An old joke to begin:
Rumour has it that once, a pedestrian on Fifty-seventh Street in Manhatten stopped Jascha Heifitz (or possibly Artur Rubenstein!) and asked, “Could you tell me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The great musician replied, “Practice, practice, practice!” *
I’ve noticed that the concept of practice has been popping up in blog posts gain, and in very diverse fields. For example, author Sarah Duncan recently wrote a post discussing the importance of writing consistently if you want to be any good. And an article by Sonia Simone appeared on the Copyblogger website which talked about the importance of practice to copywriters and graphic designers.
So the concept of ‘doing the work’ is in the air at the moment. Which is great, because it is one of those topics that is so important that it needs to get a regular airing.
And doing the work is definitely a part of the Alexander Technique. Writing in 1911, FM Alexander said, “Fortunately for us, there is not a single one of these habits of mind, with their resultant habits of body, which may not be altered by the inculcation of those principles concerning the true poise of the body which I have called the principles of mechanical advantage…” **
FM’s use of the word ‘inculcation’ is interesting. He wants us to fix an idea in our minds with constant repetition. Sounds a bit like practice to me!
But what sort of practice?
Sonia Simone’s article takes a slightly different slant, though, and it is one that I really like. She asks us to think about the type of practice we are doing, not just the quantity. Because, as she says, “10,000 hours of playing the scales is easy (if really, really boring), but it won’t get you to Carnegie Hall. And even 10 hours of the right kind of practice will bring you something meaningful and interesting.” ***
So we don’t need to do masses and masses of hours of practice – though some consistency would be good! But what are we going to practice? How can we practice the Alexander Technique effectively so that we can move and think more freely and easily?
Well, FM gives us the key in the passage I quoted. He wants us to inculcate (fix in our heads by repetition) the “principles concerning the poise of the body”.
Not exercises. Not positions. Not lists of instructions.
Principles are great things. They are, in Stephen Covey’s words, fundmental truths of universal application. Remember a principle, and you can apply it pretty much everywhere.
So what principles should we remember?
Yes, I could give you a list. I could give you lots of lovely things to think about. But I’m not.
You see, the other danger with practice is trying to do too much all at once. I would rather you worked with one or maybe two ideas and had some success, than that you tried to work on 6 or 8 things and failed dismally. So…
I recommend starting with just these two ideas, and see how far you get.
- Before you start doing something, think about how you are going to do it.
- When you stop doing something… STOP!
Tell me in the comments how you get on!
* You can find a discussion on the joke at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Hall
** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.57.
*** Sonia Simone, ‘The 5 Keys to Content Marketing Mastery’, http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-mastery/