One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older is that small things start to have big effects. These effects can be positive or negative, but it’s worth checking-in with them every now and then just to make sure they are working well.
One of these “small” things that has been on my mind recently is posture.
Due to hours sitting while practicing, rehearsing, teaching, and working at the computer, I’ve developed quite a few bad posture habits.
I used to only notice the negative effects when things got difficult: the stress of a difficult concert or audition, plus bad posture (which led to bad playing technique) sometimes led to hilariously bad outcomes. It took me quite a while to connect these dots – after all, it feels normal to play with bad posture once you get used to it – but a couple of books and a little bit of awareness went a long way.
I remember sitting in an Alexander Technique masterclass many years ago, and it was quite illuminating, even though I didn’t get the “hands-on” treatment. Recently, I was considering looking up an Alexander Technique teacher, but 2020 had other plans.
Since I didn’t want to start out Alexander Technique lessons remotely (although I think that could be very useful if you’re already Alexander-aware), I went looking for some other resources. While there are a lot of resources available online, I found one book consistently recommended as a resource – How to Learn the Alexander Technique by Barbara Conable.
Another recommendation that takes a much more exercise-focused approach is Relaxercise by Davad Zemach-Berson (among others). This is not the Alexander Technique, instead it’s based on a similar method called Feldenkrais Method. This book is essentialy a collection of exercises that help me with the Alexander principle of “body mapping” and noticing tension that has crept in over time.
Note: While there are some Feldenkrais practioners that claim it helps with medical conditions (like multiple sclerosis or autism), those claims are totally unproven. It doesn’t.
Additionally, if you do a lot of desk or computer work, here’s an additional book that can help you figure out how to avoid RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome: Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury. This is also a great resource for musicians that use their hands and fingers in repetitive (and sometimes unnatural) ways, since it gives lots of practical information of things to avoid or how to set up a work area to avoid RSI.
I can’t help but feel annoyed that I didn’t pay attention to this aspect of my playing (and living!) many years ago. The good news is that I can feel a difference even after just a few months of work.
If you think this may be something that you need help with, I strongly encourage you to do this sooner rather than later!