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Concept Spotlight: Antagonistic Action

by Ellen on October 2nd, 2011

Note: Sorry this one is late. I’ve decided to adjust my posting schedule as of next week. Quotes will post on Tuesday, and Concept Spotlights on Thursday. This Week in AT, if applicable, will post on Saturday or Sunday. Now on to the post!

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Newton’s Third Law of Motion is well-known by anyone who’s ever taken high school physics. But the Alexander Technique offers an unusual way of experiencing it in a tangible sense, in a concept referred to as “Antagonistic Action.”

Essentially, we know from Newton that whenever a force is exerted in one direction, an equal force will be exerted in the opposite direction, to counterbalance the energy. This is why guns recoil when shot. The Technique takes this idea one step further. If any action that you want to perform will have an opposite reaction that takes no effort on your part, then what would happen if you focused your efforts in the opposite direction from the way you want to go? Then the actual intended movement would be the reaction instead of the main action, and would require much less effort to complete.

Ask a ballet dancer, and they’ll tell you the secret to maintaining balance on pointe is thinking of pushing down into the floor with the supporting leg. The same principle is at work there; the dancer wants to go up, so they push down to allow the “up” to happen as a reaction. When a dancer does a pirouette, they think of coiling an internal spring so that the release will send them around without effort. The Alexander Technique takes these same concepts and applies them to activities in everyday life such as sitting and standing, walking, and lying down. If you can learn to balance your movements with antagonistic action, then you’ll be able to simply ride the reactions and move with ease.

Forward and Up! is a Pittsburgh-based private practice offering quality instruction in the Alexander Technique in a positive and supportive environment.

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