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Alexander Technique question

edited December 2007 in Learning
Ive been going to Alexander Technique lessons for a while now and its been excellent. One thing Ive noticed though is the fact that sex causes a negative tightening effect on my muscles which can last for several days after.

Does anyone else out there doing the technique feel the same?

I know any AT teachers would say stop end-gaining during sex. Easy said than done. It seems when it comes to 'fight or flight' then Im in fight mode during sex. Over time things have got better and I feel things will continue to improve.

Any teacher's /students views would be much appreciated!


  • doddod
    edited January 2008

    I would love to comment at length on your post as I´ve much to say about sex and the Technique but I have very limited internet access at the moment and won´t be able to post for a month or more.

    Hopefully, if you look again later in the new year I will have posted something.

    This shouldn´t be a taboo subject but unfortunately it seems it is. The only book I´m aware of that looks at sex and the Technique directly is Wilfred Barlow´s, but his insights are limited.

    Bye for now,

  • edited April 2011
  • Matty,

    I've just noticed your post during one of the brief moments I'm able to be online at the moment (I'm still travelling). I will respond, eventually, but I'm afraid you'll have to be patient.

    In the meantime, could you elaborate on what you mean by a "negative tightening effect (sagging)"'? I should have thought sagging would equate to flacidity or looseness rather than tightening and I'm curious as to what exactly you mean.

    By the way, you might find this site of interest: it emphasises the means rather than the end in the bedroom; and if, as you imply, your problem lasts for several days after having sex, there might be a link between what Marnia Robertson calls the hangover from orgasm and what you're experiencing.

  • edited June 2011
    Yes, sorry, just checked the dictionary and 'sagging' was not the right word.
    I was trying the tightness effects my muscles in general and lasts for awhile.
  • Hello Matty,

    Firstly, I must emphasise I haven’t experienced what you’re describing. I'm not a sex therapist and maybe you should consider seeing one. However, I have given some thought to the way the Technique relates to sexual activity, and I think it’s a good subject to have a dialogue about. So, please accept my imput in the spirit it's given, not as advice so much as the sharing of ideas.

    I suspect your problem may be solved by ‘paying attention differently’, although I don’t mean this only in an Alexandrian sense. I know, if we apply the Technique to our lives – pay attention to the means, etc – things do change, eventually; but sometimes we need to address matters more directly, if we don’t have a decade to spare.

    The answer to how something might be approached differently in order to give a different outcome always involves the nature and quality of our attention. This is intimately linked to end gaining. As you said, with sex this is easier said than done; but it is possible.

    In most fields of activity that are causing problems, practice usually involves taking away the ‘real time’ structure. For example, with sport, we take away all notion of competition. With, say, public speaking, we try it out without an audience. In other words, the ‘end’ is done away with, in the belief that that will help the development of the means.

    I think the principle of temporarily removing the ultimate purpose from an activity does allow for a form of participation that is conducive to new, hopefully better outcomes. On the assumption your ‘tightness’ is linked to both the anticipation and experience of orgasm, I would suggest being open to experimentation. Perhaps decide in advance that next time you have sex you will not only stop short of climaxing but that everything you do – from the first kiss – you’ll do in slow motion. At least half speed, preferably more. So far as you can, try to do what you usually do, for as long as you usually do it (in total) but do it half as fast and don’t reach the end.

    I’m suggesting avoiding orgasm not because of any chemicals that might be being released so much as the effect not having an ‘end’ in mind has on the mental and physical processes. I would also recommend, for obvious reasons, stopping ‘well short’ rather than at the last moment.

    I hope that’s not too difficult to contemplate: to avoid climaxing and to proceed at half speed or less; but not to try and do anything else differently – although, obviously, it will be completely different.

    I’ve applied much this same approach – slowing things down and avoiding the end – to a few things in life, and not only have I found it useful in itself, it definitely promotes a greater use of Alexandrian awareness by stopping any grabbing for the finish line and forcing a greater appreciation of the means.

  • I wonder if any of my experiences are of help to this discussion, because as a teacher I find that mentioning sex in the context of performance anxiety (Cosmopolitan--"can you have multiple orgasms?" and "Did you come?" etc.) is one of the best ways for people to understand end-gaining. Nicholas' suggestions above are excellent. Perhaps adding the old-fashioned clearly repeated Alexander orders to yourself would be one other possibility. It certainly helped for me, a kind of lie-back-and-think-of-my-orders idea. Of course as a woman that is different since it is easier for us to fake it.

    I began to study Alexander with Dr. Barlow and then moved to his trainee, Sue Laurie, about 29 years ago, when I had no understanding of orgasm. I wasn't upset since I didn't know there was anything to miss. I had had a very active sex life, cut short for a while by a very dodgy coil which caused an ectopic pregnancy and near death. Certainly the death of a very passionate love affair. I began Alexander because an excellent McTimmoney chiropractor who had sorted out a twisted vertabrae said, "If you don't want to keep coming back to me go and study the Alexander Technique." So I did and it helped to overcome the near breakdown after that ectopic. the sexual learning was totally indirect and I never remember even talking to my teacher about it. I just started to notice that the closer I came to orgasm the more upset I became--ie. the startle pattern set in. If I could catch it and say, Stop, to myself, breath and literally keep repeating my orders/directions to get my mind off my performance, and harsh self judgment, I could increasingly reach orgasm.

    That had a profound effect on my fertility, since I had only one tube left and doctors had predicted I would not have children. By increasing the orgasm using Alexander I increased my fertility and with a combination of acupuncture and a good gyne I suddenly conceived. then the analogy with sex and childbirth really came into its own--learning to use the Alexander "whispered ah" during sex became a godsend during childbirth. Dr. Barlow gave me my first childbirth lesson and said, "You need to learn to breath into your back, like a fish with gills." I went on to have three children and used the AT every time.

    I do orgasm counselling with some selected pupils. That is never the reason they start. It just arises sometimes, especially if I can make a joke about orgasm being the ultimate end gain.

    It's a little late to go on, I am happy to see that this subject is being discussed.

    Warm greetings, Anita
  • edited June 2011
    Thanks for both of those very useful comments.

    Initally, when Nicholas said he had not come across this problem before I was abit surprised and disappointed. I had always assumed most men would noticed this feeling whilst learning the technique. Of course, this is probably part of the problem with any issue of someones health - it causes a reason not to address the issue.

    Since reading that I made a conscious decision to go back again and address the real reason why this is happening. After only about 3 months of learning the technique I noticed I was over tightening my lower regions in my head. I have worked out his to do with an childhood pain.

    When I said 'go back again' and address the issue I was refering to a couple of occasions when I have decided to try and let go of these fears by thinking about relaxing 'through' these thoughts. Before I gave up thinking I simply cant do it, too much fear. Now however after 2 weeks of experimenting in semi suppine with different thoughts relating to my fears I am making vastly better progress letting go. I am sure in a short of time I can beat this problem, and stay 'free and up'!
  • Matty,

    You've uncovered a lot, I think.

    Unraveling stuff like this can take time but I'm sure it'll be rewarding.

  • edited June 2011
    Looking back this thread, im pleased to say these problems are behind me.
    Ive read some other mind-body techniques see the energy the same as sexual energy.
    Does Alexander Technique teachers ever consider the energy they are working with is actually sexual energy?

  • I'm glad you've sorted out your problem. I think what you describe is something that Alexander work could help with but not something it would address directly, which is probably why it doesn't crop up in the literature. Alexander's writings are fairly general. He does talk about specific 'disorders' - stuttering, mind wandering, etc - and specific activities - golf, acting, etc - but only as examples of how the particular is affected by the general. It could well be, as you suggest, that he avoided the subject of sex because it wasn't considered appropriate, in his era. However, with Alexander work, no matter what the subject, the 'solution' is not to know the cause of a problem, so much as to recognise how we react to it, and inhibit that.

    The short answer to your question as to whether the Alexander Technique considers the energy they are working with as sexual energy is "probably not"! In fact, I would say very few Alexander teachers would be prepared to acknowledge they work with 'energy' at all, other than the sort that causes muscles to move when consent for this is given.
  • edited April 2011
    yes, its great no longer suffering from this.
    certainly makes life more enjoyable!

  • I'm also happy to hear you've resolved your problems with indirect means. I've also found a pattern of increasing tightening by anticipating intensity and marking it's action. For me it was during riding a bike uphill. I used to get cramps by thinking "Stroke! Stroke!" while pushing at the pedals. The whole problem improved immensely with a little constructive surrender - by thinking of easing up and lengthening on the upswing - and letting the downswing take care of itself.

    As far as considering the energy we're working with in Alexander Technique to be sexual energy... It often comes up as people undo their habitual limitations, they can suddenly experience themselves as feeling different - for some this means a big change in their self-image. The sensations of their body can often clamor to be heard, after being freed.

    Also Marj Barstow used to use the phrase, "Conscious, Creative Control." Wouldn't sex be one of humanity's ultimate creative acts?
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