HELLO STAGE BLOG

The Alexander Technique

We continue with our focus on Health & Safety with Claudia Kohl, so catch up on the first part, if you haven't already. This week we take a detailed look at the Alexander Technique!

The Alexander Technique allows you to rediscover and use the natural ways in which your body is designed to function optimally and gracefully. Once you rely on your body’s intelligence, it is easier to discern between automatic or habitual physical, emotional or mental reactions and an authentic, hearty response. This reconnection is not gained by exercises but by mindful observation and exploration of your daily movements (walking, sitting) or singing practice (or other work activities). The awareness to your underlying principles will help you to stop limiting patterns that don’t serve your purpose.

The Alexander teacher will help you through demonstration, explanation, mirrors and hands on work to discover how you use your self and what patterns interfere with your natural balance of being and performing. The teacher also uses the “hands on” approach to guide your movement towards a natural balance without manipulating your movement.

There is no “correct” movement or position in the Alexander Technique, rather an overall natural use of the self, integrating your mind, body and emotions. Yet there is a balancing resting state called the “constructive rest”. A state and position to stop “doing” and “direct” yourself instead. Difficult to explain but the favorite of most of the students because your body feels free and your mind clear. Another helping tool is the “Whispered Ah” that allows your breath to naturally flow and to express your vocal sounds effortlessly (an exercise very popular for singers).

During the session you will become aware of how much your thoughts and believes limit you in your full expression. To stop doing and allow the natural balance to integrate your new intentions can be a frustrating process. The immediate effect of an Alexander session is a sense of easiness and effortlessness. Still, the Alexander Technique is a change process on all aspects of your being and is only for individuals ready to change on a deeper level.

The Alexander Principles:

Constructive Conscious Control

Alexander discovered that our sensory awareness is a relative sense and not a truthful indicator of what we are really doing, of our relationship to ourselves and the environment. We are not aware of harmful habits we had to use in order to cope with an outer or inner stimulus. They have become normal through unconscious repetition. To constructively become conscious of these habits and not do them anymore is one step of the process.

End-gaining and Means Whereby

Alexander often uses the term "end-gaining". Often we are so focused on the goal that we lose sight of the “means whereby” we reach them. Being so focused on the goal often leads us back into the same old limiting patterns that prevent us reaching them. The “means whereby” are the key to keep the awareness on the now and every little step towards the goal. The “means whereby” help us deal with the frustration, stress etc.

Inhibition

Inhibition or intentional inhibition, is the act of not responding in the habitual manner (f.e.: tension in the neck). It is the moment of conscious awareness of the choice to stop or prevent an unnecessary habitual action and thus a freer capacity of movement or action can be discovered. It is a state of “allowing” a more natural (unknown) movement. F.M. Alexander's selection of this word predates the meaning of the word originated by Sigmund Freud.

Primary Control

Primary control is the balanced relationship of head and neck (and the rest of the body) as we move and react to stimuli. Our responses are influenced for good or bad by the qualities of head and eye direction at the inception of a reaction. You gradually learn to include a constant attention to the primary control (the lengthening and widening and staying free) in stature as a basis for initiating and continuing an action or responding to stimuli.

Directions

Directions are repeated thoughts and projections of the positive aspect of how to use yourself in the most unified psycho-physical way. Directions may be “I allow my neck to be free and lengthen”, “I allow my spine to lengthen and widen”. The directions are suggestively thought and not willfully accomplished or executed. The actual “directing” happens underneath one’s ability to actually carry them out by stepping out of the way and allowing the body to follow the direction (or not), you become the observer of this underlying wisdom of your body.

The Alexander Technique benefits:

The Alexander Technique brings a feeling of freedom in movement, a more balanced reaction to life and challenges, a clear mind, more creative expression, less tension and anxiety, more grace, poise and charisma, fuller breathing, joy and less pain or promoted healing. For classically trained singers and musicians it allows for an improved technique and tone. It also helps reduce stage fright and increase spontaneity.

The purpose of the Alexander session is to encourage your independent application and integration of the technique in your daily life. Once you can apply the principles you don’t need a teacher or session anymore.

The creator F.M. Alexander

Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor and Shakespearean orator. During his performances he developed voice loss and was threatened to prematurely end his so much loved career. After doctors found no physical cause, Alexander suspected that he caused the voice loss by the way he used himself.

What followed was a long phase of observing himself in multiple mirrors. He quickly determined that he was contracting his posture prior and in preparation to speaking. With endless experimentation and dedication he developed his technique to prevent the misuse and his voice loss was resolved. Gradually he discovered the wider significance of his technique for others.

He further refined his technique to apply it to any problem and to improve individual health and well- being.

Claudia Kohl is an artist, Alexander Technique coach, designer and author. She is the founder of The Artists Coaching in Berlin, a studio dedicated to support artists in their creative, artistic process as well as life. She has helped singers, musicians, actors, dancers and circus artists, to build a healthy and inspired carrier. Claudia likes to work with artists suffering from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, chronic pain, burnout or artists with the courage to start something new. She comes from a background of theatre and dance before studying the Alexander Technique and developing her own method with the artists of the famous Cirque du Soleil. As a nomad and curious soul she has traveled and experienced more than most people do in their lifetime. She believes that art is what we are and that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place. She is known for her down to earth, loving and highly inspired, engaging approach to coaching. Claudia’s insights inspire audiences around the world through her monthly “Inspiration” newsletter and online coaching. For artists in Berlin, besides one on one sessions, she offers weekly Bohemian Brunches and Artistic Vision Quests.
Author: Claudia Kohl
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