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Difficulty in learning

edited August 2006 in Learning
Hey everyone,

I'm a male 19 year old uni student in Canberra, Australia. I started taking alexander technique lessons in January this year, and am still - currently once fortnightly. I started going because I was (and still am) suffering overuse injuries in my forearms, wrists and hands from typing, playing piano and playing guitar. Well, my mum was interested in it and thought it would be good for me, so she took me along and I had a one-off session. Well, as I reckon most of you have probably experienced, I knew there was something to it straight away. I mean, just at the end of that one session my body felt fantastic. So, I went back and continued lessons.

But here's the crunch: For at least 3 months now, probably a little bit longer, I have been having problems with my lower back and bottom.

The pain started when I was attempting to put the technique into practice while watching a lecture at uni, and noticed that it was hurting. The more I thought about how I was sitting, and trying to sit well, the worse it got, and so in the end gave in and collapsed into the seat. This happened again later in the week, and from then on, most times I tried to put the technique into practice, whether it was lying down in semi-supine, sitting in a seat, or any other situation, I would soon feel the same pain, and would have to stop because it would just get worse the more I tried to think in alexander terms. This is the main problem really, that I have pain in my lower back and bottom (I now concieve of a few different pains in the same area) that seem produced by something I am doing when I think about my directions, or when I lie down in semi-supine (for some reason when I am in semi-supine I experience it most acutely). As time has passed I sometimes feel the pain in times when I am not thinking about the technique, though if I think in alexander terms it will feel worse (and then sometimes be worse for a period of time afterwards). But, one interesting thing to note, is that I never experience the pain during an alexander technique lesson (well, I have once or twice felt it at the start, but it quickly passed as the lesson progressed).

I have tried different ways of looking at what I am doing (or not-doing), and have even stopped myself thinking about alexander technique for a 3 week gap at one stage (which helped temporarily), but still can't quite get past it. I have talked to my alexander technique teachers about it (I see two alternately - they work together), though perhaps not enough, but I thought I would throw the problem out to you all anyway to get a broader range of opinion.

To me it seems pretty bound up with how I percieve what I am doing when I think about the alexander technique, and the state of mind I get into. After a little while with the problem I noticed that I was feeling anxious when I was lying down in semi-supine, but how much of that is/was causing the problem and how much is just a result of it I can't say. Maybe I am trying to "do" the un-doing, maybe I am concentrating on the area too much and getting drawn into a counter-productive way of thinking and losing track of my directions (one of my teachers suggested this, and I think there is alot to say for it, but just telling myself not to concentrate doesn't or hasn't seemed to work yet [the only way I have been succesful in not concentrating is when I just put alexander technique out of my mind], and unfortunately I often associate my directions with the pain, so often when I try to think about them I just get drawn into or accentuate the problem)

But I'll say no more for now and throw it out to you all. Any advice, or just ideas even, would be much appreciated. :)



  • doddod
    edited December 1969
    Hello Grey,

    Yours is a strange story. It's not something I've come across often, though I do remember one lady I used to teach who got a progressively stiffer neck the more lessons we had until finally we agreed to call it a day. I had no idea what was going on and neither did she.

    Having said that, it seems clear to me that it is the way in which you engage with Alexander work on a deliberate level that is causing your problems; but to tell where you're going wrong it might help if you were able to go into more detail about those times, as you put it, you 'tried to put the technique into practice'.

    How, exactly do you do this? Particularly in semi supine? And how do you 'direct'?

    It's very unusual in my experience for anyone to find semi supine uncomfortable, unless they have a seriously tight lower back, in which case the action of lying with knees up can stretch this area, from which discomfort could arise.

    Have you tried experimenting with lying in semi supine while listening to music or reading or doing anything that keeps your mind from thinking in an Alexander way? Most people have the opposite problem!

    Pain can result from 'letting go'. I've written elsewhere about the agony I experienced in my shoulders for many, many months. But I'm not convinced that's your problem. I suspect you may be trying too hard, and 'directing' too assidiously.

    I would love to hear a description of how you might move from, say, being at college living your day to day life not paying any attention to Alexander, to then paying what you would consider appropriate attention. What actually happens to make the shift?

    This isn't much of an answer, but if you can respond, I should be able to comment more.

  • edited December 1969
    Hi Grey,

    We can all conjecture, but I think the best advice is for you to demonstrate for your teachers what you do when you get into trouble. Once they see it, they can ask you some questions, and then both of you can experiment. Later you can try some of what they say that might help.

    The other thing I have noticed with students and with my own education, that as I learned AT, my pains traveled around my body in odd places that had never hurt before. Partly, I didn't realize they were always hurting; after lessons my body sensitivity woke up and there was no going back to blissful unconsciousness.

    But also, I finally realized that wherever it was hurting was an indicator of what part of myself I was leaving behind or keeping still when then rest of me was moving. If you were doing this with a lower back/bottom problem, it's because you're stiffening there and now allowing your hips to move and lengthen as if it is rest of your back - perhaps you're thinking of the fallacy of a waist being a dividing line between your torso and your hips?

    Now, the challenge of how to tease the habits of your lower back area into getting with the new freedom! That's what your teachers can help you with. Ask them to teach you some inhibition strategies.

    As you get better at observing yourself, perhaps you'll be able to give us a more articulate description? Be sure to keep us posted!
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