Ideas Tap Article 6th March 
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Alexander Technique for creatives

Last week, The Spa offered free Alexander Technique lessons to IdeasTap members. Amelia Forsbrook met tutor Ruth Davis to talk about wellbeing, poise and getting out of bad habits…


Lying semi-supine on a massage bench in the corner of the IdeasTap canteen, I had a suspicion that this wasn’t going to be the most conventional afternoon of my job.

“Amelia, don’t do anything,” demanded Alexander Technique teacher Ruth Davis, while maneuvering one of my arms. Based on the philosophy of the Tasmanian actor Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) the lesson was about acknowledging the habits tied up in my posture in order to develop an awareness of what my body was doing, and minimise strain and discomfort. Hopefully, by the end of the 40-minute session, my heightened self-perception would develop an increased sense of poise.


Before my lesson, Ruth had given me a thorough explanation of the principles behind her practice. “It’s work, not a therapy,” she’d stressed. “Often people want to be fixed. The Alexander Technique is nothing like that at all. It’s really about developing your own responsibility and thinking in activity.”

This idea had been reinforced in my lesson; throughout, Ruth was in control of all my movements, but it was up to me to alter my thinking towards a “forward and upward” orientation. It was also my responsibility to continue the mindset Ruth had helped me tailor after the lesson was done. As Ruth stressed, “The Alexander Technique is a commitment to finding out and improving your overall wellbeing and letting go of the things that could be detrimental long-term.”


Ruth came to the Alexander Technique with a background in performing arts. She had observed that few activities united mind and body, and had sought out a discipline where this occurred. As an actor and musician, Ruth found that the Alexander Technique not only brought a sense of poise and balance to her general performance style, but also worked to target specific issues related to her role, for instance, it managed stage fright by rechanneling attention that was previously focused on the audience onto the workings of the body.


We then started talking about “inhibition”, an idea of Alexander’s that differs from Freud’s use of the term. Alexander’s understanding of the word involves an altered mindset and a conscious focus on each movement made by the body, no matter how small. Ruth wanted me to take a “quiet moment of poise” before every physical change, where I could consider the tensions placed in the body and acknowledge habits that, in Ruth’s words, “may feel right, but aren’t good for us in the long-term”.

With all this talk of cultivating age-old patterns, I wondered how relevant the Alexander Technique was to the seven young performers at our free Spa workshop. Ruth explained, “If you learn how to use yourself well when young, you are going to ward off any back pain.” The Alexander Technique also plays a more general part in the body’s health; elaborating on how an improved posture places all the internal organs in a comfortable, non-constricted place, Ruth enthusiastically introduced her own Alexander Technique catchphrase: “We want to feel at ease – not full of dis-ease!”

After 10 minutes in Ruth’s hands, I was already becoming more aware of my own habits and tensions; after 20, her patient and encouraging response meant that I could completely trust her to guide my movement. I may not be ready to take to the stage just yet, but I’ve certainly taken Ruth’s advice on board. Onwards and upwards.



 

A number of introductory sessions were given at Ideas Tap in London to introduce young creative people to the idea of looking after their long term health

This article was written by one of the staff members there