The Alexander Technique, Somatic Experiencing and the Magic of Non Doing-Courtney Bird
There’s a blue bird who speaks to me on my porch. I just got done with a yoga practice and the line, “when you give energy, you get energy” comes back to me.
So I am going to pour that into my writing.
Yesterday I worked with a woman named Debby Jay, she works with people doing a form of healing work known as the Alexander Technique. I had never heard of this before New Years, so when I met her and discovered what she does I wanted to know more.
The front of her house was covered with soft yellow leaves, and as I stepped over them I felt a sense of relief, the color yellow always comforts me.
What I discovered was that the Alexander Technique is designed to help people attune to their inner experience. Or rather the work Debby does is to help people get in tune with their inner experience and their bodies by also using somatic experiencing.
She explained to me how people are not always in tune with what’s going on, a lot of this is conditioning, family functioning, if one felt they could not express their needs and boundaries then many times they would stop owning their feelings and experiences, and would lose touch with their bodies. Which is known as dissociation.
As she spoke about this I felt all the times I left my body when I felt uncomfortable, when I felt I couldn’t express what I needed or how I felt if someone stepped too close into my space.
It’s sort of a surreal experience, I think a bit of the french film, Fantastic Planet, when all of the blue people are meditating and leave their bodies to go to other worlds, leaving their bodies behind, but instead of this being a healthy experience, leaving your body in this way, it becomes damaging experience by not expressing and owning how you feel. Not being able to set boundaries for yourself. We can only control our own bodies and the way we feel, and if we don’t do this it can be very destructive to one’s self.
As she talked she told me a bit about the relationship she had with her Husband, also a teacher of the Alexander technique. She told me how they took time every morning to have tea together, and how they also took time to just “be”. They would lay down in a sort of restorative posture, their heads propped up on books. She explained how crucial this was in the beginning of their relationship, how it saved it in a sense. This “non-doing” the just being in the body, they would sit and talk and look at the ceiling.
She showed me and I laid down on the floor with her.
Within minutes I felt incredibly grounded and at ease, like there was nothing to accomplish, nor their need be anything to accomplish. It was just a matter of feeling your body supported by the earth. She asked me to try opening my legs straight on the floor. To feel what happens when I did this, the opening.
And that is what happened, my body opened and felt longer.
Non-doing is a huge principle of the technique. We spoke of the culture we live in, and how we are a very achieving culture. She explained to me, how she stopped trying to work so grandly because it began wiping her out and so she changed her focus to a more personal one, “it’s a different way of being in the world, to take joy in the simple things.” Like having tea together in the morning, or the way she showed me her backyard and she smelled the orange from the tree.
The work she does to share this with other’s has a lot to do with the notion that people do not have the tools to have a positive daily experience. This is what she wants to bring to people, coming from a place of love and compassion. Mamma Eva told me recently, you must love what you do, if you don’t, don’t do it.
I asked Debby what she thought love was: