Alexander Technique – A Memorable Workshop with Steven Hallmark

As an ardent believer of natural healing modalities, I leave no opportunity to gain new wisdom!

May 5th, 2018 had been an unusual day!

I attended a special workshop arranged by my Toastmasters club. The guest of honour was Steven Hallmark who shared the virtues of a marvellous healing method called the “Alexander Technique”.

(PS: Steven Hallmark has been an efficient Alexander Technique teacher since 1983.)

In this post, I share about the session that unfolded to be immensely enlightened! Moreover, I am deeply touched by the awe-inspiring story of the founder of Alexander Technique! Kudos to the noble soul whose humble invention is spreading smiles on the faces of many in severe need of healing!

The Flaw & The Cure_©Jyotika Rajput Mehra Poetry & Photography
The Magic, the miracle is not a mystery
The flaw and the cure, both hide inside of you... Just look within deeply!

Steven began by sharing his story...

“There was a time when I had a bad back in my childhood. I went to Osteopath for cure. He told me if he could not fix me in 4 sessions, my problem could never be cured!

I was worried about myself! Sometime later, I learnt that back pain is a general state of all our negative emotions and imbalanced state of mind. I decided to re-educate myself and began being very mindful about my emotions. Indeed it was a tough but I used to do my best! Slowly, I stopped getting carried away by them!

In a few weeks of time, a strange surprise showed up! With my consistently balanced emotional state, my back pain disappeared! I felt it to be a miracle!”

About Fredrick Matthias Alexander – Founder of the Alexander Technique - 1890

Born in Tasmania, 1869, Frederick grew up as a theatre artist. His career demanded him to recite dialogues in different tones and volumes. It was the initial years of his career that he faced the issue of recurring voice loss!

Unfortunately, the medical world could not help in curing Alexander’s weird problem! Disheartened by his state, Alexander started losing interest in his career! Indeed, his situation was severely gross!

Though it was challenging, yet Alexander did not lose hope and grabbed the determined attitude of finding solution for his problem!

He started paying attention to all the instances – when he first lost his voice, then how he gained it back with the help of doctor, then how he again lost it! He recalled observing each of his habit very minutely! And at last, he came across a shocking thing!

It was his flawed POSTURE!

He realised that all this while, he had been practicing his dialogue delivery in front of the mirror by standing in an extremely peculiar way!

Unknowingly, he had been stressing his vocal chords, with his neck pushed backward and chin bent down! Consequently this used to clasp his breath, make his entire body stiff and distort the entire region of his nasal passage!

Well, despite of knowing this fact, he felt helpless! In his observation, these unhealthy posture habits had been deeply rooted in his unconscious mind! The challenge was to uproot them all and stop his suffering!

But he believed that there had to be some solution…! He never gave up and started figuring out what could be done to rescue himself!

He could not see his own mind and body acting against him! Eventually he originated a technique through which the unconscious habitual activities of an individual could be changed, and his invention was known as “Alexander Technique”.

Frederick, in his time soon gained the popularity by the name of “the breathing man”!

He not only cured himself but went on teaching his healing technique to many across the globe, up until the last years of his life!

Back to Steven….

In an ideal situation you will think that somebody needs to tell you what to do to change your habits! But it’s not like that! 

My job as an Alexander Technique teacher is only to teach people this form called “Alexander Technique”.

It’s just like as you learn dancing, singing, skating, etc.

Many times people give their minds instructions to stay relax, and that’s exactly where they flaw! You do not have to tell yourself to be relax. It should happen by default! Being human, our natural form is to always stay in a relaxed state!

In Alexander Technique, we don’t give such instructions. We just have to feel and know that feeling – we just have to realise those moments when we are feeling relaxed! All stuff gets taken care when we let it happen naturally! Such is the autonomic flow of life!

For example, all the internal activities - our food digestion, blood circulation, breathing, etc., all these complex mechanisms are taken care by the laws of nature in a very natural way!

3 Main Principles of Alexander Technique

1. Preventive Awareness

This principle states that we need to be deeply aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Considering everything, now we need to identify the activities which are not working well for us! Once the identification is done, we need to prevent them from occurring. Such kind of awareness is called kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness.

Kinesthetic senses create ability to sense that our motion signals us about the things which are not beneficial for us while we are doing them!

2. Inhibition of Automatic Reaction

Dictionary states the meaning of Inhibition as, “a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unable to act in a relaxed or natural way!”

Automatic reactions are primarily a part of our habits that we usually don’t notice! And these habits impact us at a deeper psychic level! Hence, it is essential for us to notice such reactions in order to change them if they are producing ill-effects!

According this principle, we learn how to know our inhibitions of automatic reaction. Once done, it is easier to take a moment to think and then exhibit an intended response instead of a rushing unsteady reaction that is the root cause for stiffness in the body!

3. Direction of Conscious Intention

The third principle of the Alexander Technique refers to directing our conscious intention towards choosing our response after that little moment of stillness where we preferred not to react!

It is done by sending mindful instructions to brain about how comfortable we can feel even when caught in a difficult situation! This further leads to thoughtful actions that make the mind and body relax and be at ease.
Back to Steven…

In my early 20s, I heard it a lot from people around to “relax”, I didn’t understand it that time! This is the reason – In Alexander Technique, we say, “Stop where you are and stay balanced!”

We as humans don’t actually take into consideration the fact that we stand as per the force of gravity! So when we release the effort of standing against gravity (we may not feel it though), we actually enter into a non-stressing state, and that state is a naturally relaxed state!

Understand the Law of Gravity

Earth uses our weight as a stimulus, therefore if we indulge in the anticipatory pre-emptive thrust, i.e. if we let our weight go down, we throw it away, and that’s where contraction of energy happens. When we are all contracted, that means we are then ready to change the state of our action and go into some other state while focusing on other options!

Without dramatising it too much, most people think that they in awe of falling, yes that’s true!

When we bend down, or do certain motions such as, untwisting, spiralling down, screwing up, we create a dynamic relationship with the body.

Need for our posture correctness is quite obvious in a non-gravity environment. The muscles that have an action of providing stimulus to weight, are not used then!

Be Mindful About Your Posture

If we give ourselves mindful instructions about the actions that we do must be within certain limits, over the time we will notice great improvements in our over-all posture! For example, tell your mind, “Don’t sit constantly for more than one hour. Get up, take a little break, and then sit again!” Following this frequently can bring you at ease at your work!

Over the time, we develop stiff posture out of unintentional habits which havocs our life later! For instance, in train, when people get up, they throw their head back, and this makes them go off-balance creating stiffness in neck and back without they being aware about it!

So what should be done…? All we can do is to plan how we should respond in a certain situation, even if it is a sudden one!

We all have the ability of pre-emptive perception which leads our neural system to know what kind of response needs to be exhibited during the entire duration of a certain action.

All this while, we just need to manage the gravity by maintaining our body’s balance!

Most people relate a “relaxed state” with “bending and slouching” – no, this is incorrect! It simply means not to be in a “stiff” state! This is the reason that makes us go off our balance – slouching, bending, etc.

The freedom of our arms make our feet stay firm and naturally balanced! That’s why artists and musicians in olden times were asked to relax their arms often!

Bad Balance Creates Stiff Breathing

When our balance is bad, then our breathing becomes stiff! When we are collapsed or rigid, our breathing is not easy! And that’s the most incorrect thing most of the people are doing in today’s world – breathing incorrectly!

Just as our taste senses recognise terrible food, similarly our sensory organs make us realise what is not correct!

We learn using things in a correct way only through our habits and what forms our habits is consistent practice! 

By using certain actions on daily basis, we become instrumental in performing that action! And when we keep repeating an action, if it is a beneficial action, it generates a positive consequence making us feel pleasant, and the vice versa makes us feel awful and unpleasant!

Find Obstacles in Your Natural Movement

In Alexander Technique, the most important thing is to identify the obstacles in our natural movement. For example, breathing, speaking, sitting, standing, walking, singing, etc.

For instance, to make an individual sit properly in a natural way, we ask them not to apply any force, generate some energy to counter impact the gravity, and feel the breath travelling in their body.

We don’t tell a person to stop doing anything! Rather, we ask them to show the patterns of their actions. 

We teach them how to develop a relationship with gravity. It’s a beautiful way of uniting mind, and body.

We take the pressure away from the individual to make him/her perform the best. The potential to do things right is immense when the pressure is not there!

Perfection is less attainable! But progress is very much possible.

Basic Steps For Relaxed & Balanced State

Here are the basic steps to make an individual get into a relaxed and balanced state:

1. Focus on your breath – focus how it comes and goes.

2. Think of something pleasant, something beautiful.

3. By this time, the muscles in your back and face become naturally relaxed and mobile because that’s what breathing does, it works autonomically.

4. Allow your ribs to expand.

5. Allow your nostrils open wide as you inhale.

6. Keep being interested in your pleasant thought, because it is your interest in the thought and your pleasant mood which allows your breath to become as light as a feather!

7. Do not try hard to breath! That makes the breathing stiff! Let it flow naturally! Let your vocal chords come together naturally.

(Meanwhile, Steven also demoed upon some people there and showed us the gestures and movements involved while using Alexander Technique to improve a flaw.)

Q. & A.

Q. Using Alexander Technique, how can we have vocal production?

A. In order to make a sound or speak loudly, we first need to create a thought of the same! Therefore, we ask the individual to make an attempt to think that he/she is speaking loudly. We ask them to send their voice in the direction of their thought.

We ask them to notice whether there is any interference or obstacle which is not allowing them to create the loud voice; if yes, we ask them to let it go! Slowly with practice and patience, the individual can gain speaking loudly. We do this with actors to help them in better dialogue delivery!

Q. How can someone know that their breath is going in the direction of their thought?

A. When an individual is focused on their imagination of interest, and then feels the natural flow of the breath; it surely goes in the direction of the thought!

Q. Why should we breathe from diaphragm?

A. When we breathe from our diaphragm, a certain motion is occurred, which makes us gain more sensory awareness.

In babies, this sensory awareness is high, they cry when they are hungry because their diaphragm gives them this signal and sensitivity, not because of their mind’s instruction to cry!
  
Q. Is Alexander Technique useful for pets like cats and dogs? (Asked by me!)

A. No, nothing can be said about this as of now, as it has not yet been tried!

Alexander Technique brings over all well-being, thereby making one experience a healthy and holistic lifestyle. The focus is on making an individual always be in a relaxed state yet fully alive! It is a wonder tool for everybody who wishes to know about the deeper truths of the functioning of human mind and body – to consciously choose their response and habits.

At present, Alexander Technique is being taught across the globe! In case you tend to live in Stockholm, and are interested in learning this wonderful ancient healing technique, do contact Steven Hallmark at info@stevenhallmark.com.

With Steven Hallmark & my lovely Toastmasters folks

Disclaimer:

* Author of this post reserves rights for the compiled content being an original concept. Be mindful to give credit for using this blog post or photograph elsewhere! Please do not copy without permission. ©Jyotika Rajput Mehra

* The author reserves all rights for the image depicted in the blog post.

* This post is purely based on the author’s perception of the “Alexander Technique” workshop held in May 2018 in Stockholm. The content may contain some added information as interpreted by the author. The purpose of this inspirational post is to share the mindful wisdom gained during the insightful session; and spread the awareness about the natural healing Alexander Technique being taught by Steven Hallmark in Stockholm. :)

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