Alexander Technique: Interview with Jane Gregory
Jane tells us more about how Alexander Technique can help ICMP students improve their posture habits...
Whether you play an instrument or spend long periods in front of a screen, the Alexander Technique can support in optimising your posture with less strain, giving you more energy for the task at hand.
We interviewed Jane Gregory, our Alexander Technique teacher, to find out more about how this technique can help our community.
Hi Jane! Tell us a bit about you. What's you background and how did you start working at ICMP?
I started working at ICMP as soon as I graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher. As an amateur musician and singer songwriter, I am very aware of the problems that can occur to musicians health from poor playing technique and posture problems. I have worked with thousands of musicians at ICMP for over a decade and really enjoy helping other musicians like myself to improve their posture and be trouble-free in their music-making.
How did you first hear of the Alexander Technique and what made you want to learn and then teach it?
I worked in publishing before I trained as an AT teacher and I had lots of back problems from sitting at a computer all day. When I tried Alexander Technique, I was so impressed I wanted to train to become a teacher myself.
What is the Alexander Technique?
It is really difficult to describe how powerful the Alexander Technique really is without personally experiencing it, but I will try! Basically, the body knows how to balance in space and regulate itself. However, our habits get in the way of this process and Alexander Technique helps you to understand your habits, start thinking and moving in a different way.
Because it gets to the heart of your habits, it can have a dramatic effect on how you move, play an instrument, sing - in fact, it can improve all aspects of your life including anxiety, poor sleep, digestion and more! The other thing to stress about Alexander Technique is that it is incredibly simple. I always use small children as an example, because they move well and don’t have a lot of intelligence yet about the body, so it can’t be that difficult!
Why is it useful for musicians?
Instrumentalist may be prone to hand, wrist, shoulder and neck problems due to the repetitiveness nature of playing an instrument. Vocalists can also suffer from tension-related issues due to poor posture and vocal technique. Since one of the main principles of the Alexander Technique is to learn to let go of excess tension, it can have a dramatic effect in relieving pain and improving technique.
You don’t have to have problems or pain to try the Alexander Technique, though. It is useful to all musician looking to improve their body use or playing technique. Interestingly, the Alexander technique can also help with anxiety, and in particular performance anxiety.
How does it do this?
Because the Alexander technique makes you realise that you can release some of your unwanted habits in everyday moving and playing, it can give students the confidence to change mental habits such as performance anxiety. It is hard to describe without having an Alexander lesson, but if any of our students are suffering from performance anxiety, I would ask them to come along and try one lesson and see if they think it would be helpful.
Additionally, one part of Alexander technique includes lying down each day on the ground with some books under your head. This too can make you feel more calm even when you get up again and go into your day.
Is it hard to learn?
Not at all! The best thing about Alexander technique is that you are going back to the basics. I like to remind students that when they were small children, they didn’t have any postural problems, even though they had very little knowledge about posture, or how the body works. The real thing that you are learning is to stop interfering with what is natural to the body, i.e., balancing with minimal muscle tension.
FM Alexander, the man who discovered the technique, said this “stop doing the wrong thing, and the right thing will do itself“.
How can students access Alexander Technique at ICMP?
The Alexander technique is available in two of ways at ICMP. Firstly, we offer group sessions within various ICMP courses at different times. Programme leaders can advise students on whether it will be included in their year group. In these highly-practical sessions we explore better ways of using the body - in everyday life, computer and smart phone use, as well as when playing and singing. Secondly, one-to-one lessons are available to all ICMP students for a reduce rate of £25. The lessons take place on site, and last 50 minutes.
What about alumni? What if they want to keep having AT sessions with you?
All ICMP alumni are welcome to return for AT sessions at the same rate as our current students. It may occasionally rise, but at the moment the price is £25. This is a real bonus for our alumni, as lessons may cost as much as £50 in London at present.
Why do I need lessons, can’t I learn it on my own?
Our habits become such an integral part of the way we move, it is difficult to spot them ourselves in order the make changes.
My role as Alexander Technique teacher is to help students see more clearly how these unwanted patterns affect their freedom to move well, and then guide them towards letting go of them.
Even one Alexander Technique lesson can make a real difference, because you learn skills that you can take away and use in your every day life as well as as a musician. So, in a sense it is a self-help technique, but you need to get started by having the help of an Alexander teacher first.
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