Sunday, September 22, 2013

Becoming Strong with the Alexander Technique

Learning how to be strong....from the inside out.

I used to think I didn't "have" muscles.  I thought I was weak.  Do you know what those thoughts can do to a person?  What you think is what you get.  I wasn't weak, and I definitely had muscles, but I did not experience strength because I told myself those things, and I believed those thoughts.

Do you believe that you are weak?  Do you want to feel strong?

First, you must realize the thoughts you are feeding to yourself, and you need to realize that your body is innocent - it wants you to be right, so it gives you the experience of what you believe, to make it true.  If the body were to talk to you, it might say, "Oh! You believe that you are weak? That you don't have muscles?  Well, I love you so much that I want you to have the pleasure of being right!  I'm going to prove to you that you are weak, and make it true.  I will use my muscles less so that you get a sense of lack of movement and start forgetting the natural range of motion available to the joints...maybe the muscles will even atrophy someday so that you can feel really justified in your beliefs."  And the body will do this, because you are not sending messages to it to counter this process.

You are feeding the body false thoughts, and the body is giving you an experience to "prove" to you that you're right in believing those thoughts.  And then, you FEEL lack of movement and lack of energy and lack of your beliefs are reinforced, and you continue to think the same thoughts - which are becoming true, little by little.

Is that what you want?  What DO you want?  To be and feel strong?

If that's what you want, don't believe your limiting thoughts!  Stop taking for granted that your thoughts about yourself are true.  Question them.  And stop thinking the ones that you don't want to be true. Don't trust how you feel in your body and rely on that.  Rely on your THINKING, and CHOOSE what you want to think!

What you think IS what you get!

1. Become aware of what you are thinking  ("I am weak, I don't have muscles")
2. Decide what you don't want, and what you want (I don't want to be weak, and I want to feel that I have muscles that work and have full range of motion, and strength; I want to be and feel strong)
3. Remember that you are FREE TO CHOOSE what to think and what to stop thinking (you are free to continue thinking those thoughts, or to stop thinking "I am weak, I don't have muscles"; and also free to think "I have muscles; I am strong!")
4. Don't pay attention to feelings in your body that are trying to convince you otherwise
5. Stick to your intention; stop what is unhelpful, and direct your thinking towards what you want, with meaning
6. TRUST your mind-body connection, and have the PATIENCE to keep this up.  In good time, you will start to feel strong, but mostly because strength begins in the MIND, and you are making your mind very strong by practicing this conscious, constructive, self-control.

If you actually do this, you are likely to be amazed by the results.  More and more, you will have opportunities to see that, indeed, you ARE much stronger than you ever thought.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding My Voice with the Alexander Technique & Podcast

One of the many things that the Alexander Technique is extremely helpful for is meeting and overcoming challenges, so that at times it seems we are achieving "the impossible".  I wrote a blogpost recently about some of the personal milestones I've achieved in my life with the Technique, and I'd like to write about another milestone I achieved just a couple days ago, which means a great deal to me.

I was extremely shy as a child, always preferring to stay on the outside of a group, observing for quite a long time before daring to join in.  I didn't feel understood by other children, and I didn't feel that they really listened when I spoke to them, so after awhile I didn't bother to speak much anymore.  I knew that I could express myself fully through playing the violin, so I spoke through that instrument instead of through my voice.  Which was great for my music-making, but not so good for developing my speaking skills!  

Realizing that deficit, I took a speech class in college, hoping to overcome what had turned into an unpleasant fear of speaking in public - but I quickly dropped the class when I drew a complete blank on a poem I was supposed to recite from memory.  When I won an award for my violin playing a couple years later from TIME magazine, I needed to give an acceptance speech in NYC; I don't think I spoke more than three sentences, deferring instead to the expression of my recorded music playing in the background.

So....a very surprising and completely unintended benefit from learning the Alexander Technique has been that I can now feel quite comfortable speaking in front of an audience.  I now enjoy teaching group classes (oh, how nervous I was the first time!), and I even speak with ease to audiences about my baroque violin during concerts.  

The latest milestone in this regard has been a podcast interview that I recorded a couple days ago for Body Learning, a comprehensive online resources for the Alexander Technique.  These recordings are listened to by teachers and students of the Technique alike.  Yes, I still experienced some performance anxiety before the recording began, but I thoroughly enjoyed taping the conversation.  

Sometimes I wonder....who is this new person emerging with a confidence and abilities I never knew I had before?  Yes...little by little....I am at last finding a way to express mySelf through my vocal mechanism in addition to the violin.  What a wondrous gift this Technique is!!

Here's a link to the podcast interview, if you're interested.  It's about making good use of our innate free will, but it will probably only make sense to you if you are already a teacher or student of the Technique.  Enjoy!

*Image courtesy of Vlado /

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unhelpful, habitual thought-patterns can be stopped with Alexander Technique

I just finished teaching an Alexander lesson to a student who is learning about some of her habitual ways of thinking which interfere with the sense of freedom that she would like to have in her life.
Instead of compiling a list during her lesson to reminder her of what some of these thought-patterns might be, we decided to do some more hands-on work at the table, and I said I'd post the list in my blog, as it might also be useful for others to read about. it is:

Some "Red-flag" phrases that can alert us to notice 
when we are thinking in a habitual, unhelpful way:

- I'll try, I'm trying (implies effort)
- but (implies contradiction, argument, conflict, fight, tension) (good substitutes: "and" or "I wonder if...")
- I can't (implies limitation, restriction)
- I'm not allowed to  (implies limitation, restriction)
- I'm supposed to (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I should (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I have to, or I need to (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I like / I don't like (there's nothing wrong with having likes or dislikes, but it can become an obstacle to get too stuck or fixed in our likes and dislikes, which creates rigidity and lack of tolerance and flexibility, and puts us into a restrictive box with a label on it of who we think we are)
- I am "shy" or "afraid" or other negative labels/qualifiers (these are limiting and restrictive)
- I'm just (this diminishes, implies limitation)

I'm not saying that these words and phrases are always negative, or that they should never be used. Sometimes, depending on the context and the intention behind them, they can be used constructively.  However, for most people most of the time, they are just unhelpful, habitual ways to make ourselves smaller, throw ourselves off-balance, and out of harmony.

So how to work with this?

1. Become aware of it when you use one of these "red flag" phrases.  Notice how they make you feel.  Do they make you feel empowered, expansive, and free, or do they tend to make you feel smaller, constricted, and helpless?  Get curious about this, experiment with thinking these thoughts and observe the results they produce.

2. Remember that you are human, and therefore are endowed not only with habit, but - above all - with the gift of free will.

3.  Decide to make good use of your free will by choosing first to accept how things are right now - even if it's something you don't like (such as having a habitual thought-pattern that is unhelpful). 
"I am free to think this, feel this, do this, be this, experience this, etc."

3. You are also, above all, free to choose a different way of thinking.  You can think:  "I am free to stop my habitual way of thinking, and choose what to think next:  I am free!"

Some new ways to think 
in order to make good use of your free will:

- I am free
- I am free to be "in habit" - to have habitual ways of thinking/doing which are unhelpful
- I am free to be human 
- I am free to feel ___________________.
- I am free to think __________________.
- I am free to want / do / be / experience _____________________.
- I am free to transcend and transform myself by stopping the habit of thinking unhelpful thoughts, forgetting to make good use of my free will
- I am stopping The Habit, right NOW, just by thinking in this new way
- I am free, no matter how I feel
- I am free to continue remembering that I am free!

I'd love to hear about your experiences if you decide to try this out.  Also, I'd love any suggestions to add to my lists above!  Thanks!

*"Image courtesy of kibsri /"