At some point in their lives, people often find that activities they used to do and enjoy become more and more difficult and strenuous for them. What they don’t realize is that it’s not always the activity itself that is causing the stress and wear and tear – it’s the way the activity is done.
The way you drive a car will affect how long it’s going to take before it needs repairs – if you always drive with the handbrake on it’ll be much sooner! The way you use yourself is going to affect how well you are able to function. With time it’ll even affect your structure, as your body adjusts to the way you use it. These changes again will affect how well you function and how you are able to use yourself. If your way of using yourself is harmful in some way, it will lead into a vicious circle where everything you do causes even more wear and tear that in turn requires adjustments, and so on. By making sure that you use yourself well, you can keep doing the things you love to do much longer – without pain and unnecessary effort.
Faulty Sensory Appreciation
Faulty sensory appreciation means that what we feel we are doing isn’t always an accurate reflection of what we actually are doing. Our kinestetic sense works relatively, not absolutely. It tells us what the situation is compared to the moment before. Tension that has become habitual doesn’t feel like tension anymore after a while, because your feeling adjusts to the level of tension you carry around, and starts to see it as normal. If the level of tension stays constant, it won’t register so clearly anymore. The amount of effort you use to perform a task will start to seem normal and necessary for the task at hand, and if you try to do the same with less, it might even seem impossible.
This is why trying to change your habits using your own kinesthetic sense as a feedback mechanism is bound to fail. You might indeed make some progress, but you’ll always be limited by your own idea of what is possible.
Inhibition and Direction
The way out of this dilemma – how to change when you can’t trust your feeling of what you are doing – is to not rely on your feeling, but to use a constructive concious way of thinking instead. It can’t be learned quickly, but once you have learned it, it’ll always be a tool you can use to help yourself. Instead of rushing into action when you get the idea to move, you first stop, and say “no” to this idea – because that is the habitual way of performing the movement, and that’s what you want to change. Once you manage to say “no” to your habitual “programming” of a movement, there is a chance for something new to emerge. This saying “no” and stopping is called inhibition by Alexander teachers.
Once you’ve managed to stop, you can also give yourself more useful orders about what you want to achieve – for instance, asking your neck to free up. It’s useless to do this without stopping first, however, because that would mean that you try to paste a new program on top of the old one – creating a conflict in yourself, and even more stress.
This same principle doesn’t have to apply only to movement and the physical part of life. You can use the same process of inhibition and direction to deal with habitual patterns of thought and emotion – your general way of reacting to what happens around you – as well. In addition, getting rid of habitual patterns of physical tension already results in a calmer mind.