Today's blog post is a continuation of the last two posts I wrote about the reasons for chronic pain and how to deal with the actual root cause of the pain so you can get back to making beautiful music.
In essence, the Alexander Technique is about getting out of the way of yourself. Think of the tension in your body like the e-brake in your car. If you drive around with your e-brake on you can still get around, but you're wearing your car down, little by little. Similarly, the tension in your body doesn't totally prevent you from doing what you need to do, but it'll wear down your muscles to the point of pain eventually. The Alexander Technique is simply letting go of your e-brake.
Instead of missing the forest for the trees by focusing on the part of your body that hurts, the Alexander Technique helps you use your whole body more efficiently so that you’ll be using less tension overall, thus reducing your pain.
Instead of giving you some pleasant experience and then letting you fall back in your habits, in Alexander Technique lessons you will learn concrete tools to become aware of your habits of tension so you can be proactive and empowered in reducing your pain.
Plus, Alexander Technique lessons do feel great! Playing your instrument, or even walking, without excess tension can be a relief like finding water after trudging through the desert.
There are other benefits of learning the Alexander Technique:
Your sound will improve dramatically. The tension in your body actually dampens your sound, just like placing a ball of cloth in a bell will make it go “thunk” rather than “doooooooong.”.
Your playing will become effortless. With less tension in your body, movement is easier and more graceful.One student of mine, who is an opera singer, said that after a few months of lessons with me pieces that had seemed really challenging now seemed like “little toys.”
You will also experience less stage fright and performance anxiety, because much of the tension you feel is closely linked with your fight-or-flight response. This is why you feel stressed out.I can help you meet stressful situations with calm, clarity and poise.
How does Alexander Technique work?
Instead of merely telling or explaining how to better use your body, I can gently guide your awareness and movements so you can let go of any areas of contraction or tension. You may feel like you're floating, like you let go of tension you weren't even aware of, like you suddenly got taller, or you may notice that your pain has suddenly disappeared.
What does a lesson look like?
It's actually a lot like a music lesson. We'll have a brief conversation, you can play your instrument or do some other activity, and then I can guide your body to greater ease and I’ll help you help yourself for when you’re at home or in the concert hall.
How many lessons should I take?
It depends on many factors. Think of it like seeing a psychiatrist - you wouldn’t think that just one session would cure you of all your problems. Same for Alexander Technique. After all a lifetime of habits won’t be overcome in a day. Gradually, however, with repeated exposure to Alexander Technique lessons, you'll become more and more aware of when you're holding tension and better and better at letting go of it.
Research on the Alexander Technique
Overall, the Alexander Technique has been proven in several large-scale studies to be over 3X as effective as physical therapy in reducing reported pain.
Here’s your final take-away for this series on the root cause and solution of the chronic pain that may be getting in the way of your music-making:
The root cause of this pain lays in a pattern of tension that exists in your whole body, not just in a part. The key to overcoming this is through becoming aware of your habits of using your whole body. The most effective method of doing this that I know of is the Alexander Technique.