WE ARE WHAT WE HABITUALLY DO Aristotle
As a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, what I help people discover or re-discover is that we all spend too much time responding to life with habits of contraction, over- tension, and interference. These habits of thought and action get in the way of our best and finest abilities to engage and accomplish.The Alexander Technique is a means of learning how to help yourself to live life with more ease and fullness. It can help with back troubles, breathing difficulties, or joint and muscle pain. It can facilitate freer singing, dancing, speaking, or running.
OUR OVER-DOING IS OUR UNDOING Walter Carrington.
100 Years ago, F.M. Alexander knew that body and mind were one. Thought activates muscle: I think of a calm, blue lake and my shoulders relax; I worry about paying a large bill and my breath shortens and my blood pressure goes up. This kind of interplay goes on continuously, and, if a habit, it’s largely unconscious. I am about to get up from my chair, do I even realize that I am gritting my teeth and holding my breath?
We develop habits because they are modeled to us, or specifically taught, or adapted by us as seeming the best option given constrains of time, situation, and culture. Once they are learned, they operate automatically as a series of actions linked to appropriate stimuli.
Noticing ourselves as we are, always with respect and compassion, but also with accurate awareness, is the first step of A.T training. Realizing that a habit is not helping but hurting is the reason for continuing to the next step: undoing or “inhibiting” the habit. If I am gritting my teeth and holding my breath as I get up from my chair, I am going to start saying no to those actions, and, instead, let go of my jaw muscles and allow my breath to release out and return in. Can you imagine how many times we get up out of chairs? Can you imagine the positive difference this single awareness and change can mean?
IF WE DO NOT CHANGE OUR DIRECTION, WE ARE LIKELY TO END UP WHERE WE ARE HEADED. Ancient Chinese Proverb
Personally, I got into practicing the Alexander Technique as a part of my own vocal development and training. When I decided to become a teacher, I learned that the Technique is a way for me to get better with age: become taller, think more clearly, feel and move with greater ease and balance.
People come to A.T. lessons for many reasons and diagnoses. In addition to the arts of singing, being a musician, and dancing, other life experiences that have brought people to my A.T. teaching practice include people struggling with: aging, recovery from an injury, sensory processing difficulties, imbalance, body soreness, anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, poor breathing, recovery from addictions.
In a typical Alexander lesson, you will be assisted in noticing yourself in the context of some action – everyday ones like reaching, breathing, bending, walking, reading, picking up an object, sitting down, or getting back up – as well as less ordinary actions, like singing. Some unconscious habit of over-doing will be ” caught – ah ha” and considered compassionately. With words and non-intrusive hands-on, letting go or inhibition will be suggested, and new or renewed natural direction given. What happens then? The following are some quotes from students.
“When I stop pulling myself down into the text I am reading, my voice sounds much better.”
“I can breathe and concentrate simultaneously, and it helps my thinking.”
“I have a mirror next to my desk now. When I look over and see that I’ve become the hunchback again, I breathe out and release those tensions. I come up and back, and then I remember to use the hip joint to forward bend my freed up torso and head. It is definitely helping with back,neck, and shoulder pain.”
IF I AM ALWAYS JUST REACTING, THEN I AM NEVER FREE. Courage to Change
NO ONE CAN THINK CLEARLY IF THEIR HANDS ARE CLENCHED George J. Nother
Most Alexander lessons include table or Alexander semi-supine learning. This is a fully supported, hands-on method of guided non-doing or inhibition of over-tension. The teacher helps the student to let go and undo into greater body length and width. It is not massage or any kind of physical manipulation. It is drawing your attention to yourself and suggesting tension release. It is you who is learning to do the releasing.
After table work, we might re-try an action that was done at the start of the lesson. How is it now? We will form a focus question, action, or observation for you to consider and practice in your daily life – a new “thinking in activity” experiment or exercise.
If we are primarily involved in voice lessons, or music therapy, or voice therapy, then the A.T. is used and integrated with those processes, as appropriate. Necessarily, there would be variations on the typical lesson described here.
Below is a video from a TEDx event
Angela Bradshaw is a teacher of the Alexander Technique. By the end of this talk “Show Me How”, you will have learned an easier way to use your body. Simple tools of self-care and management using Alexander Technique principles will be demonstrated. You will see how easy it is to apply them in everyday life having an immediate positive effect on you and all those around you.