This is a book I was encouraged to read as part of my Alexander Technique level 1 certificate program. Below are some of the things that I have taken away from it.
1. Your general stress state impacts how much pain you feel. Dealing with how anxious you feel about certain triggers can impact how much pain you feel.
Your amygdala, the emotional center of your brain, can really impact how much stress hormone your body produces. How much stress hormone your body produces impacts your pain level threshold. This means that two people can have the same pain sensation, but the more generally stressed person will feel more pain.
I think this is fairly true. I don’t get as stressed about assignments anymore because I know that I always produce quality work and everything pulls together in the end.
2. We often feel that to have a certain amount of muscle tension indicates a sense of productivity. One of Missy’s mentors made her realize this was false.
I’m sure many people have that one person in their life who told them at a young age that they needed to try super hard to hold a muscle tight, suck their stomach in, etc. You have probably had some practice sessions where you think to yourself, “I am really sore. That means I practiced the right way today.” In performing arts and even sports, the aim should be to complete the same movement as effortlessly as possible.
I mean, how else are you going to be able to maximize your effort? Why work harder then you have to? One way to do this is to be aware of what Alexander Technique terms: directions. These directions are toward your head, up, and down (toward gravity).
3. Your feelings are not always reliable. If something physically “feels a certain way,” make sure to look in the mirror to verify. This is also a great way to check to make sure what you feel is actually what you see.
In Missy’s book, some of her patients struggled with pain. One man did not realize that he was holding his left arm unnaturally by his side, even though his wife knew the entire time and didn’t mention anything.
4. Your physical presence often conveys your beliefs.
Whenever I am in a new environment, I often try to conceal the fact that I am an overachiever. I will keep myself busy but not discuss my internal ambitions directly. Unfortunately, most people tended to figure it out anyway, which made me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.
I realized that while I did not always state what was on my mind, my body language often gave it away.
One thing that I have learned to overcome recently is that I often feel that I need to impress people with my piano playing in order to fit into music circles. This often leads to end-gaining. Thus, when I started having pain, I would get anxious because I couldn’t prove myself.
This book makes me realize that I need to let this go.
Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
To learn to let go of past self for the Christian perspective, check out Thomas Keating’s Invitation to Love. Here is a biography of his from Contemplative Outreach.
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