The ‘head-neck-back’ is your unity of power and coordination. From the crown of your head down to your sitting bones this unity is designed to be balanced, free and strong, with full natural breathing. A good functioning head-neck-back gives you confidence, grounds you to the floor, and at the same time gives you uprightness and coordination.
The most important joint in your head-neck-back is the atlanto-occipital joint. This joint connects your skull to your spine at the first vertebra, called the atlas. The atlas is located on a line between your earlobes.
In reaction to the big amount of stimuli in our lives (traffic, phones, computers, to do lists, worries etc.) many light fear reflexes or stress reactions can be fired off during the day. These reactions are called the fight/flight/freeze reflex manifestations, or the startle response, and exist in all animals.The startle pattern causes us to stiffen our neck a little. Our eyes start to stare, our whole body’s musculature becomes more tense and we hold our breath.
During the day it is very helpful to have the tools to briefly release tension in this area of the neck, around this very important atlanto-occipital joint. As these moments of recuperation are spread throughout the day you will experience several small moments of calm and easier breathing. The Alexander Technique gives you the means to create these short moments of recovery for yourself.
Seven reasons why Spatial Awareness should be part of any learning process (learning to drive a car, at school, learning a musical instrument, sport, at the computer) and why it is part of Alexander Technique Teaching.
During my Alexander Technique lessons and workshops I put a lot of emphasis on spatial awareness, or, all- inclusive awareness. Why is it so important?
Spatial awareness prevents us from shrinking, collapsing and stiffening. If we are concentrating or focussing only on a small part of ourselves (our computer screen, the music notes, a specific place in our body, or our to-do list running through our mind), we narrow not only our awareness, but also our bodies. We literally get a physical effect of shortening and shrinking. When we shrink, we will start to create unnecessary tension and our breathing will become restricted. All this generally happens unconsciously. Spatial awareness gives us inner volume. We become long, wide and deep from within, because the space helps us to release unnecessary tension. The space helps us to connect the awareness of the whole of us ánd the space around ánd a detail or aspect (like the computer screen) all together, simultaneously. This doesn’t require making an effort at all. Instead, allowing yourself the expansion of your awareness, effortlessly. This is a very natural state to be in, for any human being.
Spatial awareness helps us to increase the chances of flow. When we are aware of ourselves, the space and others in an all-inclusive awareness, all these elements will merge together. This is what happens when we are in flow. There is no “hard working you”, focussing on a small thing, separated from the rest. Instead you become one with the music, your heart, others and the space. Spatial awareness helps us to be in the present moment, giving us a feeling of calm, easy movements and connectedness.
Everyone knows the saying: ‘it’s the little things that bring happiness’.
Since becoming an Alexander Technique teacher, I have come to grasp the truth of this better than ever before. I used to think that happiness came from ‘doing as many enjoyable things as possible, working as hard as possible and achieving as much as possible’. Everyday activities (washing-up, doing the shopping) were things that I rushed through as quickly as possible, because they got in the way of all the things that I considered far more important and much preferred doing. Nowadays working hard still makes me happy, but I also experience much happiness when doing everyday activities. Does that sound boring? Well it isn’t at all!
The best weapon against performance anxiety is to totally immerse yourself in the music. Most musicians can remember their most fantastic concert: how effortlessly they played, enjoying every note and feeling the music in every fibre of their being. Psychologists call this flow.
Is it possible to increase the chances of experiencing this flow? Fortunately: YES!
Traditionally, musicians have always concentrated on improving their performance by studying hard. However you can also benefit greatly from focusing on preventing underperformance by releasing unnecessary tension, and improving your coordination and breathing. This involves learning to gradually change thoughts that make you nervous or block your coordination, into more helpful thoughts that make movement easy, make you feel more confident, and more aware of yourself and others in all inclusive awareness.