Can the Alexander technique vastly improve your golf by helping you to “do-less” by freeing yourself of tension and non-productive movement patterns your golf swing? These are a few things we’ll be exploring in the article below.
So what exactly is the Alexander Technique? The Alexander Technique is a 100 year-old method founded by F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), for understanding how to use your body and mind. It is not an exercise program. It’s a unique way of thinking and challenging the habitual ways you use your body.
The main premise is that overall habits of how you use your body, good or bad, influence how well or poorly you execute any activity. Alexander teachers observe students during everyday activities like sitting, standing and walking.
They are trained to recognize unnecessary tension and, through verbal explanation and hands-on guidance, they guide their students how to dissipate this tension. The student can then begin to bring this activity into any (and all) activities – of course, including golf.
It’s been fascinating so far as it begins to unravel the question, “Why can’t I improve my golf swing (and therefore my game)?” On the surface it seems quite easy, you see what the instructor is showing you and you implement it and Whala! your swing magically improves. But why doesn’t that happen to most of us? Is there something wrong with you(me)?
This can also put you into a downward spiral as the more you try to practice (to get better) the worse it gets. It’s kinda like – the more you try to get it right the more you get it wrong.
In my case it’s sometimes like, “Why are all my practice swing so smooth and effortless but the minute I step up the ball something else starts to take over and it’s like I’m trying to kill a frog with a stick.” Can you relate to any of this?
And the answer is NOT practicing more, exercising more, looking at video as these are psychophysical problems, caused by how the mind interprets bodily sensation, and it’s all-too-frequent tendency to interpret this data incorrectly.
As Missy Vineyard states in her wonderful book, How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery
The chief source of our difficulty lies in our biology. We learn, but we learn imperfectly and incorrectly. What is more, a creature that makes mistakes needs to be able to to self-correct.
But self-correction depends on accurate self-judgement, and we seldom perceive ourselves accurately. Our brain is easily tricked and misled. We fail to accurately perceive or fully understand our misuse and our misperceptions. This is perhaps our greatest shortcoming.
Not sure about you but I have often experienced this at a lesson when I just cannot get myself to “feel” a certain position that the instructor can. I mean, how could he possibly know of your physical history, of your injuries of your patterns of tension?
Another part of of the Alexander Technique is learning how the mind and body are inter-related. For example, if you are lying on your back and think, “don’t move my leg,’ it will not be in a tense state but if you decide to move you “automatically” invoke your same patterns. It’s actually triggered before you move. Further, your muscle tension is activated by your thought of moving.
It all comes back to that well-known quote, “How you do anything is how to do everything.” What hit me when reading the book was about an individual trying to get better at tennis but what she did not realize is that HOW she plays tennis is what is preventing her from playing good tennis. How’s that for a mind-melt?!
So it seems to me that *most* of us have a built-in dilemma – that is, we have unconscious patterns of movement and tension that we don’t even know about that affect EVERYTHING we do. What do we do? Is there anyway out of this insidious, paradoxical trap we have found ourselves in?
The answer is, Yes, there is.
At this juncture I certainly don’t have all the answers but you begin to investigate, to become aware and to move in a new direction – creating new, healthy patterns. This involves learning how to properly rest the body, perhaps working with a Alexander specialist to reveal those hidden patterns of tension and mis-alignment.
What I like too is that a lot of the Alexander techniques are called “self-experiments” It’s not something you have to get right. It’s not a right or wrong thing but just a way to help you discover something new or something you have not seen before. A lot of them, I’ve found, are actually quite interesting and fun to do.
I’ll be updating you periodically on my journey and how this is affecting my golf game. If you have any questions, insight or commentary please post in comments below.
Here are a few other resources that might be helpful:
Golf Sense: Practical Tips On How To Play Golf In The Zone – from the perspective of the Alexander Technique.