Ten Reasons for which I am Grateful for the Alexander Technique
1. I'm not half bad a ping pong.
Last year, I picked up a paddle at a holiday party and to my surprise, I really held my own. I hadn't practiced in many years and had never considered myself particularly skilled at ping pong or anything that involved hitting or kicking a ball or birdie, but I surprised myself at my adept hand-eye coordination. My improved overall coordination allow me to calmly focus specifically on the ball and to simultaneously be aware of the space around me. I could clearly sense where the ball was going and respond appropriately without over or under reacting and knowing where the ball and paddle were at all times. It was a cool feeling - like I actually had more time to strategize my next move.
2. I don't fall when the subway jerks forward as I'm sitting.
I feel relaxed, energized and aware of where my whole body is at once. When I sit, I fold instead of plop and keep my weight over my feet. This makes it easy to decide halfway down that I'm going to pause or stand back up instead of coming crashing down on the lap of the person in the next seat.
3. Public speaking no longer terrifies me.
This may sound odd because I'm a trained actor, but I have been terrified of public speaking for most of my life. I've taken on a roll for AmSAT (The American Society of the Alexander Technique)over the past two years, which has required me to speak on a microphone (yikes) in front of an auditorium full of people (gulp). I've surprised myself and actually found these occasions quite enjoyable. I realized that what would help me most would be to be open and receptive to the audience as opposed to fearing them and trying to shut them out. When I allow fear to set in, I a create a wall of tension in myself, which leaves me short of breath, and then in turn, more anxious and vocally stifled. As for the microphone, I used to hate to hear my own voice emerging from speakers. The voice coming out of the speakers now sounds less foreign.
4. I successfully lifted a bowl of hot chocolate with one hand.
If you've taken lessons with me, it's likely that you've heard this story. Prior to becoming an Alexander Technique teacher, at a time when I was taking regular lessons, I discovered something. I was doing a lot of the work of my hands, arms, back and legs with my shoulders. When I'd lift something, I would automatically lift and tighten my shoulder before even using my hand. As a result of this habit, my hands and wrists were weak. This issue became especially evident to me when I would lift a bowl of hot chocolate into a microwave on a high shelf. (I was living in France at the time where the custom is to prepare hot chocolate and cafe au lait in bowls). I was not able to lift the bowl into the microwave with one hand. I was lifting with my shoulder and at a certain height in the lifting, the shoulder couldn't do the work anymore. This realization was discouraging to me, but was an encouragement to keep on with my Alexander Technique lessons. One day I found myself lifting the bowl one-handed. What a triumph!
5. I stopped worrying so much about germs.
I used to be what one might call a hypochondriac. I may not be totally over it, but the Alexander Technique has helped immensely. I used to be so afraid of contacting the world for fear that it would infect me, that I would pull into myself to "get away from it". One thing that I'd do was to walk on the sides of my feet when I was barefoot. I thought that if less of my feet touched the floor that I was less likely to pick up germs from it. As I started to feel my body expand when I began taking Alexander Technique lessons, I quite quickly realized that my pulling into myself was likely causing me health problems. It was restricting my breathing and resulting in a large amount of strain and tension in my body. Realizing that my response to fearing germs may be making me more succeptible to them, I quickly changed my habits. The first thing that I changes=d was to let my feet completely contact the floor.
6. I don't crash into door frames (as much)and my jeans don't look strange.
I grew four inches in one year at the age of 13. I had scoliosis, which worsened significantly during the growth spurt and I found myself wearing a back brace for a good portion of each day for five years. Moving into adulthood, I realized that I hadn't really grown into my body. I was 5'8",but used my body as if I were 5'2". This was always most clear to me when one of my shoulders would crash into a door frame and I knew that I must be much broader than I perceived I was. I also used to take off my jeans at the end of the day and be totally baffled at how low the indentations were from my knees. It didn't feel like my knees were actually that low. I had a false sense of the length of my thighs and the height of my knees - and indication that I was using way to much effort in my thighs to walk instead of efforlessly allowing my knees to bend. Now that I let my knees bend with less effort, I accurately sense their location.
7. I no longer cringe when I see myself on video.
Like with the microphone example, I'm generally not surprised by what I see and hear when I watch myself on video. How I sense myself isn't so different from how I view myself from an outside perspective. This was not always the case!
8. I feel angry.
Or rather, I allow myself to feel angry. I used to shut down feelings of anger by tensing my upper body. I've learned to feel anger and other emotions more completely throughout my whole body as opposed to shutting them down with tension.
9. It's fun.
Not much more to say than that. The Alexander Technique helps me sense everything that I'm doing more clearly and to be more present and engaged in the world. It continues to be a source of exploration and discovery. A great Alexander lesson almost always involves laughter.
10. Oh, yeah, I stand up straighter.
And a by-product of all of this is that I don't slump and my scoliosis is hardly visible now. Sitting and standing up straight is the most comfortable position to be in and doesn't feel stiff or rigid.
Posture is a result of how a person goes about their life, acting and reacting and involves the coordination of the whole body, mind, and how one focuses and interacts in the world.
If you've benefited from the Alexander Technique, please feel free to add what you are grateful for in the comments below!
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