(If you haven’t read my intro to this article in my March 21 post, please check it out before reading this.)
You know what? I have really good posture.
If you met me — or virtually any other Alexander Technique (AT) teacher — you would probably be impressed with the uprightness on display. Lots of educators have been similarly impressed with Alexander teachers’ carriage throughout the past century: as a result, entire AT programs in performing arts schools have been developed around concepts like “Posture and Alignment.”
I’ll admit to being pleased with my ability to assume a regal bearing at will. At the same time, I regret that this most visible effect of AT study has eclipsed, in both pedagogical programming and people’s perceptions, what I think are actually its more important contributions to life and education. I fear that people, in their great admiration for perfect posture, overlook the more significant benefits to be gained from AT study. In other words, they may not be seeing the forest for the majestically upright trees.
Like singing, the Alexander Technique is a mind-body practice — with equal emphasis on “mind” and “body.” Its potential value is diminished when we over-focus on physical benefits like posture. To discover the real treasure of AT study, singers must look beyond posture (the arena in which Alexander instruction unfolds) to the less easily observed benefits that accrue with diligent practice.
Your AT instruction is likely to begin in the traditional way, with an exploration of postural issues: your relationship with gravity as you sit, stand, and walk. Even though I want you to eventually look beyond these issues in assessing the AT, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that there are benefits for singers even at this basic level: efficient posture leaves more energy for performing. But don’t let enthusiasm for improved posture blind you to the other, subtler changes going on.
As your lessons progress, you will notice how having more efficient posture frees up the functioning of the other systems of your body, like digestion and breathing. Freer breathing is another obvious advantage to you as a singer. . .but don’t stop looking for benefits yet! We still haven’t encountered the real treasure to be gained from AT study: the rewiring of your brain.
Now that I see that phrase on the page, I’m realizing that it’s fortunate that the desire for better posture brings singers to the AT. The promise of a “rewiring of your brain” might be a tough sell. The skills involved are not on most people’s wish lists for the simple reason that most people don’t even know these skills exist. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to three such skills, all of which arise out of AT study, and all of which I’m hoping you’ll recognize as crucial to your development as a singer:
- Refinement of the kinesthetic sense
- The ability to allow coordination to emerge reflexively
- Comfort with feeling wrong
(to be continued)