Alexander Technique and the Power of Thinking
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.
I agree it’s very mental – it’s awareness and the pause is amazing. I would also so that Constructive rest helps the mind aswell as the body. My brain is clearer after constructive rest.
Networking For The Shy
That’s great, Louise. And I completely agree with you on Constructive Rest – it quietens the mind and body, and once I’ve let things quiet down, I can think with much more clarity.
From an Alexander Technique workshop with the late Marjorie Barstow
Pupil: “My feelings are confused.”
Marj: “So long as your thinking isn’t confused, you’re OK.”
ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE = a quiet mind
Stopping to think of about I use my body has changed my entire life. I’m no longer have poor self-esteem and poor appeitte due to a small body image.
It’s amazing isn’t it just how powerful thinking can be – and the far-ranging benefits. Thanks so much for sharing your success, Stella.
I have made major changes in my life by changing my thinking. It is getting easier the more I focus on awareness of my thoughts and my behaviour or habits. Stopping to analyze and redirect energy really does work!
That’s great, Cheryl! Thinking and awareness is really the key to change!
I love thinking about ways I can put/keep my thinking in alignment. I just had a nasty email exchange with a woman who has been renting my downstairs room for the last few months and have been working with a lot of intention to keep myself out of a victim mind set. Watching what those does to my body has been a fascinating curious study and reminds me that as I align my body my thinking changing, as I refocus my thoughts, my body changes.
It is interesting to observe where the mind (and of course the body with it) goes when we find ourselves in a stressful situation. Your awareness, and ability to observe helped you not get stuck in your first reaction. You yes, being present to our body and breath, can help change our thoughts – it’s all completely interconnected!
I’m new to Alexander Technique teachings/info. But do agree with this theory. Just not sure I’ve ever successfully put it into practice … or that I yet know how. 😉 Happily following your bread crumbs to learn more on this site.
Yvonne Elm Hall
Glad to have you here, Yvonne. Maybe you could start with just noticing the differences in your body when you feel afraid, or happy, or nervous, for instance. Strong emotions very often come with strong bodily manifestations. The Alexander Technique is best learned in person, but my hope for this blog is to provide some useful information people can work with on their own.
Our minds and bodies are really part of the same unified psycho-physical self. So, emotional struggles are evident in our postural behaviour, and postural habits in turn generate poor emotional functioning. Is Alexander Technique a replacement for psychotherapy?
Harold, it definitely sounds like you are knowledgeable about the Alexander Technique. While I would never suggest the Alexander Technique should replace psychotherapy, it is very true that as old habits are released there can also be an emotional “letting go.” It could certainly be a very useful adjunct to it for some people.
There is a lot of pausing and clearing of the mind in yoga, which I practice regularly. It’s so helpful to not just do it, but rather think about it first and then do it. Or better yet, think about it, clear your mind, then do it. It’s so easy to forget the mind/body connection. Thanks for the reminder, Imogen.
Mind-body connection, or actually mind-body unity, is very powerful!
Does it ever go the other way? I know when I have not done some sort of exercise that I get ‘foggy’ brain. I start getting antsy and I can’t focus as well. I guess it doesn’t matter which way it flows, it is still the mind/body connection. One affects the other.
I love all your information. I am really learning a lot.
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Absolutely! Food for thought – no activity is entirely physical or entirely mental. One of the differences when you’re exercising, maybe, is that you have to be present mentally to what you are doing physically with your body. It’s likely also that you breathe better and more fully when exercising – and oxygen, I believe, is a good thing for the brain!! 🙂
Absolutely. I’m working regularly on changing my mindset. Just did a workshop on that very topic and am working daily on refocusing the unconscious thoughts that have misdirected me all my life to the life I want and can have. The mind and the unconscious is a very powerful tool
Wonderful. And being able to tap in, even just a little bit, on what’s going on in our subconscious minds is powerful indeed.
Love the ‘fire head’ image! I also appreciated the thought that we must clear away the older patterns that no longer serve us in order to lay down new patterns. The most powerful “pause” or “constructive rest” that never fails to shift my body and mind is prayer.
I was so happy to find that image – love it too!! Clearing away the old to make way for the new is really important (rather than layering one on top of the new).
Being mindful is such a key skill to have and to practice for so many different pieces of overall health. When I truly decided to focus on my health and just made the decision, the rest of it come easily. It was changing my thoughts – and truly believing them – that was the hardest part. I find that even today, when I am being mindful, I am healthier. I sit up straighter, I am more certain to get enough rest and I eat much better.
Jennifer Peek | Small Business Strategist
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It’s amazing what a bit of mindfulness, conscious thought and awareness, can do 🙂
Our bodymind is so powerful! We shouldn’t be surprised that the mind can affect the body, but it’s easy to forget. Being mindful in the way required is often hard for me, but it’s something I’m working on. My body appreciates it! I really love learning about the Alexander Technique–definitely a potential good fit for me.
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing
Being aware, mindful and intentional in both our thoughts and our body is so important, but so easy to forget in this busy world of ours. Alexander Technique was definitely the way in for me.
Changed the way I think about how my time is allocated and now feel more relaxed just doing what comes next. The excess thinking is what gets me in trouble. Thought is first.
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