Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Friday, July 29, 2011

My First Alexander Technique

The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique


I just had my first Alexander Technique lesson this morning. WOW! As the day progresses, I have less and less tension in my shoulders and neck. By the end of today, I have no muscle tension or strain. Anywhere! I just hope I can remember part of what I have learned today.

Sally Swift, Centered Riding founder, followed Alexander and integrated Alexander Techniques into her program. She also wants all instructors to have a thorough understanding of both Basic Dressage, which is the foundation of CR, as well as Alexander Techniques, which is her foundation of proper body alignment.

All I can say is what a difference in how I felt after an hour of instruction in proper alignment of my body. First, Nada, the instructor, watched me walk. Then she had me sit down on a chair and stand up. After she analyzed how I did this, she had me sit on a stepstool to start my work. Nada helped me to realized how stiff I was through my sternum to clavicle and through my neck muscles.

First she showed me how to concentrate on my frontal lobe and to stand with my head first, without using neck muscles. She wanted me to release the muscles around my clavicle and stretch from my clavicle out towards my shoulders. She cradled each armpit and had me release my shoulder down into her hand. The results were huge, as I totally relaxed and my shoulders dropped. Then, Nada moved on to the elbows, moving them so my upper and lower arms relaxed. My arms continued to release until she could hold the very fingertips of my hands and move my arms.

Nada ran her hand up and down my spine, allowing it to relax the muscles and flattening my back. My pelvis tipped back.  She showed my that before, as I walked, my back was arched.  I was leaning backwards (which coincidently, as I loped, I lean slightly backwards too). Once I learned to stand with my head first, my neck and spine came into alignment, my pelvis was where it should be, I sat on my seat bones.  When I stood up, I didn’t lean back to walk.

This all felt strange, as what I had known before is what I thought was correct.  This new posture is correct, but felt strange to be sitting and standing the way I did.  But when I walked, I floated!

When I walked, I had a spring to my step, instantly, I felt like how a kid walks with a skip. Nada said I walked more evenly, as she said that before I collapsed the left side. I walked effortlessly, without a strain in my neck and without that tightness behind and between my shoulder blades.

She said that yes, kids walked like this, because they didn't carry any tension in their bodies. When I walk relax, I'll be able to translate this into my riding.

Next, Nada did some stretches with me laying down on a table, with my knees bent. She did some arm exercises so that my muscles would relax. She showed me how to breathe and think forward and out through my head, with my nose and jaw being a little heavier, allowing the muscles to quit holding my shoulders up.  She showed me how to lift my arms effortlessly, without any strain in the neck.

After I came up off the table, my walk was bouncy and even, with a lightness that I never had before. Now to translate that lightness to my riding.  I hope I can remember even part of this tomorrow.

What was interesting tonight, as I laid down on the carpet, with my knees bent, my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter laid down beside me, in the same position.  As I moved my arms, she moved hers.  How much fun is that to relax together.  Now, to just copy her an do my exercises with that same level of tension, which is none!

Read below to understand what Alexander is all about:

"The Alexander technique is a way of learning how you can get rid of harmful tension in your body. Although certainly not a full definition of the Alexander Technique, this is a good start.*

"The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body. The Alexander Technique is a method which helps a person discover a new balance in the body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities..." (This more complete description is offered in "Changing The Way You Work: The Alexander Technique").

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