Perception Problems

Alexander Technique
man practicing piano

Why are you so good at your bad habits?

(And no, this isn’t the beginning of a joke.)

Because practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes you good at what you practice.

Whatever you practice. And you practice your bad habits a lot.

So, what’s the takeaway here?

Be careful what you practice.

When it comes to practicing a physical skill or working on your posture one obstacle that’s often not mentioned—but really important—is how untrustworthy your perception may be at times.

While you’re sitting there, without thinking, just cross your arms in front of your body.

Notice how that feels to you.

Now, look down and see which arm is on top. Switch your arms so you’re still crossing your arms but the other one is on top.

Notice how that feels to you.

The first way usually feels normal or familiar or right.

The second way often feels a bit odd, unfamiliar, or sometimes downright wrong.

The first way you cross your arms without thinking is your habit. The second way—which often takes some thought and maneuvering—isn’t your habit.

Habits tend to feel normal and right. Even if they’re not serving you well. When trying to do something different—not your habit—you’ll have the tendency to want to go back to what feels normal and right—your habit.

Don’t worry. There isn’t anything wrong with you. You’re human.

Understanding that your perception may be a bit skewed due to your habits is a first step.

So, what to do about it?

If you’re going to take any type of fitness or yoga class, make sure it’s small enough that the teacher can come around to help you with your technique.

And that you’ve got a teacher who’s willing to come around and help.

If that isn’t possible try to find a class with big mirrors and use them.

I tap dance and we’ve got huge mirrors along one wall. I used to just stare at my feet or watch the teacher. With practice, I now watch myself from head to toe and see what I’m actually doing.

If you exercise at home, invest in a big mirror so you can see what you’re doing.

Videoing yourself can also be very useful. But only if you watch it afterward.

If you’re undergoing PT, often the therapist will give you exercises at one visit. And then want to give you more at the next visit without reviewing the previous ones.

Insist that they watch you do your exercises from the last visit first—correcting any technique that’s wrong—before going on to the next set of exercises.

And when it comes to working on your posture, this issue with perception is one reason why Alexander teachers use their hands in one-on-one teaching.

And why Alexander lessons typically are taught privately, allowing for this type of hands-on guidance.

Ask any student who had the opportunity to have private lessons, and they’ll tell you how invaluable that gentle touch of the teacher is to help their body “understand” a new way.

All these things will help you be more careful about what exactly it is you’re practicing.

So, you’ve got a better chance of getting good at what you want to get good at.

And not something else.

Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay


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