Going ‘Up’ is a fundamental experience of the Alexander Technique.
Cultivating this ‘whole body response to gravity’ is a central aim of both the Alexander Technique lesson and of a personal Alexander Technique practice; and how to tap into this response during your everyday life is a real skill.
To describe the experience with words always falls short, but it’s helpful to work towards a shared understanding. John Nichols, an Alexander Technique teacher in New York describes it as,
” ….this natural, whole body response to gravity so that from the contact of your feet on the ground you’re opening up all the way through. You have this springy dynamic that takes you up through your spine and opens you through the thorax, the back of the shoulders, the hips, everything is coming up and out in response to the contact of the feet on the surface of the planet.”
Going ‘Up’ can also seem elusive in that you can’t get directly. Instead, the response shows up (or emerges) when your attention and attitude, biomechanics and muscle tone, inhibition and activation of various aspects of our motor commands and movement, all come together together with just the right timing in just the right way.
But once you consciously set up the conditions to tap into this whole body response - you go ‘Up’.
Here are a few more things people notice about it
It often comes with a feeling (kinaesthetic perception) of lightness; as if you’re lighter in weight or ‘floating’ in your movement.
The experience is of it happening to you, with you, or through you - as opposed to you doing it. It seems to be an unconscious process, which can be cultivated by conscious processes.
It makes you more, rather than less ready for movement and response.
You lighten upwards instead of pulling up.
It leads to a state of being more open and responsive to yourself and the environment as a single unified experience.
It can involves opening up and out, like a flower in bloom
It’s expanding the self vs. compressing the self; as in expanding into the space around you (height, width, and depth).
Under touch, the person ‘going up’ feels lighter and easier to guide or move - like a responsive dancer as opposed to a collapsed or overly tight dance parter.
It often occurs with state of open focus as opposed to a narrowed focus
It’s clearly not yet communicated to others well without direct raw experience, nor accessed easily enough by students without significant skill
For most students it is a self-reinforcing experience; it feels good so you want more of it, or want the feeling to remain. Sometime the experience is so unique in sensation that the simple judgment of good or bad simply doesn’t match what students feel.
It can stay through further change and growth, but once you try to hold onto and keep it the same you loose it
It can feel like a reflex because it can ‘happen’ in a suddenn moment - but through reflexes may play a part, it’s more that a reflex.
It’s opposite includes all the various forms of compression (through pulling down or collapse, or tightening/ constriction in movement, posture, and reaction etc..).
Once you’ve had the experience of ‘going up’, it becomes much easier to talk about the Alexander Technique, to read an alexander Technique book and know what in the world the author is getting at, and to articulate at least one clear result of the practice.
Going ‘UP’ is not exclusive to the Alexander Technique.