Spatial Awareness

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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  1. Spatial awareness helps us to experience wholeness. Because one doesn’t over-focus on a detail, but in- stead incorporate details in the whole, one sees the bigger picture. While walking, for instance, you can be aware of your whole body from feet to head with the sky above, the spaces to the far left and right and the space far behind. Or, when talking about music; the self awareness and spatial awareness will help you to give direction to the whole musical line, feeling it through towards the end of each phrase and beyond.

  2. Spatial awareness brings us more information. When we lack all inclusive awareness, our brain has to make an effort to block out the space, sounds, or other input. In this way our brain is wasting energy, having less space left to receive information. So, when we concentrate in the ‘all inclusive way’ we will be able to receive more information because our brain has more space. This, in turn, often leads to mak- ing better long term choices because they are based on self-awareness and greater self-knowledge. You are able to notice the smallest things about the smoothness of your movements, breathing, and music making (both alone and with others), without missing out on things. This gathering of important information will lead to welcomed side- effects, like more efficient practicing and injury prevention.

  3. Spatial awareness makes your body lighter and easier to move, as if your joints are well-oiled and open and your muscles longer and more supple. Your muscle tone changes for the better, and becomes more appropriate for the task at hand, improving your overall coordination and your sound.

  4. Spatial awareness makes you more flexible and makes it thus easier to adapt and react to different circumstances. It will lead to better ensemble playing. You become more aware of what your colleagues are playing and you will not fail to notice the conductor taking a slightly faster tempo! Because you are noticing these things, you can also react more easily and faster.

  5. Last but not least, spatial awareness helps us to release our body’s reaction of stiffening when we are worrying or feeling anxious. When we are worrying, afraid, or anxious our brain shuts out the space, and zooms into our discomfort. The consequence is that we will shrink and stiffen a little more, we will be holding our breath and we will feel even worse. Try experimenting with this when you feel worried or stressed. Firstly start to listen to the sounds around you, and then slowly become aware of the space above and below, left and right, in front and behind. You can come back to your soft friendly eyes with panoramic vision and notice your feet spreading out on the floor. These can be powerful tools to bring you from the future, or past, back into the present moment. There might be a small release and a little more breath, and you will have helped yourself in an indirect way.

Sounds good?
Start practicing it in your daily life!
Try it out whilst walking to the tram, biking, sitting in your car, practicing your music, or at the computer.

Make a game out of it and ask yourself:
Do I still see the ...x.... and the ...x... in the left and right corners of my eyes? Do I still notice the ceiling above, the floor below? The space behind me?

Have fun! Let me know if you have any questions, and let me know how it goes!