Having procrastinated for the entire week, I had been up till 7 a.m. writing my English paper on monstrous Indian gods. And so when I had to wake up at 10 a.m. to learn about a holistic way of conducting my body, I tried to curl back into my bed cover. As I walked to Professor Wolf’s office, I drew in my shoulders in the morning mist. Once there, I slouched into her office chair. Appraising my posture carefully, Professor Wolf asked, “How is freshman year progressing, Devika? You seem stressed.”
As she smiled sympathetically at my freshmen woes, she told me that she had a solution for the stress resulting from my failed attempts to make friends at Yale. Magic? Even better — the Alexander Technique, a method of movement and thinking revaluation proven to increase ease of motion, alleviate bodily pain and the stress resulting from the everyday misuse of our bodies. As Professor Wolf summarised, “We are creatures of habit, and habit is powerful. The method of doing something is more detrimental than the activity itself.”
The Alexander Technique aims at changing our daily motion through practice by creating a psycho-physical education within the students of the School Of Drama, where the technique is a mandatory part of the curriculum.
Actors need to be physically versatile. Wolf said that the Alexander Technique can help actors know their bodies to more efficiently embody their characters and adapt to different patterns of posture, gesture, breathing and tone, giving the most realistic performance.
So how will the Alexander Technique make your life better? The technique will change your method of standing, walking, lying down and even breathing; once applied, it reduces the tensions that the awful mattresses of college dorms wreak on our bodies, and teaches us how to efficiently guide our body’s actions.
It gives us a little grace. It really is quite magical.
To implement it, sit down and be conscious of how your body is situated. Are you slouching again and bending your neck to awkward angles (don’t lie to yourself!)? Now, place your feet on the ground, straighten your back and put the weight of your body on your (very sexy) butt.
You’ve just learnt the very basics to the Alexander Technique. While it seems simple, this foundation is just scratching the surface of a rigorous discipline.
While it might sound awkward and uncomfortable, the technique, once perfected, will actually add a certain level of coordination to your movements. It might even convince someone that you really are a royal of an exotic country like Genovia. But if not, it will certainly help you use your body better. When your doctor can’t charge you an exorbitant sum for a spine-straightening surgery, at least your insurance company will thank you profusely.
Tim Brown DRA ’13, a student of the class, says that the Alexander Technique has taught him to relearn some of the basic habits he has used all his life, from standing, to breathing and even crawling.
“It’s frustrating to learn, but it’s also rewarding” Brown said. “It’s hard to redo everything you have known your entire life in such a short period of time, although we are relearning these habits to benefit the rest of our lives.”
So if the Alexander Technique seems like a methodology that you’d like to incorporate into your life, try using the correct sitting posture. If you’re more adventurous, do try the ‘Active Rest Lie Down’ for just 10 minutes daily. Lie down on your back, knees bent and feet flat, head supported by a book, and make a choice not to move your body in parts. Your body is one beautiful, cohesive and seamless whole. Close your eyes, let your breath move through your body, feel your blood flow from your heart to your toes and let your back fall to the floor. Feel that electricity, that zing, as it zips from your slowly untangling thoughts to your fingers! Ideally, it will increase the proper direction of the “neuromuscular energy” through your body to let you identify those areas of tensions you didn’t even know existed (unless you’re one of the lucky students getting weekly massages from the boy on the floor above).
Now that you’ve understood the basics of the Alexander Technique, get up from that desk, grin, and get ready to face another day in the life of a Yalie. But while you do so, don’t judge me for sinking into my bed and falling back to sleep.