BodyThinking - How this Course Enhances Your Teaching Skills


"Your own body is a phantom, one that your brain has constructed purely for convenience."

V. S. Ramachandran

V. S. Ramachandran was the first physician to successfully amputate a non-existent arm. Materially the arm he amputated did not exist; experientially it did.* After Gettysburg in the American Civil War, Silas Weir Mitchell first noted that many of the soldiers whose arms and legs had been amputated complained about pains in these missing limbs.

It was Mitchell who first coined the term "phantom limb" which has stuck to the modern day.

However, Ramachandran was the first to successfully demonstrate that your brain's "image" of your arm exists separately from your actual "material" arm. In everyday movements - fantastic as it seems - the truth is you don't experience your actual limb, you experience your projected image of it.

This is the raison d'être of BodyThinking: how you conceive is how your move.

For teachers of Alexander's Discovery, the implications of this are mind boggling. And far-reaching in terms of our teaching technologies. Misunderstanding this has led to a lot of nonsense in our Profession, and the source of this clearly started with the old man himself.

Here's is a brief explanation of the concepts behind BodyThinking Online…

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Your illusionary concept and experience of your limbs is projected on to your actual limbs. Read that sentence again, it mind boggling. Regardless of how inaccurate you are, you will still try to move your arm in the way you believe it works, not in the way your arm actually works.

Imagery trumps reality, but only every time.

This neuroscientific insight is the basis of BodyChance's BodyThinking Online course. In this program, you will undertake a systematic renewal of their movement imagery. It looks like an anatomy course - as you must go through all the bones, muscles and joints to arrive at this accurate imagery.

Even if you have no inaccuracies, you need to understand to see, grasp and correct them in others.

In the BodyThinking Online program, your first step is to align your imagery to the truth of your movement structure. We are already so confused, so full of nonsense, that we need to start with what is known to be actually there. This is why I am not a big fan of movement metaphors: waterfalls, floating heads and all that.

When did you last see a piece of string coming out the top of someone's head?

Better start with the facts, the truth - plenty of time to get "artistic" later. Luckily, Anatomists have chronicled more truthful information on how humans move for hundreds of years now - that job is basically done. And you will find that information within BodyThinking Online.

However, it is only an approximation - you still have your own work to do. No one person has an identical structure to another. I'd guess that a least 20% of people have unequal numbers of bones and muscles compared to the majority. Certainly ROM (Range of Movement) can differ for each person, dependant upon your individual structure.

Ballet dancers have differing ranges in their hip joints for example - flexibility is often just a bit of genetic good luck. Are you confident in telling a ballerina this?

Alexander did a great disservice to his own work when he discouraged this exploration of anatomical imagery, simply because anatomists had not benefited from the information themselves.

Of course anatomists hadn't understood - they needed Alexander's work to benefit!

Alexander failed to appreciate that their information, combined with his discovery of the primacy of head/spinal influence on co-ordination, could render this same information highly effective and beneficial, beyond what Alexander himself had to contribute.

In BodyThinking Online, you will come to appreciate how this functional anatomical knowledge can amplify and accelerate your ability to help others.

There are still teachers in our Alexander profession who are actively proud of their ignorance in this regard. The sins of the father and all that. Frankly, it is nothing to be proud about: kinaesthetic sensitivity and nuanced concepts of perception urgently need to be linked with a systematic renewal of our moving self-imagery.

Alexander's discovery of head/spinal influence on movement is a keystone concept that organises this process of renewal most successfully.

How we are constructed and move is a mental brain-based activity. You can be a paraplegic and still run down the street mentally. Soviet dissident Anatoly Sharantsy survived 400 days of solitary confinement in a freezing 5 x 6 foot cell by mentally playing chess against himself.

In his extraordinary experiment with novice pianists - which was highlighted at the first Lugano Congress - Pascual-Leone demonstrated how imagining practising the piano can significantly increase your ability to play the piano. All without going near a piano!

Fundamentally, our brain is not that good at knowing the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Why? That why I quoted  Ramachandran above...

All of our movements are cognitively projected (imagined?) - even the real. Amputated arms, remember?

Alexander also observed himself in MSI Part II when he (anonymously) mentioned "a person" (it was Alexander) who taught himself to ride a bicycle simply by studying/imagining it first:

"I have personal knowledge of a person who, by employing the principles of conscious control which I advocate, mounted and rode a bicycle downhill without mishap on the first attempt, and on the second day rode 30 miles out and 30 miles back through normal traffic."

Why oh why didn't Alexander make the connection?! It will forever be a mystery.

When you do this very same bicycle process by instead imaging accurate movements of all different kinds, you facilitate restoring your coordination to a manner that co-operates with your design. You might want to read that one again - it's the kind of lesson you can give after studying BodyThinking Online.

Instead of accuracies, we have anatomical nonsense like: "the back going back" or "widen across the arms" or "coming up in the front". All these concepts rely almost entirely on getting a certain feeling, since anatomically they are impossible to explain.

Can you explain the anatomical meaning of "the back going back"?

You have to undertake creative mental gymnastics to align these messages with the actual functional movement system you have. The result are students introducing weird and subtle additions that convince their brains they have complied with this spurious conceptualization of human movement that their teacher is encouraging.

It's all about feeling, not thinking. It needs "hands on" to make sense. People use these "feelings" to adjust their co-ordination plans, until they "feel" they are satisfying the idea that "their back is going back".

It is for this reason it is often easy at a Congress to spot who a teacher trained with.

The first task of any student of Alexander's discovery - wishing to help their Self and others - is to systematically reconstruct their brain's imagery of movement.

This is about "bodythinking" not "bodyfeeling" and your "thinking" had better be accurate.

How can this be done?

Like building a house - you start with the structure - your bones - then how they connect together - your joints - then how they are moved - your muscles - finally what ranges of movement they have. This is what you will study in BodyThinking Online.

Once there, you are now equipped to be analysing all kinds of different movements.

Getting in and out of a chair is fine, and there are literally thousands of alternative movements to study in addition to that. In ATSuccess, we encourage teachers to find a community of people who love a particular activity, then specialize in helping people with that.

Whether that be with musicians, sports people, dancers, hobbyists or office workers - your work is not narrowed, it is expanded. You help a community to change their behaviour in constructive ways. And you do that based on the accuracy of your knowledge.

If you are going to spend hundreds of additional hours of your life lying in semi-supine, I suggest begin using that time even more constructively by generating accurate images of your movement. BodyThinking Online will supply you with lots of input for that!

And you can do that while still lying in semi-supine - simply start by mentally rehearsing the location of all your joints. You can even imagine getting in and out of a chair like the musicians imagined playing the piano. It actually helps.

Then graduate to other movements, all the time imagining the head/spinal relationship that most efficiently serves your specific imagined movement. The possibilities are endless.

Of course touch is a powerful learning tool to discover new information. BodyThinking does NOT replace that, on the contrary it enhances it. How? With your new knowledge, you can sweep away the garbage in their mind that obstructs your ability to communicate effectively with your touch.

Your touch "improves" because of the increase "clarity" of your student.

Here's an example of using information from BodyThinking to assist you teaching a large group of beginners...

I have found that by...

1. Simply mapping the location of the brain (above the eyes and ears); then
2. Retelling its massive weight (5 kilos when you include bones, tissues and organs); and finally
3. Directing people to think of moving this imagined brain as they look around the room…

…has led to the same kind of pleasant reorganisation of the head/spinal musculature you would normally only expect from an "Alexander touch" type session.

I still communicate using touch - all the time - it is one tool of many that I use. Using accurate anatomical imagery is another. In this way, you can render your touch more effective. You need less time with each student before a change will happen in their movmement.

This is how BodyThinking as a tool that can assist you successfully teach Alexander's discovery to larger groups of people.

It is also arguably more enduring: the person has gained a skill-building practise to continue at home. How many students have asked you:

"What do I do to practise this?"

Well, now you have an alternative answer to replace that stock-in-trade one: "Practise semi-supine" Instead, you can say: "Practise moving your brain around in space."

The wonderful thing about learning the truth of your moving structure is how readily this information is available. This is not a "touch exclusive" approach to learning - it scales wonderfully to large groups of people, and is based on solid neuroscience to boot!

To put this into a marketing perspective - which I always do - if you were a student, what would you rather have?

A. A really delicious but expensive experience - that involved spending a lot of your time and monetary resources?

or

B. A milder and still pleasantly surprising experience - one that is instantly replicable any time you want, even while doing whatever you are doing?

I'd go for the B and save my time and money for a holiday in Italy, and so will many students.

Students don't care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.

You can help them by delivering information that gives them a better grasp of the mental images they have of their own movement. BodyThinking will supply you with those tools.

Taking people in and out of chairs works for learning - I should know, I did it that way for 10 years myself. It's just that today, I can clearly see the inherent limitations of that approach. There are so many other human activities crying out for your wisdom, and needing your own clarity in being able to analysis what is happening in these different movements.

BodyThinking is the tool to assist in be able to help students in all kinds of activities. It offers you a rich prosaic of knowledge that you can deliver in large groups and finally - maybe to your own surprise - it will enlighten on errant ideas you may still be carrying around about your own movement system.

Alexander's work does not need to exclude itself to a rich, upper echelon of people on our planet who can afford to be touched in a special way for 30 minutes by another highly trained human being (who mostly isn't making much money anyway)…

BodyChance's vision is Alexander's discovery be accessible to everyone on the planet in some form or another.

This can be achieved by both niching and scaling our work: based on a bit of modern neuroscience, with a bit of compassion for our students and some common sense marketing and biz development.

I designed a course that I wanted to study - in fact, how I learnt is by insisting on building it for my trainees. Now it is complete, you too can benefit from deepening your ability to see, understand and analyse movements.

You can try the first module - Head and Axis - and purchase the others as you wish.

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