Sometimes what a student wants is not what they need

student wants and needs are two different things; like wanting and needing chocolate cake!It is a sad truth that sometimes what a student wants is simply not the thing that is going to move them forward most effectively.

My music teacher friends know this phenomenon well. A violin student, for example, may want to improve a particular passage in the music they are playing. Their teacher gives them an arpeggio to work on. The student can’t see the point of the arpeggio and just wants to work on the passage. The student wants improvement, but only wants to work directly on the thing they perceive as the problem.

Here’s another example. An Alexander Technique student has an issue where their arms hurt when they are working at a keyboard (computer or piano, whichever is more appealing to you). The student wants me to help them with their arms. But I look at what they’re doing and can see that the issue with their arms is created by the way they are sitting – there might be a backward rotation in the pelvis and crunching in the neck.

I want us to look more closely at this example, and examine these questions:

  • Why do the student’s arms hurt, and not their neck?
  • Where do I, their teacher, go to work – on the arms where the student expects, or where I think the problem originates?
  • And if I work where I think the problem originates (the spine – or higher!), how will the student respond?

Why do their arms hurt?

One of the key ideas behind the Alexander Technique is that everything is connected; we are a psycho-physical unity. Because everything is connected, if something is not working well in one area of the body, everything else has to compensate and adjust. That may mean that a completely different part of the body may hurt from the one that caused the trouble in the first place.

That’s exactly  what happened to FM Alexander. He was suffering hoarseness when he tried to recite, but the issue wasn’t with his vocal folds. Rather, the hoarseness was an indirect result of the habitual way he pulled his head back and down before speaking.[1]

Where do I go to work as a teacher?

It should logically follow from what I’ve said above, that if I go to work using hands-on techniques on the student’s arms they may get some benefit, but not nearly as much as if I go to where the trouble really started. I need to go to the root of the problem to really clear it up. I also need to make sure that I am clear with the student about why I’m apparently ignoring the bit of them that hurts!

So I’m probably not going to work with my student’s arms as a first point of approach. But where will I work?

Go to where the problem starts

In the example I’ve given, I can see that my student is doing unhelpful things with their head in relation with their body, going down through their spine all the way to their pelvis. I’m likely to use a hands-on technique that interacts with that relationship. But I’ll also be working somewhere a bit higher, because it seems very likely that there’s some kind of unhelpful thinking that has generated the unhelpful movement behaviour.[2] If I can get my student thinking more clearly, then the physical behaviour is likely to vanish far more quickly.

How will the student respond?

My task as a teacher is to help the student improve. What the student wants and what helps them improve might be the same thing, but more often than not, it isn’t. If I’m the teacher, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t do the thing that with generate the most benefit for my student. And mostly, that means clarifying their thinking while working with their head in relation to their body.

[1] Alexander, FM., The Use of the Self, Orion, 2001, pp.27-28.

[2] Alexander, FM., Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat complete ed., p.52.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your set-up causing pain, or the way that you’re using it, or both?

If I had to give a one sentence definition of Alexander Technique, I would say that it’s a toolkit of ideas and processes to help you carry out any activity you choose in the easiest, most efficient, most enjoyable way possible. Mostly Alexander Technique teachers talk about the way that you’re going about activities, and rightly so. They want to focus on how you are using yourself as you use your office set-up, for example, or your musical instrument, because that’s a primary focus of what the Alexander Technique is about. FM’s whole journey began with the question

[Was it] something that I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble?[1]

Right from the beginning, Alexander identified that he was using his body poorly, and that this inefficient use of himself was causing trouble. He very clearly here drew a distinction between, for example, medical problems and self-inflicted problems. FM said he wasn’t physically broken; he just didn’t use his body well in order to speak.

We Alexander teachers also tend to focus on this area in part because very often our students come to us having spent a lot of time and money thinking about their set-up. They’ve spent a fortune on chairs, keyboards and wrist rests to no avail. Students are really ready to think about their own part in their problems.

One extreme to the other

However, sometimes we run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. We can fall into the trap of looking only at ourselves. We note that Alexander Technique is about taking self-responsibility for our problems, and we whole-heartedly take responsibility for everything. But that isn’t sensible. We’ve just gone from one extreme (thinking our problems aren’t our fault) to the other (assuming everything is about the way we’re approaching activity). Neither extreme is true or accurate.

We could argue that even Alexander fell into this trap when he was investigating how to solve his own vocal problems. He realised that he needed to know what he was doing; in his own words, he needed to “analyse the conditions of use present.”[2] But why stop at analysing your own use? Why not do a detailed analysis of your desk, or violin, too? As an Alexander Technique teacher, I can teach you how to use the set-up you have efficiently and well, but if your set-up is poor, you’ll always be fighting against it.

I was working with a violinist last year who’d had the same shoulder rest for a few years. But they’d bought it while they were still growing; a few years later, and it was completely the wrong height for them now they were fully-grown. Once they changed the set-up AND looked at their use of themselves, all the shoulder tension went away.

If we exclusively focus on the way we’re using our bodies, we run the risk of missing out on a whole area of analysis that might yield significant improvements. What about the way our office furniture is set up? What about the way my student’s violin is set up, with shoulder and chin rests? Aren’t these equally worthy of examination?

Check the conditions!

Musicians: look at your set-up. Classical guitarists should think about their footrests and music stand position. Violinist should think about their chin and shoulder rests. Recorder players: consider thumb rests. Don’t take anything for granted.

Office people: take a good hard look at your desk. Are your desk and chair the right height? Is your keyboard close enough? Is your monitor the right height? If you use two monitors, is the one you use most directly in front of you?

Hot-desk people: do you take the time to properly set up your work space when you arrive? We kid ourselves that it will take too long. But isn’t a few minutes worth it for a whole day free of discomfort?

There’s a lot we can do to help ourselves. We can work on how we use ourselves, and that’s the most important job! But don’t forget the external circumstances. They can make a world of difference, too.

[1] FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, Orion 2001, p.25.

[2] ibid., p.39.

Businessman stretching in an office — Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Sitting all day – is it evil?

Businessman stretching in an office

Is sitting all day evil? There are increasing numbers of articles in fashionable magazines and on trendy websites that will tell you that yes, sitting is intrinsically evil and can kill you. The Huffington Post, for example, seems to run an article on the evils of sitting every couple of months.

I mean, we always knew that sitting, especially sitting all day was a problem. Huge numbers of people experience discomfort through sitting, especially at their desks and computers. Backs, necks, shoulders all seem to beg for mercy. But now we’re told that sitting isn’t just uncomfortable – it can actually shorten your lifespan.

Is it true, and what can we do about it?

Sitting is the new smoking.

That’s the advice Marc Hamilton, director of the Inactivity Physiology Program at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, gave to the magazine Runner’s World. Apparently, sitting for long periods may cause an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase to decrease in the bloodstream. As this enzyme clears noxious fats out of the bloodstream, this is bad news. Apparently this sends out harmful biological signals that could be implicated in cardiovascular disease.

According to the articles I’ve seen, sitting still for long periods has been linked to not just obesity, but cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, though personally I’d want to see more studies come up with similar results before I got too worked up about the evidence.

But before you panic and throw away all your chairs (as some people have done, and would advise you to do – see this article), let’s examine the issue with the clear-sightedness that FM Alexander would want us to use.

 

Problem number 1: chairs are not cigarettes

Sitting is part of our normal range of movement behaviours. It’s one of the things we are designed to be able to do. If we say that one movement behaviour is intrinsically bad, how many others will we find that are just as evil or worse? What about rock climbing (all that looking upwards), or playing the violin (having your head tilted to the side can’t be good for you, surely) – should we ban those, too?

If there’s a problem with sitting all day, that’s not the chair’s fault, but ours for thinking that doing any one thing for prolonged periods isn’t going to have repurcussions. It’s a bit like food. I love chocolate, but I don’t eat it every day. I love carrots too, but if I ate them for every meal I’d soon turn orange. Who tied us down and forced us to sit in the one spot all day long?

 

Problem 2: Will exchanging standing for sitting be any better?

Instead of sitting all day, why not stand up or work out? A lot of authors out there on the web are telling their readers to exchange their chairs and conventional desks for ‘standing workstations’ or treadmill desks. Is this a good idea?

Well, it depends. FM Alexander would tell us that many of the problems we experience are not context-related (relevant only to a specific activity), but are the result of a deterioration in the general manner of use of ourselves. In other words, there’s a way we like to use our bodies – maybe tightening neck muscles, or raising shoulders, or jutting pelvis forwards – that we bring into every activity that we do. And in some of those activities that general way we like to use ourselves becomes problematic.

If this is the case (and Alexander Technique teachers down the decades have anecdotal evidence that this is true), then just swapping standing for sitting isn’t going to help, because we’re going to bring our poor manner of use along into the new activity. If we keep our shoulders raised all the time, we’re going to do that while we’re standing, and the knock-on effects of that through our whole system is going to generate achiness in just the same way it did while we were sitting. It might move or be subtly different in some way, but the cause is the same.

So the whole ‘sitting is bad for you’ campaign has two major flaws: the chair didn’t make us sit for prolonged periods, rather, we did; and there’s nothing to say that standing or using a treadmill desk is going to be any more beneficial in reducing overall harm to our systems.

What, then, should we do? I’m going to give you three top tips.

 1. Don’t sit still! Take breaks!

Chairs are just a tool, in the same way that a computer keyboard is just a tool, or a hammer is just a tool. We need to decide how to use them safely. So don’t sit still for long periods. Get up and walk around once an hour, even if it’s just to the water cooler and back. If you can’t trust yourself to remember, set a timer.

2. Think about your general use of yourself.

Do you hunch your shoulders? Do you jut your pelvis forwards, or crane your head forward on your neck? Do you permanently have one shoulder raised so your handbag won’t fall off… even if your handbag isn’t there? Start taking the time to observe yourself dispassionately, or see an Alexander Technique teacher for some advice.

3. Keep an open mind.

Read the articles. Check out the research. Make sure that you understand the issue before you do anything drastic like junk your furniture or spend thousands on a treadmill desk. Do what seems best for you in your circumstances, taking the research into account. You may well decide that the cardiovascular benefits of a treadmill desk are exactly what you need! But don’t be rushed into anything without thinking about it.

Maybe Hamlet had it right when he said “there’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Let’s stop blaming the tools, and start reasoning out how to use them effectively.

 

You can Improve Performance by Doing Less: Why it Works, and 4 Tips to Harness its Power

61263_9449Have you ever wondered how the truly great artists manage to create their masterpieces? Have you ever listened to Yo-Yo Ma play cello, or watched Roger Federer play tennis, or Fred Astaire dance, and considered how they got that good? Well, practice is a big part of it, absolutely. But I want to suggest that the great artists have all realised the power of a simple process: they understood that you can improve performance by doing less.

Novelist Rolf Dobelli recounts a story of the Pope asking Michelangelo, “Tell me the secret of your genius. How have you created the statue of David, the masterpiece of all masterpieces?” Michelangelo’s reply is remarkable: “It’s simple. I removed everything that is not David.”*

This story, for me, cuts to the heart of what the Alexander Technique is all about, because it speaks to the principle of economy of effort. Michelangelo had an idea of what he wanted his David to be, and then he cut away everything that wasn’t a part of his vision. Simple. Elegant.

Economy of effort to improve performance

Back in 1910, FM Alexander realised that people had a problem with economy of effort. He wrote: “Unfortunately, all conscious effort exerted in attempts at physical actions causes in the great majority of the people of today such tension of the muscular system concerned as to lead to exaggeration rather than eradication of the defects already present.” **

Bluntly, when FM looked around at the world, he thought that people weren’t having the success they craved because they were doing too much. And a lot of us are STILL doing too much, or going about things the wrong way. Or even doing too much WHILE going about things the wrong way! And then we worry, because we aren’t achieving the results we expected.

If that sound crazy, well, it’s because it is crazy. But it’s also very human. We’ve learned from a very early age that doing more is the socially expected course of action. Want to succeed? Do more. Even if you’re not sure you’re doing the right thing in the first place. I’m sure you, like me, have had the experience of playing music, or acting, or hitting a tennis ball, wanting to improve performance, and actually making things worse.

The solution?

To improve performance by doing less. If you think you’re doing too much – whether physically or mentally, try doing a little less. The game I often give my students is the 50% less game – ‘can you do this with 50% less effort?’

And when you take away the unnecessary, what are you left with? I ran across this quote from Alexander teacher Marjorie Barstow. It very much speaks to this idea of taking away the unnecessary. She is quoted as saying to a student, “All you have is the absence of what you had.”

Michelangelo’s absence was David.

So how do you achieve an absence? Here are my tips.

 Keys to Doing Less.

Have a good idea of what you want to achieve. Steven Covey talks about things being created twice. Before the physical creation there is a mental creation. The better your mental creation, the better your idea of where you want to end up.

Know your resources. I can’t give a quote or a footnote, but I’m guessing that Michelangelo chose both his materials and his tools carefully, picking ones that were appropriate to his intentions. We need to do that, too. This may mean going out and buying the right sort of shoes if we plan to start running. It may mean finding out where our hip joints are.

Watchfulness. I’m willing to bet that Michelangelo didn’t wield his hammer and chisel mindlessly! He would have been incredibly watchful, making sure that he didn’t cut away more than he needed to, and that he cut away in the correct places.

No preconceptions about the effort required. This may sound like I’m contradicting tip number 1. But I’m not. Having a goal is one thing, but keeping an open mind about how little effort you may need to achieve that goal is quite another.

Yes, it takes a little bit of work. But will it take any more than all the unnecessary effort we’ve been channelling into our activities? Probably not. And if we are successful, we may well be amazed at how easily we can take away ‘all that is not David.’

 

* Rolf Dobelli, The Art of Thinking Clearly, Sceptre Books, p.304.
** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance, IRDEAT edition, p.62.
Photograph by Richard Simpson, stock.xchng

“Just One More…” – how the desire to do more can be harmful, and how to stop overworking.

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Do you have problems with one of the holy grails of personal productivity: how to stop overworking? Do you find yourself exhausted by your drive to keep checking things off the To Do list?

I’ll answer just one more email…
I’ll write just one more paragraph…
I’ll play that phrase just once more – just to be certain of it…

At the recent Dance and Somatic Practices conference in Coventry, Jane Toms and I presented a workshop in which we discussed how Alexander Technique can be a great tool for circumventing the stories and beliefs we all hold that can prevent us from achieving our potential. I mentioned a couple of the self-limiting (and self-harming) beliefs that caused me to begin studying Alexander’s work.

My tendency to try to fit in ‘just one more thing’ wasn’t one of them. But I’ve realised that it should have been.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve grown up exposed to the belief that hard work is the key to success. I knew I had taken this belief to heart, but only recently have I begun to see how it affects my day-to-day life. I don’t like to cook only tonight’s dinner. I like to start tomorrow’s lunch, too.

I will try to fit in just one more email. Just one more dish on the rack. Just one more load of washing. Just one more student in the schedule.

Yes, this can be productive. But it can also land me in trouble. I can take on too many jobs, or end up doing too many things at once. It’s exhausting.

So I made the decision to stop overworking, and to start treating myself more kindly. But it’s hard. It is as though I have a ‘default setting’ that demands overwork, and any stimulus can set my default setting into overdrive.

But it is not for nothing that FM’s last major piece of writing was entitled ‘Knowing How to Stop’, because stopping is a major key in his work.* When trying to solve his career-threatening voice troubles, FM realised that he needed to “make the experience of receiving a stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.” **

In other words, FM received a stimulus to speak but made the experience of refusing to respond in his usual way. This gave him time to choose not just how to respond, but whether to respond at all.

And this has been my challenge: to receive the stimulus – another email, another phonecall – and to refuse to spring instantly into action. This gives me time to choose what I actually want to do – stop overworking. It gives me time to think. And when I take this time, I have the chance to make the decision anew to choose the path that I have decided is best for my purpose, rather than relying on my default programming.

This is the way we change habitual behaviour – by receiving a stimulus, not instantly using our default programming, but instead making a decision to put into effect the process that we have decided is better.

For me, this is the key to how to stop overworking. It means pausing before fitting in ‘just one more’ of anything. What about you?

*Michael Bloch, FM: The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander, Kindle ed., p.186.
** FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, Irdeat ed., p.424.
Image courtesy of stock images, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back problems? Why spending money on STUFF may not help.

The latest big thing in back care in the workplace appears to be the sit-stand workstation. Again, it’s been in the news both here and in the USA that sitting – not just slouching, but sitting in any form –  for long periods is unnatural and dangerous. To avoid the evils of our chairs, what we apparently need to do (this month) is to spend loads of cash on a super-adjustable desk that we can use both sitting and standing. There are even versions available with a treadmill attachment.*

At this point I want to quote my American colleague, Lynn Brice Rosen: aaaaaargh…

When we start having problems with discomfort at our desks, it is SO tempting to look for the magic bullet: the one perfect product that will solve all our problems. I know this, because I’ve experienced it. When I was a postgrad student and my arms started hurting while I worked, I bought a fancy chair. I bought an ergonomic keyboard. I bought a fancy mouse.

I slouched on the fancy chair. I was smarter than it was.

I thumped away on the fancy keyboard.

I held the mouse in a death grip and crashed down on it whenever I clicked.

The stuff didn’t help. It just didn’t help.

The problem wasn’t the poor design of my equipment. The problem was me.

The problem wasn’t what I was doing. The problem was how I was doing it.

That’s why I despair every time I see a new report telling people to go out and spend money on stuff to fix their problems. Because I know that if most of them just stopped and really thought about HOW they were going about what they were doing, they could make substantial improvements to their wellbeing.

So if you’re suffering at your desk, this is my suggested plan of attack:

  1. Go to the GP and have it checked out. There may be a medical condition that needs attention.
  2. Set reminders so that you get up and move around. The Pomodoro Technique suggests 25 minute work periods.
  3. Have you left your pelvis behind? Experiment with rotating your pelvis forwards.
  4. Try the 50% less game. Can you type or click using half as much force?

And when you’ve tried these ideas, send me a message and let me know how you’re getting on. We really don’t need to spend money on more STUFF to make improvements to our wellbeing!

* You, like my husband, may feel that you’ve been on a treadmill at work, metaphorically speaking, for a while and have no wish to make it literal!

Stopping the snap: Alexander Technique and stress management

Santa by Matthew Mackerras

Christmas. It’s that time of year again. The best of times, the worst of times. So much fun, and yet sometimes so much stress too. D you ever find yourself reacting to circumstances in a way that isn’t very helpful or constructive? Have you ever resolved to do better next time, but when next time came, found your resolve wasn’t enough?

Frankly, how do we stop ourselves from reacting to stressful or difficult events/circumstances/people in a way that isn’t good?

This was exactly the situation FM Alexander found himself in. He realised that he needed to change the way he was reacting to the stimulus to speak, because his instinctive response was causing him to lose his voice.

He had a good think, and worked out a plan for how to open his mouth and use his voice more effectively. But when he tried to use it … He found he wasn’t using it. He was using his old instinctive way instead.

Resolve and planning? Check!

Success? No!

FM realised that he was having trouble implementing his plan because when he had a stimulus to speak, he went on auto-pilot, so to speak. It didn’t matter how good his new plan was, because it never got past his auto-pilot reaction.

And this is what happens to us, too. We have grand plans about how we are not going to snap at our pesky siblings (for example), but at the critical moment, we seem to react without thinking, and snappiness occurs.

So what did FM do? He realised that he needed to switch off the auto-pilot.

 

“If I was ever to be able to change my habitual use … it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.” *

 

And that’s what he did. He refused to do anything immediately in response. He was giving himself the mental space to stop, turn off the auto-pilot, and decide what he actually wanted to do.

So at this time of great stimulus, this is what I’m asking you to do. If there is a stimulus that causes you trouble and grief, make the experience of receiving it, and refusing to do anything immediately in response. Give yourself the space to choose your reaction – or even if you want to react at all.

* FM Alexander, The Use of the Self in the IRDEAT edition, p.424.

Does Working Harder Really Work?

hardwork

According to the BBC, Greece is being asked by its Eurozone creditors to increase the working week to six days. Musicians routinely play a kind of workaholic one-upmanship about how many hours they practice each day. Children seem to be given increasingly large amounts of homework to do.

The world seems to believe that the way to achieve more is to work harder. By which they mean: work for longer. But does this really work? If you increase the number of hours you spend at a task, will you really be more effective?

Of course, it depends on what you are actually doing in all those extra hours. FM Alexander was once confronted by a pupil who insisted that, even if the activity was wrong, it was better to exert oneself and try hard than not to try at all. Alexander countered by suggesting that ‘trying hard’ in the wrong direction was still going in the wrong direction. He said that

It is not the degree of “willing” or “trying,” but the way in which the energy is directed, that is going to make the “willing” or “trying” effective.*

In other words, it really doesn’t matter how fast you are driving if you are on the wrong road. It doesn’t matter how many times a musician plays a semi quaver passage if they’re getting it wrong every time. It doesn’t matter how many hours you spend at your desk if you don’t have a clear idea of what work you should be doing.

This is the strategy I’m using in my recorder practice sessions, and I think it could be useful in other places too.

  • Decide what it is you want to achieve.
  • Decide on the easiest way to achieve it.
  • Do what you’ve decided is best.
  • Stop.

Once you’ve become proficient at setting goals and achieving them, you can increase the number of tasks and the number of hours worked. But in the beginning, go for quality instead of quantity. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

 

* FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, IRDEAT edition, p.440.
Image by ddpavumba from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Communication breakdown: why what you say (and how) matters

speechbubbles

I’ve started lately to be (even more) picky with the language my students use. My student will say “Of course, the computer makes me slump,” and I will counter by saying “That naughty computer! It must be very clever to make you do anything. Are you sure it was the computer?” At which point they will relent and agree that they chose to slump at the computer.

Or my student might say, “my shoulders like to come forward.” After some gentle ribbing from me, the student will eventually change their statement to “I like to bring my shoulders forward.”

You see? Picky.

So why does it matter how my students talk about their issues?

It’s a question of responsibility.

If the computer is doing it to you, the only way you can fix it is to change the computer. But that involves time and expense, and if it’s a work computer, it may simply not be possible. And what if the next computer is just as bad?

If your kids make you cross and that causes your headache, then you will have to wait for the kids to change. Again, that could be a long time coming!

The first and most vital step on FM Alexander’s journey was that issue of self-responsibility, when after he had ruled out all medical causes for his throat trouble, he asked if it was something he was doing while using his voice that was the cause of the trouble.*

It’s not the computer, it’s how you use it.

It’s not the kids, it’s how you decide to react to them.

It’s not your shoulders, it’s how you choose to use them in activity.

 

An experiment.

This week, try this experiment for me. See how many times you can catch yourself handing away your responsibility for yourself with the way you frame your speech. Can you change the way you talk? Can you change the way you think?

 

* FM Alexander, The Use of the Self in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.412.
Image by  renjith krishnan from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Can the Alexander Technique Improve my Energy Levels?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The question of energy levels is an important one to many of my students. Perhaps it is important to you, too. Life seems to be so busy, and there always seems to be more that needs to be done. Some of my students have had the experience of struggling to maintain energy levels through a busy day. And what makes it all the more galling is that colleagues or friends may have similarly stressful, action-packed days, and yet apparently breeze through them unscathed.

How can this be? Are those of us who struggle with energy lacking stamina? Short of tearing up our To do lists, is there a way of improving our energy levels? Can the Alexander Technique help us to have more energy and vitality?

 

Why the answer is yes…

It is a common experience of Alexander technique students to feel more ‘alive’ after a lesson. They often report feeling more awake, more alert, lighter, and somehow more able to concentrate on tasks. So why does this happen?

The secret lies in the stuff we do to ourselves – unnecessary muscular activity.

FM Alexander noticed in himself, and subsequently in others, that it was something that he was doing in the way he went about activities that was causing his problems – the problems that led him to create the work we call the Alexander Technique. He noticed defects in the way he was using himself.

And in his first book, Alexander noted that when defects in the poise of the body are present, “the condition thus evidenced is the result of an undue rigidity of parts of the muscular mechanisms … Which are forced to perform duties other than those intended by nature.” In other words, if we are experiencing problems, it is likely that some of our muscles are working far too hard, and probably in ways that they are not designed to do.

So it makes sense that if we are using more muscular activity than we need, and using the wrong muscles anyway, that we would start to feel fatigued.

This is why feeling an increase in energy is a common experience in Alexander Technique lessons. Students not only decrease the work done by their muscles, but they work out for themselves (with the teacher’s assistance) the most effective way of carrying out the activity they are working on. They work out which muscles they need to use, and then experience using just those muscles, doing just the right amount of work.

 

2 things you can do to improve your energy levels.

Here are two simple things you can do to help yourself improve your energy levels.

1. A bit of brainpower. Have a think about the activity that is causing you fatigue. What is involved in the activity? What is the least number of muscles and joints you need to use to carry out the activity?

2. The 50%  less game. Pick an activity, and try using half as much energy as normal. For example, can you use half as much energy to type on your computer? Hold a pen? Click a mouse? This is a great game to play. My students usually discover that they don’t need to use nearly as much energy for most activities. Just pick the activity wisely- holding a kitchen knife or a steering wheel might require a little caution!

 

Are you willing to give these ideas a go? Tell me about it in the comments!

Image by Richard Styles, stock.xchng