The Alexander Technique is often thought of as a method to help improve your posture and coordination – and it certainly does those things. However, what you learn when you study the Alexander Technique is how to think – and how our thoughts, both conscious and subconscious, affect everything we do, including… our posture and coordination!
As an experiment, imagine that you are very late for an important presentation – one that’s a big deal for your career, one that’s in front of many significant people, one you’ve been nervous about for weeks as you’ve prepared. Close your eyes and really think about this. Notice any changes in your body, to your breathing. How does it makes you feel?
If you’re like most people, your body had a visceral response to this. Maybe you noticed yourself tense up or your breath quicken. The situation you were thinking about was imaginary, but our thoughts are so powerful that our body responds as if it were real. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that our mind and our body are inextricably linked, so where one goes, the other is right there too.
So – how can our thinking help prevent back pain, or improve posture? You’d be surprised. Our habits by-pass conscious thought – in other words, we can do things without having to think them through from the start every time once we have learned how. Take sitting for example. We learn to sit up as a baby, and then we learn to sit in chairs, and so on. Once we know how, we don’t have to think through every step any more – we just sit! However, we may unconsciously be tensing up every time we sit (which would contribute to back pain or poor posture), and that extra tension has become a habitual part of the way we always sit. This is where conscious thought can intervene. The Alexander Technique teaches us to pause, to consciously reject our habitual way of sitting, for instance, and to redirect our thoughts to promote a better, more natural and supportive way of moving and positioning the body. If we skip the conscious rejection of the old habit, the letting go of what we don’t need, we will just be layering a new way of doing something on top of the old.
So, although we may think of Alexander Technique as a method that helps us physically – to move more freely, with less tension and better posture – the process is surprisingly mental. Changing the way we think is powerful, and is the key to making any changes, big or small.
Have you experienced times when changing the way you think about something (your mindset) has helped you find new possibilities or solutions? I’d love to hear from me in the comments below.