Trainee’s column: Brushing Teeth, Washing Face, Freeing Neck

In the morning, I rushed to put in my contact lenses before leaving for school. These were not my first contact lenses. I have wasted hundreds of dollars by giving up wearing contact lenses after ordering because of the difficulty of putting them in. Today, I decided to try this challenge one last time.

Hunching my torso over the bathroom sink to put my face as close as possible to the mirror, I pulled my head back a little to allow my face to be parallel to the mirror. I held my upper eyelid with my left fingers and took my right index finger with a lens down to my eye, without success. Each time I tried, the lens fell down to the sink or stuck to my face or finger. Again and again, I repeated the same thing. Before long, my eyes were unavailable to remain open without blinking. My finger’s accuracy became lower and lower. “Let’s quit it!!,” I thought. “I will be late for school.” At that time, I was just about to go my school, Alexander Technique Denver, as a first-year student in the teacher-training course. When I was about to give up, the idea came to me. “Why don’t I apply Alexander Technique now?”

Alexander Technique is a way of learning how to get rid of harmful tension in our body to use the body effectively. We are learning how to develop conscious use of ourselves to inhibit automatic habitual responses which cause unnecessary harmful tension. This technique can be applied not only to performance in sports and arts but also our daily activities such as operating a computer, driving a car, washing dishes, and so on. I tried to apply the technique to my contact lens-wearing activity. Instead of thinking about putting my contact lens in, I gave directions to myself. “Allow my neck to be free, allow my head to go forward and up, allow my torso to lengthen and widen.” My posture changed drastically. I now stood upright three feet from the mirror. I did not think that I could put the lens on my eye because I was not able to see it on my fingertip in the mirror. I tried to apply the Alexander Technique principle of inhibition. “I can stop, then choose to do this or do other activities. There is an option to go to school wearing my glasses,” I told myself.  I pulled my eyelid up with my fingers. It was much easier than before. Head Neck and Back direction and inhibition released tension from my neck and shoulder as well as face. My eyelid didn’t close against my fingers. My finger reached to my eye and the lens stuck to my eye. It was as easy as tapping an icon on my phone. I hardly believed the situation and had another trial on the other eye. It occurred again. The Alexander Technique did work for contact lens fitting. I left for school with pleasure being able to apply Alexander Technique to my daily activity by myself. But that was not the end of the story.

The next morning, I was very excited to wear the lenses. “Neck is free, head is going forward and up, torso is lengthening and widening.” I directed myself in the same way as the day before. My eyes kept staying open long enough to wait for the lens to come in. After my finger touched the eye, the lens stayed not on my eye but on my fingertip. I tried to put the lens on my eye over and over. “What is the matter? Doesn’t Alexander Technique work on wearing contact lenses or am I doing it in a different way than yesterday?” I thought. Then I started to observe myself in detail.  Most parts of myself were in the same condition as before, except my right index finger and my mind. I found the finger definitely trying to put the lens on the eye and make it stay there. Yes. I was do-ing. I was trying to wear contact lenses with Alexander Technique. I noticed that I was an end-gainer. (In class I had learned that if we focus on the end goal, we fall into our faulty habit of use.) In this case, my strong desire to repeat the success of putting the lens in using Alexander Technique affected my finger too much. I gave direction to myself again, but my end-gaining thoughts were too strong to be changed. I was upset. What should I do? I felt impatient with my uncontrollable index finger. It might keep its habitual movement to locate the lens on my eye. A crazy idea suddenly hit me. “Let’s use another finger because my right index finger has lots of habits.” I moved the lens from my index finger to my middle finger. My awkward but habit-free middle finger touched my eye. The lens sat on the eye as easy as the day before. Voila!

Through this experience, I understood the principles and effects of Alexander Technique practically. After that day, I still needed some more practice to apply Alexander Technique principles, such as direction, inhibition, and observation, to put in the contact lenses efficiently.  Now, I can put in my lens rapidly even if I am in a hurry. I can use either my index or middle finger to do it. At the beginning of my second year of the teacher-training course, I am looking forward to exploring the use of myself with the Technique in various activities in my daily life. What is next? Washing Face? Brushing Teeth?

Blog by Naoko Yoda

Photos by Tom Yoda, used with permission