4. What worked for me

Doing vs. Thinking
In the Alexander technique lessons I learned to use my body well: to bring it in balance, not by doing something, but by thinking; to tell my body to “think” in the right direction. As soon as you start just doing then one creates tension and that doesn’t work. But if you think, then you also create muscle tension, enough, for example, to lift something, but then it isn’t a taxing tension.

In the past, somebody would say “you have to relax” and then I would let my arms hang down, heavy. That was also doing something. That was actually more of a burden than that it was relaxing. I found that by first directing my thoughts, and then lifting something, I had a very light arm, ready for action.

Also I learned to think about my body as a whole and not as separate pieces. Your body can be flexible. You can actually go any direction; for instance, you can lift your shoulder and then lower it again. And of course your neck has to be free.

What changed the most was that I don’t move my tongue around any more during playing. We discovered that I would set my body tight when I did this. Now my tongue doesn’t move about any more while I’m playing. I tried practicing with my tongue sticking out. It can still move then, but you are more aware of what it does. I also used an exercise in which I tried keeping a full view of what was around me during playing. In the past, I was often pre-occupied with myself. Now, instead, I focus on a point in the room or the space around me. When I am in that space around me, I’m not only inside myself and I find I don’t need to move my tongue around anymore. By relaxing my tongue I was able to relax the rest of my body.

If there hadn’t been Alexander Technique lesson, then I wouldn’t have been able to make the equipment changes. I wouldn’t have been able to take on such a high chin rest because I wouldn’t know how to use my neck in order to use the chin rest well. I would have still just shortened my neck like I was used to.

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