Two arms and a leg

End of Term 3

This week I came face to face with my arms and learned a valuable lesson.  Every day in our training we have short sessions where we experience working with our hands on other students under the guidance of our teachers. I was in a group with two of the more advanced students, and was being taught how to take and move another student’s leg while she was lying on the Alexander teaching table.

My position was fine, my feet were firmly on the floor, and my hands were making contact with her leg.  But when it was time for me to lift her leg and move it so it was flat on the table, I froze.  My body and brain didn’t seem to know how to lift something without using unnecessary strength in my arms.

The instruction from the teacher was to keep my arms as they were, and use my back and my body to gently lift the leg and place it down on the table.  I knew the leg wasn’t particularly heavy, but I could feel my upper arm muscles engaging as if I was about to lift a substantial weight.  I knew I didn’t want to lift with undue effort from my arms, but I wasn’t able to allow my body to move in a different way from usual, and I became unable to move.  My own belief that I needed to make a huge effort with my arms was stopping me from moving in a more dynamic and integrated way.

To get over this, I mirrored the teacher closely while he moved the leg, so I got a sense of the movement I was aiming for. I then practised lifting two heavy books from a desk, not gripping with my fingers, but instead holding them with open hands, and using my back and legs to bring me and the books up without effort in the arms.  The following day I worked again with legs on the table, and this time I had a greater belief in my body’s capacity to lift weight without force.  So unlearning of ingrained habits takes place day by day, and new ways of moving slowly take their place.

Below are some arms and legs I spotted on a walk today in the City of London.

Paternoster by Elisabeth Frink in Paternoster Square
Statue at the foot of Queen Victoria, outside St Paul’s Cathedral
War Memorial, south side of St Paul’s Cathedral
War Memorial, south side of St Paul’s Cathedral

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