One of the most stimulating elements of our training is the way we learn through a ‘spiral curriculum’. We revisit the same topics or activities, but approach them from a subtly different angle as our skills and capacities develop.
To explain, I’ll describe my experience with the lunge. This is both a classic Alexander procedure, and a way of placing ourselves to move flexibly and easily. When I first started, it seemed the lunge was a mysterious position that everyone else but me knew how to do. (On the course, new trainees can start in any term, so there is an ever-changing mix of experience in the room). This was the spiral curriculum at work, and I had entered at the bottom.
As I now realise, I needn’t have worried. Before long the lunge came round again, and one of our teachers instructed me in the procedure. This didn’t mean I could do it – I found it difficult and uncomfortable, I could get into it with instruction, but couldn’t spring back out of it and felt frustrated with myself. But I did have a sense of its possibilities, and could let it lie fallow until I was ready to take it further.
A few months later, my own body use had become freer and more flexible. When we next practised it, I could do it with more ease and minded less if it went wrong. I began to see my difficulties as something to work with, not a cause for frustration. Now trying it again, I’m able to differentiate between the formal ‘procedure’ with specific steps, and the more dynamic position I can take up when working with someone on the table or in the chair.
I’m making links with similar movements in our weekly tai chi sessions, and I’m experimenting with it in daily life. I’m more able to play with it, and see what it has to offer me, rather than being determined to get it right. Over time my body has changed and I have greater physical capacity. But I also perceive it differently at each turn of the spiral. What was difficult and frustrating to begin with has now become a puzzle that I’m looking forward to solving. I’m less worried than before about how long it might take to get there.
With spiral learning I have to actively engage in the process for things to make sense. But I can also let go of the need to grasp everything at once – it will come round again, and by then, I’ll be more aware of what it means.
Spirals and other shapes from the community Skip Garden in London’s Kings Cross