I’ve had back problems for most of my life. A severe spinal curve has led to hip misallignment, muscular problems, etc. It makes sitting, standing, or even lying down for longer than a few minutes at a time very uncomfortable, often painful. After starting at the Gaiety School, where even the vocal work we do is extremely physical, it became clear that I would need to find a way to manage these problems if I wanted to keep up in the course.
The Alexander Technique was recommended to me by one of our lecturers who specializes in movement and body work. The technique, which was developed in the 1890’s by Frederick Matthias Alexander, is designed to correct bad postural and muscular habits that people develop over the course of their lives. The original purpose of this technique was to improve performance, confidence, mastery of the body, and relieve tension and stress. Perfect for an acting student!
The Gaiety School was generous enough to provide me with a course in the Alexander technique, which took place inside the school. The Instructor, Aisling Morgan, a musician from Galway, first sought out the Alexander Technique to address performance related tensions and also migraine headaches. She became a devotee of the Alexander technique after witnessing firsthand how effective it was for performers.
The class consisted of 8 students, including myself, of all different ages and walks of life. Some, like myself were actors and performers, while some were more interested in correcting muscular habits that had caused them pain and discomfort their whole lives. We were all able to relate our experiences, and Aisling addressed each of our concerns individually. She then went into a detailed description of the human body and how the skeleton and muscle structure interact and change over the course of a lifetime.
We were also shown images of the skeletal structure of a small child and how structurally perfect their posture is, which makes their flexibilty and range of motion incredibly wide. Obstacles such as heavy bookbags, “proper” sitting in school, and other bad habits severly damage our posture and limit our flexibility and range of motion. I had never realized how damaging something as simple as carrying a heavy backpack around could be, but when shown an X-ray image of a preteen carrying a school bag full of books, I was shocked. If we could see how our bones contort to support the weights we force it to carry, we would be horrified.
We spent some time on what Aisling called “floor work,” which consisted of lying prone on the floor, with the soles of the feet firmly on the floor and the head resting on a medium-sized paperback book, which Aisling said was more conducive to the natural skeletal placement of the skull than resting it on the floor. In this position, we were to allow gravity to let our bones “fall back into place,” in other words, to mentally urge them to return to a naturally comfortable position without physically moving. Aisling came around to each one of us and lightly adjusted our limbs, encouraging us to “let go” and not allow ourselves to try and control our limbs.
It was an extremely informational and enlightening class, which I was very fortunate to attend. I’m already putting what I learned in the Alexander technique workshop to good use, and I can see (and feel) the difference in my performance! Thank you Gaiety School!