- Mentally, or out loud, tell yourself to “Get yourself together!”
- Say it like you mean it.
- Without judgment, closely observe what happens in your body and breath for 30 seconds as you repeat that command.
If you’re reading this blog post chances are you have found a satisfactory, if not more than satisfactory, socially acceptable way to “Get yourself together” in order to function in your daily life. You keep yourself together mentally, physically, and emotionally well enough to sustain some sort of a career, home and social life.
I have often felt confident in my ability to hold myself together, or maintain composure, in stressful situations. Upon observation though, I noticed that when I think of keeping it together my pectoral muscles tighten around my sternum pulling my shoulders forward and down, in turn reducing the ability of my ribs to move with my breath. I collapse and crunch down through my whole torso, compressing my digestive organs, and creating excess pressure through my low back and hips.
From an Alexander Technique point of view, we ask:
1. How am I holding myself together?
This is an opportunity to observe your personal mental and muscular patterns of holding, as I observed in myself in the previous paragraph.
2. Is it serving me?
3.Could it be more efficient?
How we compose ourselves or hold ourselves together is synonymous with how we organize and support ourselves. Chronic pain and/or anxiety are indications that how you are supporting yourself may not be functioning optimally. Keeping yourself together can also be closely tied to trying to exert control over the present moment.
In practicing the Alexander Technique we give ourselves permission to not have to keep it all together. In fact, we risk letting things fall apart in order to have a new experience of postural organization and support.
We aim to break apart the psychophysical constructs of how we habitually compose ourselves. This means noticing and releasing excess muscle tension to create structural space through our skeletal system.
We say thank you to the old ways for holding us together for so long, and we invite the support of the ground, and the present moment, to flow through us in an upwardly mobile way.
We are not unwinding excess tension in order to collapse into an inactive blob, as we might in a total relaxation exercise, but rather to access more of an intentional and mindful mastery over how we move through our daily activities. This specifically means sending our heads away from our necks and backs, letting our spines lengthen, and our backs widen through our shoulders, hips, and ribs. We keep our eyes open to see the world, and we let ourselves be breathed.
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times