedingly complex and, again for me, the word compressing implies a little less complexity.
If you’d like, try some constricting directions for yourself and see how they compare to their compressing direction counterparts, or other Alexander directions you are using. Please let me know, below and on Facebook, what you discover. And if you are not clear just how to use an Alexander direction effectively, this podcast, also from the Body Learning Podcast, may be helpful:
American Country Music dwells a lot on self-inflicted tension in its many forms. Here the Late Great Hank Williams learns that modern medicine is often powerless to help:
Boa image Copyright : 3quarks