Street food Alexander for lifting heavy suitcases

I’m at an Alexander retreat as an assistant and we’re all studying how our arms connect to our bodies. In particular, the connections that our arms have to our bodies that we tend to overlook. We tend to overlook the connection from our armpit down to our tail (our lats). And we tend to overlook just how many arm muscles there are in the back of our body.

In fact most of the muscles that we can see when we look at a swimmer from the back are arm muscles.

We’ve done a few experiments and the teacher in charge, Midori, has worked with a couple of guys carrying a table to show us how to think of this area. You can see them visibly transforming into moving easier and stronger as she does the work with them.

I’ve been given 15 minutes to help a small group with carrying luggage.

Carrying luggage is a really interesting Alexander study. Firstly, it’s a study in timing. When you’re carrying luggage, you’re usually thinking about anything but actually carrying something. You’re thinking about catching your plane or how you’re going to get from a train station to where you’re going. In other words, you’re distracted.

Secondly, carrying luggage is an action where you transition from very little load to lots of load in a short space of time and rarely when your body is in an ideal state. You sit for a long time and then suddenly you need to get up and quickly carry luggage.

Thirdly, carrying luggage involves getting your arms and legs to work together, something most people find very challenging. I’ve found that a lot of my students make good progress when I ask them to move their arms from their back or move their legs from their back. Ask them to do both together and it’s another level of difficulty.

We were all practising lifting a normal largish suitcase. I noticed one woman very carefully bent down to get her hands close to the suitcase and then froze into place just before lifting. Finally, she picked up the luggage as though it might bite her. When I checked the rest of the group, they were all doing something along the lines of think, freeze then try and move.

This is a situation that calls for street food Alexander.

Street food Alexander is a quick something to help you in busy situations. Where there’s no time for leisurely gourmet Alexander. It’s something that organises us quickly and allows us to move into picking up the luggage at a good pace.

So, street Alexander is ‘head, tail, move’. It can be shorted to ‘head, move’. Each word has a light but definite emphasis and when the moving part happens, that’s when you move. There is a natural pause between ‘head’ and ‘move’ to allow your body to organise itself. When you say ‘move’ that’s exactly what you do.

You move even if you think it isn’t working. Even if you can’t feel anything changing. Even if you know you made a mistake and you want to stop and try again to get it right this time. You still move. Otherwise the freeze habit takes over.

We got it all working a bit more easily. I found I needed to be very tolerant of imperfection. The idea was to get everyone just a tiny little bit more organised and then let them move. When I’m getting people to pick up the pace, it has to be super simple otherwise confusion starts creeping in.

Once confusion is there, its close friend freeze is never far behind.

We all learned something these experiments, me probably more than the students!

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2018

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