I teach the Alexander Technique, which can be described as a set of skills that you learn to enable you to release tension and organize your body in a way that improves your posture and enhances freedom of movement. What you learn could be characterized by the word “poise.”
To make progress when learning the Technique, as with any other skill, my students must practice. But, the Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises. Rather, we can apply the Alexander Technique to anything we do. So what exactly am I asking my students to practice?
What I’m asking them to practice is awareness and THINKING, and most especially what can be called “thinking in activity.” Using Alexander terms, we are practicing inhibiting and directing – that is pausing to let go of habitual way of doing things, and giving ourselves constructive mental messages, such as, “My neck is free,” or “I am not compressing myself,” which encourage an improved coordination in whatever we are doing.
The bulk of this practice, therefore, happens during our lives, doing what we do every day. The benefit of this is that you do not have to set aside a specific amount of time to devote to the Technique – you can practice during everything and anything that you do anyway. You are practicing the skill of thinking in constructive ways that will promote an improved, more integrated, way of moving and coordinating yourself while you do whatever you are doing. The challenge, and it’s a big one, is remembering to think constructively while you are in the middle of doing something else.
I have found it useful for my own learning process, and that of my students, to also set aside some specific times to practice in isolation, as it were, from our regular lives. This could be while we do Constructive Rest and/or any other activity which we choose to practice on our own specifically using the “Alexander” constructive thinking processes.
Whether you are practicing on your own or “in activity,” be aware that as soon as you try and “hold on” to any of these thoughts you have lost the freedom they are designed to encourage. Trying to “do” the direction with effort (with our muscles) is also counter-productive – the practice (in both sense of the word) is about simply thinking and trusting that your body will make a change. It is useful to be aware of what is going on with your body as you go through the process, and to experiment with different types of thoughts/directions, noticing which seem to be more helpful or less helpful , without being judgmental. Be sure, however, that you are not trying to replicate how something felt “last time” and simply stick with the thinking!
We can take it as a given that we are going to forget to think about it. Any time we do remember is a plus and a step in the right direction. And, of course, the more you do remember, the greater your awareness and ability to remember again.
Here’s a short slide show (which I feature on my home page) showing people doing various activities, before practicing their Alexander thinking and after. Can you see the difference?
So, try a little Alexander Technique thinking today! You may be surprised how much difference just a thought can make.
Are you a student of the Alexander Technique? If so, how do you approach practicing? If not, have you ever tried being aware of your thoughts, and deliberately thinking something that you have found helpful? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment in the box below.