Sunday, 10 June 2018

posture pals or the whispered ah!

During the late nineteenth century—well before yoga and mindfulness enjoyed a resurgence in Western medicine and overall thinking, there were some important and seemingly organic precursors that came in campaigns to promote mind-body interventions through postural awareness methodologies. While many of the exercise regiments may have been modish for a time to be subsequent forgotten and while none have been accorded the full faith and credit of the health insurance industry, one technique in particular developed by Australian Frederick Matthias Alexander, later expanded by students of his method, medically and scientifically described in neutral terms and which still has adherents struck me as rather intriguing.
Motivated to help himself during moments of debilitating stage-fright, absent a somatic cause, Alexander believed his habitual patterns of tensing up and seizing up certain parts of his body and physically recoiling from anxiety was disrupting his oration and probably similar conditioned patterns in stance and gait were either aiding or hindering other aspects of his life as well. Alexander believed that careful self-observation (noticing how one flinches and deports one’s neck, head and gaze when confronted with a stressful situation) and the will to change, he and others could restore their natural statures and after some testimonials from celebrities of his day, Alexander formalised and shared his method, encouraging students to explore a wide range of motions but prescribed no specific exercises so as not to suggest that bodies were built the same and that there was a best way to do things, save two: lying on one’s side at about a forty-five degree from the supine to learn how to rest constructively before a session and the “whispered ah!”a way to get rid of bad habits that inhibit our innate abilities to breath properly. The unlearning has a few steps, first calling for one to think of something funny to elicit a smile (so one is not pulling downward on the facial muscles as we’d be apt to do otherwise), let one’s jaw fall open and place the tip of one’s tongue on one’s bottom teeth, where ever one is during inhalation or exhalation, whisper “ah!” (that is a refreshing beverage!)  as long as one can until feeling the breath squeezed out of one. Once the whisper has become ragged an unsustained close one’s mouth and the breathing reflex triggers one to draw breath through one’s nose and the expansion of the lungs.

Repeat as much as one cares to on exhaling and reap improvements in vocal and breath control. The rest of Alexander’s technique focusses broadly on refining one’s sense of intention and discipline in recapturing an efficiency of motion in accord with gravity and how one is built and is apparently a proper and popular coaching technique. Health care providers and science takes issue with what’s lumped into the category of alternative medicine—as they should—when gurus, either the originator or latter day promoter, begin to make extraordinary or downright dangerous claims that erode trust in sound and rigorously-tested procedures and make suffers think that asthma or sleep apnea is condition that can only be solved through willpower. Resetting to factory-mode (or at least the attempt to question one’s own defaults), however, does not seem objectionable and worth the self-investment.