From the moment we’re born, we’re reacting to our environment and creating habitual responses.
These habits come in all flavors: physical, mental, emotional. And they often impede the movement of our body or affect thought patterns, resulting in pain, stress, anxiety, trouble with breathing and other not so great outcomes.
That’s when one might seek out a teacher of Alexander Technique, who can help them unlearn those habits and move more freely in their body.
“At the simplest level, it’s about the head, neck and back relationship and keeping that free,” said Laurie Sellers, a longtime Alexander Technique teacher who works in Manitou Springs.
She first studied the method while working as an architect in London.
“I was hunched over a drawing board, all tight, bent over. I had a difficult childhood, with lots of emotional stuff. I was very tight in my body,” she said. “I thought I’m going to go for just one term of the three-year course to straighten my back and then go back to architecture.”
But as she began working with teachers and on her body, she began to experience sensations that inspired her to finish the course and become a teacher herself.
“We observe habitual behaviors and we start with the basic ones, which are sitting, standing, walking,” Sellers said. “That’s where you learn how to release yourself from all those habitual holding patterns. That’s why they say it helps with posture. It’s not the final aim, but it does improve your posture because it aligns your body.”
Frederick Alexander is the man behind the technique. Born in Tasmania in 1869, he dreamed of becoming a Shakespearean actor and moved to England in the early 1900s. But a dilemma presented itself: He lost his voice whenever he got on stage.
Curious about what was happening in his body, he set mirrors up around him so he could watch himself perform. As he began to speak, he noticed he pulled his head back and held in his throat, which prevented him from speaking. After overcoming his habits and going on to become a great orator, people began asking him for lessons on how to bring about similar change in their own lives. Eventually he opened a grammar school of sorts for young girls, where he taught Alexander Technique and staged plays.
Alexander students start taking lessons to help lessen pain and anxiety, improve balance and movement, help with aging-related issues and relieve arthritis. Sessions with Sellers are about 45 minutes and will likely look different for each person, depending on their bodies and intentions. She’ll watch people walk and sit and help them remember the technique’s mantra: Let your neck free so your head can go forward and up and your back can lengthen and widen.
“It’s pretty basic. As you keep getting deeper, then you let your elbows release and move outward, let your fingers release,” Sellers said. “It’s always about letting everything grow and open and expand, but not to the point where you’re all spaced out. It’s more to release that tension and become in conscious control.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270