When F M Alexander was running his training school, there was no table available in the teaching room, so the lying down procedure could only take place on the floor. These days, teachers do use a table during lessons but pupils usually need to use the floor to work on themselves at home. According to Elisabeth Walker, who trained with him, Alexander used to call the lying down procedure 'inhibition work', which really illustrates the fact that our thinking is all-important to use during this procedure, in order to stop any reactions of tightening that occur whilst we are lying down. (Forward and Away ~ Elisabeth Walker 2008)
'You are doing what you call "leaving yourself alone'
F M Alexander - Aphorisms - Mouritz 2000
Do this procedure on the floor with a rug on it but not the bed as it is too soft and will not give you enough support in the right places. Use the number of books that your teacher suggested that you need to put under your head, so that your neck and spine are able to lengthen out freely without arching.
You may wish to choose a warm, quiet room to lie in or, as the pupil in the photo in my Blog did, create a special place up your garden, if you have one. Over time you will find you are able to work on yourself in many environments. Learn to train your thinking and allow yourself to return to a quiet, expansive state - a good stress management skill to develop.
The Act of Lying Down
First of all stop, say ‘no' and inhibit your usual way of going to lie down. Think about how you are going to move and keep using inhibition all the way through the procedure.
With awareness, give yourself directions and begin to lie down on your back with your knees bent, moving into the semi-supine position. Take care not to arch your neck back and down onto your books, but remind yourself to direct your head forward and up so that you gently maintain the spine's length as you move.
Check that you have a free neck. Then think about how you will bend your knees but inhibit any tightening and distorting that interferes with the movement, then freely bend your knees out and away from your hip joints. Place your feet on the floor as wide apart as your hips are so that your hips, knees and feet are in line with each other. Take care to align your feet so that they do not turn in, nor out further than your knees.
However, remember that how you are, is much more important than your exact position. Do not lock and fix yourself so that you can hold the ‘right' position and say 'no' to any impulse you have to wriggle around and re-adjust your position.
‘There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction'
F M Alexander - Aphorisms - Mouritz 2000
Continue to give yourself directions and place your hands on your ribcage, with your elbows directing out and away from each other.
Allow your back to drop down to the floor and to gently lengthen out. Do not force anything but allow the changes to take place as you give yourself directions.
Now you can begin to practice the thinking skills developed in the Alexander Technique. Allow you mind and body to quieten down but remain alert with your eyes open; direct yourself to release contracted muscles so that they can lengthen out again and inhibit any urge to move around or tighten up again.
As you continue to give yourself directions, you will bring about changes in your habits and use which you aim to continue throughout everyday activities. You are not actively doing anything; it is all ‘mind over matter'. You need an alert mind, not switched off or sleepy, but 'working on yourself'. In this way you gain a deeper understanding and subtle, conscious control over your use and your thinking. Remain aware of the outside world, whilst developing inner awareness and giving yourself directions.
When your mind wanders, come back to being aware of what is going on in your body. It can help to recognize the links between your thoughts, feelings and bodily reactions. Perhaps you have started tightening up again in response to something you thought about? If so, learn to recognise your patterns of reacting to things and just let go of that reaction whilst you keep giving yourself directions. Refuse to wriggle around but lie still and alert. Allow yourself to return to a quiet, neutral, expansive state in which your body will come back to its true shape, your mind and nervous system will quieten and you will breathe more freely.
Give yourself directions and allow yourself to experience being - just as you are.
Please get up from the floor thoughtfully and slowly, so that you can avoid light-headeness and dizziness that can occur with postural hypotension.
When you wish to get up again, maintain any quietness, release and lengthening that you have experienced and take these with you into your movements. Say 'no' to any habits of mis-use that may start to reappear as you begin to become active again, then continue your directions and move freely and expansively as you get up from the floor.
Look over into the direction you wish to move and allow your head to follow your eyes, then bring your arm over your body to that side of you. Gently begin to roll over, with your hips knees and shoulders moving together, so that you avoid twisting your torso.
Roll onto your side and continue to roll over, keeping your knees bent, so that you end up on all fours (in a crawling position) with your back lengthened and your head in alignment with the rest of your spine.
Giving yourself directions to have a free neck and maintaining the length in your spine whilst moving, quietly bring yourself into a kneeling position.
Continue to give directions and say 'no' to standing up without thought. Move into a high kneel then allow your head to lead you into movement as you rise to stand on two feet.
You can also see a short video produced by STAT, talking you through the Lying Down Procedure:
Are you still unsure about some aspects of the procedure? See Lying Down: Questions and Answers
As a new pupil put it in an email to me - 'I've had a very stressful day so I'm going to do some lying down! It really does help to ease the tension'