Sarah-Linda Johnson (MSTAT) 07875 269915
As a teacher of both Mindfulness and the Alexander Technique, I often reflect on the common themes shared by these two separate practices.
Both recognise that we have developed habits of reacting that have a negative impact on our well-being. In broad terms, the Alexander Technique explores the effects these habits have on our physical well-being: our balance and co-ordination, the unnecessary tension and effort in our bodies and our posture. Mindfulness focuses more on the mental and emotional aspects of our well-being: how these repetitive habits of thinking and reacting influence our sense of happiness, our choices and decisions and our ability to manage stress.*
Both the Alexander Technique and Mindfulness recognise that these habits and patterns are so ingrained and automatic that we aren’t even aware of them. We just gradually become aware of the consequences when we experience a ‘bad back’, stiffness in the body, rising anxiety levels or a feeling of being overwhelmed.
In different ways, both practices teach us that we need to learn to become more aware, more present, in order to change these unhelpful patterns. And both recognise that this is something that requires practise in a non-striving way and that this practise will need to take into account the universal habit of ‘mind-wandering’ – the tendency to not be aware or present.
Mindfulness and the Alexander Technique both require commitment and discipline but with a lightness of touch, a willingness to explore, a letting go of what we think we already know and a letting go of the end result that we would like to achieve.
It’s quite something really, to ask ourselves:
• Are we willing to discover how we might be unknowingly contributing to our
ill-health or unhappiness?
• Are we willing to learn something in a completely new way, letting go of
the usual ‘guides’ that tell us how to do this?
• Are we willing to let go of trying hard to get somewhere and to let go of
the end result?
• Are we willing to discover new ways of being, seeing and relating to
ourselves, others and to life?
*In fact, both practices contribute to our well-being on all levels – physical, mental and emotional. However we approach it, when we find peace in the mind we will experience peace in the body and the other way round.
Some of the reasons why pupils have come for Alexander Technique lessons include back or joint pain, stiffness, reduction in mobility, headaches, anxiety, problems with balance and hypermobility.
Participants who come on the Mindfulness courses may do so because of pain, anxiety, stress, tension, difficulty sleeping, a ‘busy’ mind that’s hard to switch off, exhaustion or a desire to feel more peaceful or in touch with themselves.
In fact, the benefits of practising either the Alexander Technique or Mindfulness are very similar. But with both practices, we learn that the most helpful place to have our attention at any given time is not on the place where we hope to get to but on where we actually are right now, in this moment. In a way, you could say that both are practices in learning how to be.