Its been a tough week. Whether you are Motorhead lover, a Bowie devotee, or most recently, a fan of the outstanding actor(and proponent of the Alexander Technique) Alan Rickman, there is a lot to feel down about. When combined with the Chicago winter, it makes it easy to feel sad and serious.
The term 'feeling down' is an interesting cultural motif. Feeling down is not just an emotional thing--it shows up in our posture(as shown in new research from Tal Shafir, Rachelle P. Tsachor and Kathleen B. Welch). We literally become 'depressed' in our spines when we feel sad(or more accurately, we depress our spines and feel sad as a result). When we allow ourselves to have our natural buoyancy and 'up'(as the above study shows happens as a result of Alexander Technique work) we actually become happier(more on this in a later blog).
Moving from 'down' to 'up' is much harder than it sounds. But one strategy which can help(and one most of us employ every day) is humor. Genuine laughter physiologically helps to break up the postural sets that pull as down and give us a chance to free up into a different state, which is why comedy can be so cathartic. The act of laughing gives a pulse to our muscles that gives them a chance to release.
This is one of the reasons why I work hard in lessons to 'break a student up'(another interesting cultural phrase) if they are getting overly focused and serious. It almost always results in a 'pull down' that doesn't allow the student to change.
Alexander knew this. Humor is a crucial component in a classical Alexander Technique exercise, the 'Whispered Ah'. If you are having a rough week, give this a try and see what happens. The genuine humor is the most important part of the exercise.
This exercise helps you to release the jaw and neck and associate exhaling with extending through your spine rather than collapsing.
1. Breathing through your nose, allow your jaw to drop open in increments, until it hangs in a easily released position. Be mindful of not tilting your whole skull up as you do so.
2. Allow a genuinely funny or joyful thought to trigger an inhale through your nose(Dad jokes always work for me, but you might have a better sense of humor-- here is a link to lolcats in case you need inspiraton). Allow yourself to smile with it.
3. Allow your exhale to drop out of your mouth on an extended whispered sigh on an 'Ah' syllable. As you breathe out, picture a column of air moving up your spine.
4. When the breath is over, allow your jaw to gently close without clenching. Breath through your nose a couple of breaths, then try the Whispered Ah again as desired.
Happy lightening up!
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.