When CMG’s President Karen Garrity and I heard about a free Alexander Technique (AT) workshop, we realized that every time we had asked colleagues familiar with it what AT was, we were given vague and unsatisfying answers. So, what IS it?

From the Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique:  “The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support, and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body. The Alexander Technique is a method which helps a person discover a new balance in the body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities…”

We headed over to Santa Monica for a two-hour introduction, and here’s some of what we learned. Our heads weigh anywhere from ten to fourteen pounds! That’s a lot of weight to balance on top of our spines. And if our head is inclined, even slightly, the weight increases exponentially as our muscles react by supporting it more.

Children’s heads are already disproportionately heavy for their little bodies, and they seem to handle this effortlessly. So, what happens as we age? We learn patterns that aren’t necessarily good for our mental wellness and keeping our spine healthy, so we need to be more aware of these patterns. Awareness is key to integrating a smoothly functioning body and mind.

Jennifer Schulz (jennifer@presenceandpoise.com), one of the instructors, told us that her first experience with Alexander Technique triggered an “ugly crying” response in an acting class, where her instructor helped her let go of the emotional “mask” she was carrying around. And Nick George, (nickwgeorge@gmail.com), the other instructor, related similar breakthroughs in his work, his relationships, his ability to learn and grow. He is a happier, more integrated person using AT.

So, AT is a way of life, and therefore difficult to distill down to an elevator speech. Even this two-hour introduction didn’t give us the ability to explain it succinctly to a friend. The classes are surprisingly affordable: $395 for 8 hours of instruction in a class or $80/hour for private instruction. For anyone who performs regularly, and has any mind/body issues, it’s something to consider to strengthen your creative growth and continue performing for a lifetime.

Image courtesy of Daryl Silberman

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