Singers’ Self-Care With the Alexander Technique

 

I have written before about how helpful the Alexander Technique can be for singers, including a number of specific ways it can help both in developing and maintaining a healthy vocal technique.  In this article, I want to address the more practical issues of what to expect with daily work with the Alexander Technique and how to use the benefits to your advantage.

By far the easiest way to practice the Alexander Technique is to lie on the floor for 20 minutes a day in semi-supine, which is on your back with your knees bent.  This is the most common practice that all Alexander teachers and students use to encourage freedom and ease in their bodies.  I have described how to do semi-supine in detail in a longer article entitled, How to Incorporate the Alexander Technique Into Your Life Without Taking Lessons.  That article has all of the information you need to start your Alexander practice.  (Please note the caveats in that article.  Use common sense and if anything feels uncomfortable or painful, stop immediately and seek medical help.)

At first, lying quietly in semi-supine and not doing anything might feel strange.  Try to see it as an opportunity for some much needed downtime.  And this downtime is very productive as well, because it gives your body an opportunity to release small and large muscle tensions and your mind an opportunity to calm down and let go of stressful, repetitive thoughts.  You aren’t going numb in semi-supine, as tends to happen with watching entertainment on TV or the internet.  This is truly your time to undo and get back to a quiet, neutral place, both mentally and physically.

Getting to a neutral place is extremely important for singers and is a major benefit of the Technique.  Singing doesn’t take that much real effort in the way we normally think about it.  Yes, certain muscles and muscles sets have to be trained to perform various functions and we need energy in our torsos for breath resistance, but overall, the mechanism is very delicate and subtle and there is no noticeable work being done from the level of the throat up.  A great deal of learning vocal technique for the student is learning to let go of unnecessary tensions.  The more we work on singing from the neutral place that semi-supine offers us, the easier it will be release, find the right balance of tension and relaxation and then develop a completely free, easy, professional sound.

After you have done semi-supine a few times, you can begin to add in some new concepts to enhance your experience.  Even when lying down, it is easy to hold habitual little tensions without realizing it.  Gently allow your body to release complete into the floor – you can also think of the floor as coming up to meet you and take the weight of your body, so that you are supported and don’t have to do any work and can completely release any tensions.  Think of your back as melting butter that softens and spreads, oozing onto the floor.  Add some awareness to the mix – notice without any judgment what you are feeling in different parts of your body.  Also, notice your external environment, as you continue to lie and stay relaxed.  Talk to yourself inside your head in a very gentle voice, repeating over and over, “I leave myself alone”.  Find which of these work for you and make them part of your semi-supine practice.

Over time, you will notice some positive changes and the changes will continue to evolve the longer you consistently do semi-supine.  Those vary from person to person to some extent, but they can include a feeling of more relaxation and openness in your body, including in your neck, torso, legs, arms, etc., a sense of more integration between your head, neck and back, a feeling of springiness and a wonderful wholeness in how your body moves and feels once you are standing again.  Keeping doing semi-supine faithfully and the benefits of more ease and freedom will begin to spill over into your regular life.

It is a wonderful aid to schedule your semi-supine time right before your vocal practice time, if at all feasible.  This is where it is possible to see the direct, positive effects that the Alexander Technique has for singers!  By going from a much more open, free and neutral state in semi-supine into singing, all of the benefits are retained and transferred to the vocal technique.  It can seem strange at first, because your body will feel quite different and your normal habits of singing might not work in exactly the same way when in a more neutral state.  However, that is precisely the point!  When you learn to adapt and sing easily, yet energetically, from a more neutral place, you will be letting go of long-held, vocal tensions that you probably weren’t even aware of!  Singing will feel easier and you will have make less effort for a better sound.

Semi-supine in the Alexander Technique allows singers to apply a much more neutral, relaxed and integrated body directly to singing and is something that can be done easily at home or in the practice room.  All it takes is time, patience and trust to reap amazing benefits.

 

For more articles and information, visit my website, http://www.thebricelandstudio.com

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