Below are reflections from some of my classmates on their experience with Alexander Technique in the context of our studies at Nalanda:
“Several phenomena occurred over the course of the lesson which echo the expansion and development I have experienced as my meditation practice has developed. For most of my life, I have experienced personal, spiritual and psychological growth as being a primarily intellectual and mind based process. Although I have always cared for and enjoyed my body and physical experiences, I did not feel that my body played a particularly important role in growth and development. In the past several years, mostly through my developing meditation practice, I have become attuned to the complexity and power of mind-body connections. In a very pleasurable way, the AT lessons reinforced these feelings. In particular:
1) I have experienced breath, and observation of the breath, as a powerful and infinitely complex locus of mind-body connection. Even before you introduced breath-facilitated instructions, I was experiencing breath mediated expansionary feelings from the AT work. I can't really put into words my sense of direct vital connection between my breath and my deepest sense of my existence. With the AT, I feel this same sense of connection between breath and physical body. Thus the body becomes connected with the deep sense of existence. Quite special and hard to describe!
2) Meditation has been an avenue for me to a very expansionary sense of self---a self that transcends many previously accepted boundaries. The AT practice gives me the same expansionary sense---an ability to experience my body as able to expand outside of previously accepted limits.
3) Both the meditation and the AT practice can be intensely pleasurable and joyful for me, but both can be frustrating when I "try too hard" and aim for a specific state and result. The discipline of "letting go" to move forward seems very similar in both.
4) Through meditation, I have experienced the pleasure and complexity of being "mindful" and paying a great deal of attention to apparently small things. This is directly applicable to the AT practice.
5) In both meditation and AT practice, I experience a connection with inner instincts of which I was previously largely unaware.
Overall, the Nalanda course and my meditation practice have helped me to experience a pleasurable, expansionary, holistic, multi-dimensional sense of existence. The AT lessons echoed and reinforced this sense.” - Psychiatrist
"I found AT very applicable to what we are learning in the Nalanda program this year on several levels. I found our work from the very first session really made me aware of my breath in my next day's meditation practice... I do well with mantras, visualizations, etc but my breath is something that seems to be very difficult for me to concentrate on. I think that our work in AT helped me realize on a more profound level that that is because I don't breathe easy... My stress response and fibromyalgia have me "shrink-wrapped" so that I never get a deep breath. It is almost like I am always holding my breath. I cannot believe that my inability to concentrate on my breath doesn’t have something to do with this -- especially since I found my ability to concentrate on my breathing so much easier the following day.
I also found that AT made me recognize how much stress I carry in my body. Because I ache most of the time, I think I am pretty good at dulling my sense of it. I felt better the day after… better than before... the adjustment of my head and neck helped me free up my body and my mind. And I feel like this helped me in my sitting practice.
AT is a subtle process and I don't know how to put the experience into words. And I don't know if I want to. I do well with words and visualizations and mental
constructs. I am thankful to them. But for my health and wholeness I think I need to listen to my body more so I can grow into all the benefits of meditation.” -
“Through the AT practice I learned a lot about my body. I developed a sense of awareness that I didn’t have before. From my experience, the AT could be considered a mindfulness practice since the focus is in really paying attention to what the body is telling you, which requires a deep listening and connection of our mind with the body.
I truly believe that the AT can really complement and enhance different practices that we have been doing, starting with helping to align the body and mind, or at least to see what is going on in our minds and to observe our body. I really appreciate the way the AT teachers are trained to help the body very subtly in “the way”, so the student can really embody it, incorporate the changes and develop a sense of trust in their own body. I think in that sense the AT can complement the mentor bonding practices--our body as our mentor.
Also by really listening to the body and re-aligning it, I feel we are taking care of ourselves and that I think is part of the self-care practices needed in order to serve people. Developing a deep connection within ourselves is the first step to be able to extend it to all our relationships.
In the meditation practices we create and rehearse “ideal” situations in order to embody them, I think in that sense the AT is very similar, not only regarding the movement and postures but also in the relationship with the teacher, where the sense of trust is crucial. Reification habits, difficulty in letting go, and mistrust are experiences that we hold in our bodies and that can be explored with this technique, and that can change into more fulfilling experiences like openness, sense of trust, connection, etc. AT is not a posture technique but a way of reconnecting with our bodies...”
“...It was a relief to have the insights that I do have about where I’m holding tension in my body confirmed and to have some new ways to think about unraveling that, rather than just having a yoga perspective. More than the more intellectual or conscious aspects though, I think that the somatic experience of having hands-on guidance brought forth a new way of interacting with White Tara during my practice. Since I meditate lying down, the traditional seated visualization feels disjointed and instead I came to a more intimate and tactile sense of being with her, still seated but with my head in her lap and her left hand with lotuses over my heart and her right hand over my brow. This feels extra cozy and helps me to relax the muscle tension that occupies much of my meditation time....
I was excited that my body seemed to have progressed between lessons and today the big takeaway was about back body breathing and not holding my breath between inhales and exhales. I hold an enormous amount of tension in my neck and right side and this has helped me to feel so much more relaxed in general. But it also has reminded me that in the past my mahamudra practice successfully involved this type of breathing rather than the more abdominal breathing which has been my more recent training. Returning to this helps facilitate the physical/bodily dissolutions that have proven so difficult over the past few years because of all of the chronic tension...
Many things synthesizing into the overall lesson to concentrate on allowing to relax what is able to relax and trusting that the part that needs to be strong in response will take its role. I realized through these lessons that I have a lot of practice being tense and strong and assertive and there is a lot of positive/useful and also negative/unbeneficial muscle memory there. Even yoga has trained me to bring all of these qualities to relaxing into stretches, tensing up all of these other muscles to support a safe, deep release somewhere else. I’m even more active through muscle tension when I’m sitting than I was aware, though I’m continually frustrated by a minute awareness of these when I’m lying down for meditation! The concept of the fountain has been really useful as well with my neck and shoulder trouble spots and with cultivating a more open energy flow in my torso. But overall, the Alexander lessons have helped me to train in becoming gentler about relaxation, suggesting more than applying pressure, learning to release more and stretch less, etc. Hopefully, this will all translate to some reduced neuroticism, as Ferenczi and Reich would predict!
Overall, it was just incredibly stimulating to engage with a new type of bodywork at the same time as learning so much about psychotherapies which are more centered around the body. The simultaneity of the two vastly enriched my experience..."
The Medicine Buddha