I’ve been having important lessons recently with my Alexander Technique teacher trainer Ann Rodiger, founder and director of the Balance Arts Center. The essence of the lessons: Ann is working with me so that I am able to release, lengthen and widen way up at the top of my spine. I am doing so as I have never been able to before.
You might remember that I came to the Technique because of the consequences of a genetic problem: a severe stenosis of my cervical spine. I underwent an involved neurosurgery called a laminoplasty to correct it. My spinal column is now being kept open with titanium rods and clips so that my spinal cord can never be crushed again. Danger of paralysis was averted. Cervical 3-7 had to be fused. The surgery was totally successful but of course I had a lengthy recovery period, and I was left in severe pain. Physical therapy did not relieve it. After 2 1/2 years of this pain I finally tried Alexander Technique lessons. The pain disappeared after a month or so of lessons.
And so, I wanted more and more lessons. I subsequently decided that I should train to become an Alexander Technique teacher. I am now well into my third year of training.
With the fusion comes no movement. However I do have movement above and below the fusion. In these lessons, we are working on getting me to release more consistently above cervical 3. And I am doing so like I’ve never been able to. One time, on the table, I had a visceral vision of my spine, my brain, my head. I felt like I could see inside my skull in a 3D kind of way. I found I was breathing higher up and lower down. My shoulders released along with the top of my spine. It was all so mysterious. Maybe it’s so intense for me since the rest of my cervical spine is fixed.
Recently I went to MoMA to see the exhibition Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty. This title is taken from a description of Degas’ work by Mallarmé. I was remembering the “inside my head” feelings as my friend and I walked around. There was a photo taken by Degas of Mallarmé. I stood before it, transfixed. I started thinking about the hermeticism of Mallarmé’s poetry. I recently read an article in The New Yorker by Alex Ross on the difficulties of translating Mallarmé. The article is entitled Encrypted. Ross writes about reading Mallarmé: “After only one or two lines, though, you are engulfed in a fine mist, and a certain terror sets in.”
I thought…this is how I am currently feeling about my Alex Tech teacher training journey. I am engulfed in a fine mist as I undertake to make this new releasing my new habit. This all seems elusive…but it is becoming more reliable. I feel like I am accessing the encryption to my own use more and more often. Was I walking around the museum that day with much improved use of self than a few years ago? I think so. And I don’t think a certain terror has set in. That terror came in my neurosurgeon’s office when I was told my cervical spine had to be fused. And that terror is long gone.
Here’s another citation from The New Yorker article…about the difficulties of reading Mallarmé’s poetry: “…many readers have concluded that the effort is not worth it. For others, though, the difficulty of the path is justified by the unearthly beauty that hovers in the distance.” I cannot think of a better description of my Alexander Technique teacher training journey.