How Much Do You Tense Up When You Simply Think About Standing?

Bob Lada, an Alexander Technique teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, tells Robert Rickover: “When I say stand up, I want you to start to stand up but not actually do it and sense what is going on. Go ahead, stand up now.

“You probably felt something there. The feeling wasn’t there at some time, it intensified, and it started to fade. All without any actual standing.”

Robert: “I felt some tension in my neck and my legs. That’s an exercise I use with students too. Get them to do everything that’s involved in an activity except the activity itself.”

Bob: “You get to the verge. You have that intensity. It’s not there and then it’s really there. Then it starts to fade.

“I bring in some choice when I tell them it’s OK to stand up the next time but I want you to pick the moment when the intensity starts to fade to start to move. Normally you would stand up immediately when that tension starts to rise. We’re going to let it rise through its cycle, start to drop, and then to stand up then.

“That exercise starts a dialogue with the student about what it means to move when you get a stimulus. Then you can start to play with what it feels like in your process to move.”

“Here’s another exercise. Get a sense of your awareness. How far it goes to your left and to your right. In front of you and behind you. Above and below. In a moment, I’m going to tell you to stand. Don’t stand but check in to see what the boundaries of your awareness are.

“OK. Stand up now. Did your range of awareness change?”

Robert: “It narrowed in.”

“An exercise where the person doesn’t do the activity is a nice way to discover the tension patterns or the visual constriction patterns or the narrowing of your field of vision patterns that accompany an act such as standing up or hitting a baseball. If you were doing the activity, the movement would tend to swamp the subtle things you would want someone to notice. Asking someone to think about doing something but to not actually do it is a good way of discovering the subtle restrictions we tend to add to ordinary activities.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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