The Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique and Hatha Yoga have been recognized for decades as effective means of resolving functional limitations, enhancing health and improving performance skills. The Manner of Action explores, explains and clarifies the fundamentals of these methods, previously thought to be opposed, their synergy and the power for change at their roots. Detailed are practices one can learn at home that further serve the transformation of health and life.
THE INFINITE NETWORK OF POSSIBILITY
IMAGINE you are walking down a country road at dusk and, looking in the distanc, and through the dimming light, you see a darkened figure approaching you on foot. The shadows of the evening deepening into night conceal the clothes and person’s features from the eye. How is it then you know and can recognize a friend?
You know because your friend and each of us organize ourselves in movement in a personally unique manner. This characteristic patterning derives in part from our inheritance but in a larger measure from our experiential learning, and we are active as that patterning, generally unconsciously, in everything we do.
What we inherit through our family of origin in physical terms remains a subject of research: Organic strengths and weaknesses, bone structure and body type, facial features and so forth. The means whereby we learn and all of what we learn regarding action patterns, movement and coordination are a more complex matter. In Ida Rolf’s text, The Integration of Human Structures, she tells the story of a man who suffered severe injuries to a leg and his pelvis in the Second World War and who, though he lived and was otherwise healthy, consequently walked with a pronounced limp. After the war, he married and had a son. Remarkably, before the boy had reached puberty, he limped in the same way as his father.
This is not some weird and isolated aberration. We are each of us alike that child in many complicated ways.
The ability of the human nervous system to learn, through which we adapt and change, is immense and subtle. We do not learn merely through imitation as in that story. Our physical development altogether, while guided genetically, is in part an open-ended process of functional learning. Our bodily expression of emotional character and fundamental beliefs is largely a matter of learning. How we adapt to and manifest ourselves physically in social interactions, work and play are learned. Also, as the mechanism reflexively responds to stress, injury, traumas of every kind, even disease, poor nutrition, and surgery, how those responses are habituated is learning.
Stress, trauma, feeling, believing, imitation and development, in fact, any experience or factor that instigates or involves a physical expression or response, which response is repeated, makes for learning — and specifically to our discussion here, sensorimotor learning. Most such learning occurs unconsciously and results in unconscious habits of self-organization, moving and sensing. As there are numberless learning possibilities, so there are many ways for that process to go wrong.
The human structure, regarding the skeleton and soft tissue, has a wide range of adaptability to patterns of self-organization or what Alexander called “use”. However, the chronic or recurrent aches and pains or worse, the rheumatic and arthritic conditions that many begin to suffer even in early adulthood, result from patterns of unconscious or habitual organization, or rather disorganization, which the structure can no longer tolerate. When stiffness, chronic tension or muscle contraction, chronic overuse or under-use, misalignment and shearing stresses, ischemia, hypermobility and so on the go on too hard or too long pain begins and degenerative conditions result. This deterioration can be reversed. Habitual patterns of poor self- organization and the consequent degeneration can be resolved through renewed sensorimotor learning. The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method represent the best in such ways of learning. Through these sophisticated learning methods, a person becomes more sensitive to the quality of his or her movement and more integrated into movement and coordination. With time and practice, the sources of pain and decline are undone. The body is freed in action and regenerates.
There is a natural design of human function developed over the millions of years of our evolution in the context of gravity, and each of us has an almost limitless capacity for learning in the form of our nervous system or natural intelligence. The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method take ingenious advantage of these facts and, through refined techniques of gentle manipulation*, facilitate learning of greater sensitivity to the physical self and an improved quality of movement, no matter what the problematic causes. Soon a person can more easily come to feel when an action is not harmonious with the structure and more readily find a coordination that is functionally competent and feels good. In this way, one resolves problems before or after they have set in and comes to enjoy greater pleasure and agility in the body as the common experience of everyday life.
Age is not an obstacle to such renewal. The possible connections in the human nervous system outnumber the stars in the galaxy. This virtually infinite network of possibility is the source of our almost unlimited capacity to learn or relearn. We use only a portion of these connections even in our prime. Many so-called signs of aging — pain, affliction, and limitation — are often the results of complex learned patterns that can be undone and remade through the means used in these methods. The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method open new neural pathways through focused lessons that address the individual’s needs and interests. These lessons provide concentrated sensorimotor experience relevant to the person’s present state that he or she, therefore, welcomes and enjoys. This design and enjoyment make such learning interesting, usable, potent and more direct than the trial-and-error learning of childhood. This is how these methods can effectively resolve functional limitations and other problems that may arise in the course of our lives and so enhance the quality of life.
*The word ‘manipulation’ here and throughout this book indicates movement, touch or handling as strategic interventions and does not imply brusqueness, force or coercion.
The Natural State
The Infinite Network of Possibility
Freedom from Reaction
The Nature of Water
The Evolution of a Technique
Essentials of the Work
The Fourteen Senses
Structure, Function, Self-Organization & Use
Yoga: Structure & Function
Motor Concepts and Percepts
The Causes of Pain
The Actural Dynamic
The Hip Joints, The Movement of the Pelvis and Grounding
More on Giving Directions
The Primary Control
The Four Imaginary Centres
The Frontal Line
Habit, Learning & Freedom
A First Possible Lesson
A Second (Impossible) Lesson
Ends & Means
Positions of Mechanical Advantage
Illustrations: Writing & Lifting
The Whispered ‘Ah’
The Tarzan Breath
Hands on the Back of a Chair
Two Approaches to the Organization of Function
Awareness Through Movement
An Analysis of Movement
Pain as Misinformation
Release & Differentiation
Table: ATM Strategies
ATM Course: Intelligence in Action
1. Knee Circles
2. Arm Circles
4. Pelvic Clock
5. Forward Bending
6. Cat & Cow
7. Ball of Air
8. Silly Walking
10. Extending the Back
11. Back Roller
12. Opening the Legs
15. Sitting Cross-legged
16. Serpentine Spine
17. Reaching with the Rib Cage
19. Forward Roll
20. Sitting to Standing
Hatha Yoga: A Somatic Approach
Alignment & Symmetry
Pain as Information
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Isn’t good posture really just a matter of holding oneself properly?
Is the Alexander Technique a remedy for arthritis?
Will the Alexander Technique make me look better?
Can elderly people benefit from these methods?
Can chiropractic and massage help a bad back?
What about physical exercise?
My physiotherapist tells me to strengthen my abdominal muscles
to stabilize my back: is that correct?
Can the Technique improve my golf game?
Will I always have to work on myself?
Can the Technique be useful in the field of healthcare?
The Bodily Patterns of Anxiety, Effort, Protection & Collapse
Freedom in Action