One of the most effective techniques of stress management is the development of mindfulness, or the ability to be fully present in each moment. In an Alexander Technique lesson, students enter a timeless space free of outside pressure. When the lesson begins, students are asked to bring their attention to the present moment, and focus on becoming aware of their physical being, their thinking, and their surroundings. This includes support from the feet, the relationship of the limbs, torso and head and neck to one another, muscle tone and breathing, as well as how they are directing their thoughts. As you can imagine, that is a lot to take in! When one's full attention is directed in this manner, there is little room for intrusive thoughts of the past or the future.

When a person is stressed, muscles are tightened and breathing becomes rapid and shallow. People may even find themselves holding their breath and forgetting to breathe until they need to gasp for air. While this pattern is universal, each of us has our own unique version. We may hike our shoulders or clench our jaw. We may tighten our abdominal muscles or curl our toes. Almost all of us interfere with our breathing in some way.

During the lesson, student and teacher explore the subtle ways in which the student habitually responds to stress, whether it is with a slight tensing of the neck muscles or a momentary holding of breath. Through this process, students learn to identify the own unique way in which they respond to stress. Because these same habits of stress and tension repeat themselves in a variety of situations, students who are familiar with their habits can quickly become aware of the beginning of tension and intervene before stress has a chance to intensify.

Using this mind-body approach, students defuse their stress response by learning to pause, breath, and release patterns of muscular tension and thinking that create additional layers of stress. Students learn to find physical support from the ground and from their own supportive structure of the body's muscles, bones, and connective tissue. They learn how to free their neck from excess tension so that their head can balance lightly on top of the spine and spring the whole body into suspension. They learn how to release holding in the chest and abdomen so that the ribs and diaphragm are free to lift and fall in rhythm with the breath.

Over a course of lessons, student's ability to attend to the present moment increases and extends to their ability to focus during everyday activities at work and at play. Students develop a strong sense of internal support and the ability to quickly identify and release symptoms of stress. Able to pause, breath freely, and respond from a balanced center, reactivity is replaced with the ability to respond creatively and with resilience to the stress of modern life.


For more information on the Alexander Technique and mindfulness, I recommend author Patty de Llosa's The Practice of Presence