Stress Relief and
Thinking patterns -- most of which we are not aware of -- cause
undue stress and anxiety.
This stress is expressed as muscular tension and is often the hidden
cause of chronic pain as well as disease.
Common factors in stress and anxiety
There are two interrelated factors that most often create undue stress:
It is possible to move quickly through a task without hurrying. To hurry
implies an extra level of effort beyond what is necessary simply to do the action
in a short span of time.
- using more effort than needed to accomplish a given task
- being in a hurry (losing the present moment)
Hurrying also implies a belief in a lack of time and an unpleasant consequence
if we fail to move fast enough. Consciously or unconsciously we are thinking, “I
must do this as quickly as possible or [fill in the blank] will happen.” Whatever goes in the blank as an imagined
consequence of not doing the activity fast enough, this consequence is as yet
in the future, if it ever happens at all. We have lost the present moment.
How do we truly lessen or eliminate the stress and not merely treat the symptoms?
The Alexander Technique approaches that problem by the process
of observation, inhibition, and direction. With a teacher’s guidance, we observe
habitual patterns of tension in the body as we perform simple, daily tasks like
sitting, standing, walking. We then give a series of new commands (direction)
while not doing the old pattern (inhibition).
As we practice thinking in activity in this way, we use so much less
effort that the action seems to arise by itself. Our minds are calmer because
they are paying attention to the activity at hand and not adding unnecessary
fear to the process. We have come into the present moment.
The result is a freer, more flexible body/mind, and this includes thought patterns
and beliefs as well as muscles and movement.
" At first my goal was to fix the challenges
my hidden anxiety stemmed from and I thought perhaps they were a result of
over-confidence, but I found out it was quite the opposite. I then redirected
my goals to develop more dramatic playing/conducting which was something
I subconsciously figured out as I learned more and more about playing stances.
Overall, this semester has been fantastic . . . "
— Sam S. (college student)
There are many ways to relieve the symptoms of
stress. To stop stress at its source — our thinking —
thereby getting to the root of the problem, requires addressing
thinking patterns which we may not be aware
of. The Alexander Technique offers a process for noticing
these patterns and changing them, if we choose.
In addition to everyday stress, there are some situations which increase the
level of stress and anxiety. Public performance is one of them.
In public performance, whether it be speaking, singing, dancing, acting, playing
an instrument, or even engaging in sports activities, everything is heightened
. . . for good or for ill!
We love it when the heightened effect enables us to do MORE than we thought possible.
Conversely, we hate it when the same heightened effect causes us to fail in some
way, and to feel foolish in front of others.
What the Alexander Technique offers that is unique is a mode
of thinking and being that can be practiced WHILE IN THE MIDST OF ACTIVITY. It
is one thing to meditate before a performance to calm the nerves and “get
centered,” which is a good practice. But it is quite another to find yourself
in the public eye as the nervousness returns, sometimes worse than before. What
While the Alexander Technique does not always completely eliminate nervousness,
it gives you a way to manage the effects by addressing the root problem: your
Consciously or unconsciously we are afraid of something happening that is unpleasant
or in some way not up to our expectations. We are also afraid of being judged
by others as somehow inadequate when compared to other performers or to certain
standards. Since the outcome (whatever it will be) is in the future, we have
lost the present moment, and we are not paying attention to what is going on
right now. Thus we often create the very situation we fear.
Instead, with practice, you can “direct” your thoughts in ways that
lessen the fear that causes the shaky knees, sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, and “deer-in-the-headlights” facial
expression. Your performance acquires the poise and presence that enables an
audience to connect with you in a much more profound way. When we realize that
to be beautiful, a performance need not be PERFECT, much of the anxiety from
unrealistic expectations flows away.