Alexander Technique: A Definition of FM Alexander’s Principle of Inhibition
Nancy Romita, MAmSAT, MFA, RYT, RSMT is the author of Functional Awareness Anatomy in Action for Dancers and Functional Awareness and Yoga: An anatomical Guide to the Body in Reflective Practice, published by Oxford University Press.
Habitual muscular tension can be a cause for fatigue or discomfort. When we are stressed or in discomfort, we often seek out something we need ‘to do’ or ‘to fix’ in order to relieve the stress. In actuality, it is a moment of not doing that can be very beneficial in providing a pathway to change. At times it is useful to take the opportunity to slow down and ‘press pause’.
P A U S E
The Alexander Technique is a movement re-education practice in which our thinking facilitates a change in the body’s habitual manner of performing an action to facilitate greater ease and a reduction in tension and stress. Alexander Technique teaches a specific practice to pause from habitual response. It is a moment of nondoing. This principle FM Alexander called inhibition.
In teaching the Alexander Technique to students and training people to become Alexander Technique teachers, this concept of Inhibition is pivotal to releasing unnecessary tension, to approaching circumstances in an unhabitual manner, and to facilitating a change in our actions. Inhibition is a quieting of the nervous system, a moment of nondoing. Breathing becomes apparent and the body and mind become open to a different course of action. Inhibition is the window for change. Inhibition is the undercurrent for mindfulness in action.
Inhibition is not meditation. Inhibition, in the Alexander Technique, is a practice that occurs in activity. Inhibition is a momentary thought that precedes the action itself, in order for the movement to occur with less muscular interference in the body. Inhibition is a pause to allow for a change in the approach to an action. Imagine that you are craning your head and neck forward to see the computer screen, with your shoulders lifted and tension in your neck. Instead of just pulling your shoulders down (merely tightening other muscles around the shoulder blades), allow for a moment of pause or nondoing. Let your breathing become apparent. You may sense the body naturally releasing tension around the neck and this in turn invites you to bring the head, neck, and shoulders into a place of reduced strain.
The Alexander Technique facilitates change in movement to discover ease in action. To quote master teacher Walter Carrington, “The essential thing about inhibition is the realization that you have time, you have the possibility to choose and decide.” (Act of Living, p1)
Inhibition is a key to freeing oneself from pulling down, hunkering down, or over tightening. The directions are the tools to let the body lengthen and widen into full stature and come into musculoskeletal potential. If we pause for inhibition or ‘nondoing’ and invite ourselves into length and width, the change that occurs shifts the body and changes how we move, how we see ourselves, and how others see us.
People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.
FM Alexander (Man’s Supreme Inheritance, p xiv)
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