Breath and the Alexander Technique

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Singers are often admonished to ‘take’ a breath.  What about this instead?  Enjoy a full exhale, followed by allowing the inhalation to happen, without any doing.  It’s a bit like inhaling the lovely aroma of a rose.  If a big-time sniff is used, the delicate scent is missed. A gentle inhale permits the flower to give to us the gift of its perfume.

Mr. Alexander was known in London, England as “The Breathing Man,” but he didn’t teach breathing techniques. What he did teach was his discovery of the primary place of balance in the body….head poised on spine.  In the business of learning this organizing principle of the human structure, his students found they could breathe so much easier, both on the inhale and exhale.

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Ever gone scuba diving?  I haven’t.  However, I have seen photographs of how these oxygen tanks are worn on the body.  They are positioned up high on the back.  Keep that image in your mind as you engage in mapping the location of your lungs within the thoracic cavity of your torso.  The lungs are quite high.  In fact, the top of each lung is above the clavicle (collarbone).  Yes.  Really.

What does this mean for how we think about breathing?  Mainly, it means we don’t have to go excavating for breath.  We will not find it in our abdomen (that’s where all our viscera/internal organs reside….no air there…well, maybe in the intestines, but I digress…)

Breath is not as much work as we have made it out to be.  This is true for singers and other  wind-instrument-musicians who rely on a well-developed capacity for breath, and also for everyone else running through a regular day.

As Marjorie Barstow used to say about the Technique, “It’s a little bit of nothing.” ‘Breathe easy’ today, and may it be a day of sweet scents.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Sit Bones

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Here’s a research project for you….find your sit bones!  Although we assembled in a Worthington Ohio church and were not seated on a boat dock, singers at Capriccio Summer Camp went in search of their bony protuberances (the ishium) of the pelvic bowl, also called ‘rockers’ (yes, you can rock on them).

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There they are, the two ‘loops’ you can see descending from the pelvis.  Although our thighs rest on a sitting surface, they are not the gravity bearing structure as when standing.  When seated, gravity is traveling through the head, down the spine, along the pelvis and through the sit bones, into the surface on which you find yourself seated.

As I write this description and think through its implications, my legs are now doing less work and there is more ‘give’ at the hips, always a welcome change since I live with osteoarthritis and have a total hip replacement on my left.

Also, when I allow my sit bones to receive the path of gravity, I find my back muscles do less work as well.  This is always a relief.  Back muscles have work to do, yes, however, we often give them way too much to do.

Let the design of your structure, head on spine, spine meeting pelvis,  rockers beneath pelvis….let this support you, and your muscles will provide the tone and effort needed.  Just enough.

 

 

 

 

 

What the Alexander Technique IS

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photo courtesy of pixabay

Few of us arrive at study of the Technique with a perfect body and amazing talent to boot. But just look at him.  That’s beautiful use of The Self.  He is fully engaged, wholly present, and gloriously aligned from his head all the way down to his to tippy-toes.  Love you, Elvis-darlin’!  I’m all shook up——

The rest of us mere mortals show up at the door of a teaching studio, as I did decades ago, because something is wrong.  I had taken a fall on ice-covered concrete steps dashing out the door one morning.  Weeks later, still in pain, a colleague (yes, Loren Bucek, YOU!), suggested I might try the Alexander Technique to reduce my lower-back discomfort.  The pain resolved, in large part due to AT study and training.

The Alexander Technique IS:

a re-education of your kinesthetic sense (the felt sense of the body)

a process that re-trains your mind to work in partnership with your body.  Mr. Alexander called this body/mind, The Self.

a body-mapping endeavor, in which the student un-learns inaccurate perceptions and information about the body’s structure, and acquires anatomy-specific knowledge about how we are put together and how we move.  (For you AT savvy readers, my body mapping orientation to the Technique can be wholly attributed to my first and longtime teacher, Barbara Conable.)

a relief.  The ease and freedom which are our birthright can be re-found and embraced daily through the principles and practices of the Technique.

Give yourself the gift of ease and right now, in this very moment.  It doesn’t have to be planned for, scheduled, or deliberated.  As you finish reading this post, and move on to what’s next on your device, notice the space between you and it.  Instead of bringing yourself to your computer, your smartphone, let there be space between.  (Thank you, Imogen Ragone, for this wonderful prompt.)

Let me know how your gift-giving goes!  May your day be spacious—-