Leading a mindful life is a work in progress. There is no point at which you will have ‘completed mindfulness’ or found a combination of techniques that will work for you always. As your lifestyle evolves and new challenges arise you will harness new ways of tapping into mindfulness and will discover and discard many mindful tools along the way.
Perhaps you are looking to try something new or incorporate a different approach into your mindful practices; the methods and ideas used in Alexander Technique might be worth a look.
Alexander Technique was developed by an actor named Frederick Matthias Alexander (unsurprisingly) in the 1890’s. He was plagued by vocal and physical problems during his early career which were down to him using his body and voice incorrectly. The technique he developed is based on the observation of one’s own body and the tweaking of unhelpful physical habits.
There are those that argue that Alexander and Mindfulness are too different to work in tandem. This mainly being due to the fact that a mindful approach is all about acceptance of self and habitual behaviour, whereas Alexander Technique is about adjusting habits. However, I don’t see why some aspects of the Alexander Technique can’t be extremely helpful in the pursuit of a mindful life. Having trained as an actor, Alexander Technique has been part of my life for over a decade. In times of stress or tension, aspects of this technique are exactly what I turn to for release, as well as meditation.
The foundation of using Alexander successfully is good physical awareness. One of the first things you learn is how to be mindful of your tensions and your movement. This requires focus on the self and a concentration on the sensations offered to you by your own body. Through this you will learn about your physical habits and typical points of tension for you. For example, I hold stress, in the form of muscular tension, in my shoulders and jaw. Knowing this makes it much easier to pinpoint where I must concentrate when stressed. By going straight to these pressure points I can put myself in a comfortable state for relaxation and meditation much more effectively and efficiently.
As with many strands of meditation, the breath is an important building block. I learn how to gain control over my breath and vocal resilience through Alexander Technique. This aspect of the practice can do nothing but improve your use of breath during meditation and help you understand how your breathing reacts to certain emotions and situations.
This is something we all do. It is a form of self-judgement. Learning not to comment is about learning to accept a situation or activity and simply doing it without feeling the need to remark upon it in any way. For example, at drama school, we might have been asked to move around the room like an animal. Seems silly perhaps, but that is the point. Early on in my training I would have been tempted to make eye contact with another student and raise an eyebrow as if to say, ‘this is stupid, isn’t it?’. By doing this, I have made judgement, I have commented. I learned over time to enjoy the silliness of the task and to simply accept it. This is a useful tool for a tolerant and mindful approach to life.
The technique also asks that you learn how to be aware of your immediate environment. This is an aspect that aligns very nicely with the mindful ideas surrounding presence and awareness. This not only teaches you to be mindful of your surroundings but also to notice the effect your world has on you in both sensory and emotional ways.
This is, of course, only an introduction the idea of Alexander Technique. I think it is a very worthwhile ingredient to add to a mindful life. Perhaps you like the idea and will take this article as a starting point to delve a little deeper into the possibilities of Alexander. Or perhaps it will inspire you to find a new way to bring mindfulness into your life. We are happy either way!
By Chris Thomson
Yoga is another great addition to your quest for mindfulness. Here are some poses you can use anywhere: 7 Yoga Poses for Anytime, Anywhere
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