Learning to Play
Play is an important part in learning to exist in a complex environment. Babies and children learn to move through a desire for something. Their need or their want leads them, through trial and error, to move in the direction of the object of their desire. Babies move many times in the same direction, slowly building the necessary connections in their brain and muscular system until one day often to their surprise (and delight) they are able to reach, grasp or roll to the object. As we grow older and learn to respond or react to our environment our curiousity and openness can diminish. For many adults repetition of actions or activities can seem without purpose, mundane or boring. This is in contrast to the young child, where each repetition is novel and serves to refine their coordination to achieve their ‘end’ through more and more complex movement.
My memories of being a child are of being an observer – of watching my siblings play. I also remember being more interested in sitting around with the adults and listening to the conversation. My Mum used to say I had an “old head on young shoulders”. I learned to be responsible from a young age as the eldest of five siblings and have few memories of playing. These patterns of response became my default in many situations throughout life.
In the years I descended into chronic pain my world closed down, fear dominated and openness and curiosity departed. Eventually I stumbled across the Alexander Technique via yoga. I knew nothing about the Technique, but at the first workshop I attended realised I had found something profoundly different to that which I had experienced to date. My body experienced a more connected sense of moving, a possibility for opening out of the contracted state I found myself in.
Over a period of two years I attended workshops and lessons and learnt to explore the unknown – the use and parts of my self that I had not explored or had suppressed earlier in life. In a safe environment and with the support of skilled teachers, my body began to change and open, I began to be able to move with more clarity and confidence. Through gentle explorations my mind also opened to the impact of my thoughts and beliefs on my movement and responses to life. I began to experience a greater openness to a new range of possibilities.
After two years, I wanted to deepen the enquiry and so enrolled in a four year teaching program. I loved it, I loved being in such a creative environment with wonderful teachers and students from across the globe, exploring and learning to express ourselves in a more embodied way through voice, music and movement. I became more curious, more adventurous, laughing and enjoying life more.
Earlier this year I had great fun exploring developmental movement[i] with a friend and fellow teacher. Each week, we explored moving in a variety of ways and did a series of workshops looking at and exploring rolling from front to back and back again in the way a baby does. This felt so good and we often ended by rolling the entire length of the room over and over in the way you might remember rolling down hills as children. I had fun, felt freer (sometimes dizzy) and excited at how far I had come.
In the time since I began training I have also had the wonderful experience of becoming a grandparent to three energetic, wonderful children. This has given me a new avenue to see through them how I started in life - open, receptive, curious, easily poised and balanced. I am very happy to be able now to sit on the floor and play with them. I enjoy taking them to the park regularly and learning from their lack of fear as they explore climbing frames and tumble on monkey bars.
My four year old grandson loves nothing more than to jump at or on me from a height or a distance. In the past I have responded by saying, no and shrinking away from his exuberance. Now I am more available to respond creatively, to use his well coordinated and elastic energy to explore a more enjoyable interaction. A few weeks ago as I was sitting playing on the floor he suddenly ran from across the room and jumped on me. I caught him laughing and rolled over and over with him, much to our joint delight.
Somatic[ii] educational practices support us to explore new process-oriented ways to achieve our ‘end’, our wants, our needs. They enable us to widen our movement and response repertoire, developing a more integrated level of coordination and well-being. For many of us they invite us to be more playful, more curious, to explore rather than ‘try’ or ‘try harder’ or ‘do it perfectly’ which often serves only to tighten us. The Alexander Technique provides us with a set of skills and principles to apply to whatever arises, to have a greater understanding of our habitual ways of responding, to inhibit the old pathway and develop the capacity to choose a response, the greatest freedom of all.
Beginning March 2018 Anne will hold workshops exploring the application of the Alexander Technique to a range of areas including everyday movement, yoga, dance, the voice and breath. To express interest you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org