22. Standing Up

If sitting down is about enjoying the unknown, standing up is about not seeing every task as a mountain to climb.  For various reasons, including the design of the chairs we sit on or in, and the things we tend to do when we are sitting, many people actually make sitting more demanding, effortful and tiring than standing.  Because we associate sitting with comfort and relaxation this discomfort belonging to sitting is often hard for people to notice.  Sitting tends to bring on the battle with gravity, or the sense of giving in, collapsing.  This in turn leads to the idea that what is needed is the (painful) effort of sitting-up straight, and the battle continues.  So, for the Alexander Technique, standing-up really begins with truly sitting – and that means giving up the determination to stand.  The chair is there below you.  Is it supporting you?  Is it able to support you?  Are you allowing it to support you?  In asking these questions I could be imagining you sprawled on some giant sofa, leaning back in a supposedly relaxing recliner, or sitting on a simple stool.  Something is supporting you, unless you have just fallen through the floor, and it’s good to know whether it’s you with the chair, or you hovering above the chair, holding yourself up, or you collapsing into the chair.  So, the hope is, with the Alexander Technique, that you are moving, as you stand up, from a position of ease and freedom, so that your head (again) can lead you, taking the spine with it.  Your head actually moves forward and down in a typical action of beginning to stand up, but the strong emphasis in your thinking, in your sense of where you are heading – up! – means that initial movement need not be one of collapse.  Collapse would mean that you have even more of a mountain to climb than you had to begin with.  There’s always something there to support you!  Here it shifts from, mainly, the chair under your pelvis, your sit-bones, to, once you’re on the way to standing, to the floor under your two feet.  So easily we rush that transfer, pulling ourselves up, pressing down with our hands on our thighs, not waiting for the weight to be there, over our feet.  We forget we have legs which are ready to straighten through the big joints of ankle, knee and the head of the femur.  If my head truly leads me – in more senses than one – I will stay whole, I will stay supported.  I will be the mountain rising rather than the straining climber.

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