In my professional life, I’ve been privileged to work in a number of different fields. I teach the Alexander Technique to individuals and groups, I direct a choir, I teach voice, and I’ve done all of those in a range of settings. However, in every one of those settings — and in all others — I am always a life-long student and practitioner of the embodied mindfulness principles I learned in the Alexander Technique. After nearly 22 years of practice, the Alexander Technique discipline of attention, non-doing, and direction is a foundational part of how I engage with the world and move through life.
In fact, I once heard the Alexander Technique described as “a technique supporting all other techniques,” be it singing technique, instrumental technique, or dance technique. I find that it even covers carrot-cutting technique, box-carrying technique, kayaking technique, and certainly dealing-with-stress technique. I can’t NOT take the Alexander Technique with me, because it’s a part of how I do everything!
It can be hard to describe how foundational and important an “invisible” technique like this is. You can’t easily see me practicing the skills of the Alexander Technique, because it’s internal, with subtle but powerful changes rising to the surface. Taking an Alexander Technique lesson is an experience of rich attention and change, but I’ve often said that watching an Alexander Technique lesson is only slightly more exciting than watching grass grow, because almost all of the work is happening on the inside.
One metaphor for understanding the power of this internal support (both literal and metaphorical, body and mind) is to look at a tree and its growth. The roots of the tree grow deep under the ground for stability, and also collect water and nutrients for the whole plant. Healthy forests are connected and supported by underground webs of mycorrhizal fungi that exchange necessary and beneficial nutrients and water. You don’t see that support system, though, unless you go digging. You only know that things are going well underground by what appears above the surface: the flowers, fruit (or mushrooms), seeds, and leaves.
The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
Our habits themselves are often invisible, and only show their “fruits” in the ways we move and interact with the world and the people around us. In order to “go digging” for those habits in an Alexander Technique lesson, we start with the every-day (but not exactly simple!) action of sitting and standing. The goal is not actually to become great at sitting, though that is a nice benefit. The goal is the discovery of what’s under the surface, to enter into a process of learning that lets us work with those hidden habits, to make connections that support growth, and open up the possibility of change by using constructive, whole-self attention.
You may have heard this quote (attributed to various sources):
The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
When you change how you do one thing, it changes everything.
So learning to stand and sit with more balance, openness, and freedom teaches me how to do everything else in that manner, from singing to walking to dealing with stress — because I’m changing and growing the foundation under the surface.
Under the surface
When I tell you that the Alexander Technique is a mind-body educational discipline that gives us a framework to change the habits that lead to pain and strain, it’s like saying that there are supportive roots underground that help a tree stand tall and healthy.
I can tell you that I apply that foundational framework from the AT in every aspect of my life — when I walk or exercise, when I sing, when I type at my computer, when I conduct, but also in my spiritual practice, when I deal with stress or difficult emotions, and even in dating (yes, for real). In that case it would be as if I am describing the fungal web that helps a tree connect out into a forest community for nourishment and health.
We can’t see those ‘underground’ things unless we dig for them, even though they are supporting and growing all the time. But everything is connected. The health of the foundation is reflected in the overall health of the being — each one of us!
Why the Alexander Technique?
So for the next several blogs, I want to focus on the fruit, leaves, and branches:
What are the tangible benefits of study of the Alexander Technique?
In truth, it will look different for every person, but perhaps some of these benefits will speak to you, or apply in your own life.
I was first introduced to the wide-ranging application of the Alexander Technique almost 22 years ago. In honor of that, here’s a list of the first 22 “branches, fruits, and leaves” that have grown because of my study of the Alexander Technique, in no particular order:
22 Benefits of the Alexander Technique
- Strong center (“core”) from which to move through life — mind and body.
- Practical, whole-self-care, to respect and meet the demands of life and of my changing body as I age.
- Powerful Presence — on-stage, in teaching, and in daily life.
- Poise and Calm — ability to relax when it’s time, and to stand quiet and grounded in “the eye of the storm” when needed.
- Pain relief and pain prevention
- Improved breathing
- Vocal freedom in speech and singing
- Emotional resilience
- Support for conducting — no more arm, shoulder, back, or neck pain associated with long rehearsals or concerts, and clear gestural communication
- Freedom and strength in walking and hiking, so I can enjoy myself more in nature and in exercise
- Self-acceptance, compassion for self and others
- Better yoga practice — I get more out of each pose and don’t “overdo it” or cause injury.
- “Burnout Buffer” and Stress Relief — both in the moment, and in the long term…because stress doesn’t “build up.”
- More enjoyable gardening and strong body mechanics for yard work (hello, shoveling mulch…)
- Physical and mental support for meditation and contemplation
- Stronger kayaking technique — no shoulder pain, better whole-body workout, greater paddling endurance
- More Time — things seem less rushed, and I know how to slow down when needed.
- Less strain when doing household tasks, like vacuuming, picking up objects, washing dishes.
- Precision of movement without strain — from drawing to knitting to cutting onions to playing the piano.
- Creativity and Possibility
- A skillset that applies to all aspects of life, and creates space for powerful change, no matter what comes my way.
- It Just. Feels. Good!
If you have studied Alexander Technique, I would love to hear what benefits — what “fruits and leaves” — you’ve discovered in your life. And if anything in this list sparks your interest, please schedule a free Zoom or phone consultation with me to learn more.