An early morning pupil was saying how the Alexander Technique was helping her game of tennis…. how she could get to the ball faster. Her coach had commented on the speed of her reactions and she firmly puts it down to the change of her ‘use’; how she uses her body to do things. She is freer, more supple and more agile.
As an Alexander Technique teacher it is always interesting and gratifying to hear how people’s lives have changed beyond the obvious ‘getting rid of backache’ or ‘reduction in headaches’ or the ‘knees that don’t ache any more’ or the ‘better confidence and improved speaking voice in meetings’. When Alexander pupils discover something else that was not the reason for taking lessons in the first place, then you know it’s getting into their system; it’s improving their life on fundamental levels. I think of the lady entrepreneur who came because of back and neck problems while writing her next book and found her acid reflux had disappeared and her digestion improved, and the chap who came with a bad back but who had broken his elbow 30 years previously and had been ‘permanently bent ever since, realised it was now starting to straighten again.
I’ve been playing the violin just for a few years (gosh I think it might be ten now!) and my recent endeavours have been much improved by a step back from trying to play the music to really working on my own poise, balance, ease of movement. I have turned more attention to such fundamentals as maintaining a free neck, paying attention to my balance so I don’t lean, going ‘up’ within myself so I lengthen and widen in stature as I play and not ‘pulling down’ or pressing on the chin rest. I had found one or two habits creeping in that I wasn’t too happy about. Hence the ‘step back’ to work on fundamentals. I told my teacher (who is wonderfully understanding) that I was going to do this and he let me go,… to go and work on it. I returned just two weeks later for another lesson and he said that he’d never heard me play so well, that every aspect of my playing had improved. I was chuffed. Thank you!
So, like my tennis playing pupil who has experienced changes beyond her expectations in another field, I am using the technique that I teach to others to help myself improve at my own chosen activity of playing the violin. It’s helping so much….. It does take time, but by giving it plenty of time it pays huge dividends. It can transform our performance and abilities more fundamentally than simply putting in more hours of normal practice. This applies to sport too or any other activity.
With Alexander Technique we improve our overall co-ordination and how we ‘use’ ourselves in our poise and movement, minimising effort, eliminating wasteful tensions and encouraging more synchronised use of muscle. (I know Yoga teachers and Pilates instructors who have had lessons in the Alexander Technique in order to increase the benefits of their own exercises.) Such improvements in poise also change how our body functions internally with breathing, digestion, circulation, reproductive organs and this can have knock on effects with personal confidence and sense of well being. By improving our co-ordination and poise we can positively help every aspect of our lives as this impacts on everything.
It can be truly surprising and gratifying when we discover unexpected improvements that were not originally anticipated.