We had such a wonderful workshop on Monday, May 23 with guest SVW and Alexander certified teacher Pyeng Threadgill, from Of The Air Studios in Brooklyn, New York.
If you’re not familiar with it, Alexander Technique is a modality that helps you to develop better alignment and freedom in the body. It was developed by F.M. Alexander – an Australian actor who, after losing his voice, underwent intensive exploration and studies to find the underlying causes of physical tension that was affecting his voice. Alexander is widely studied by actors, singers and other musicians as well as anyone who want to improve their posture and move in the world with more ease.
Pyeng guided us through some simple physical exercises that demonstrated the Alexander principles of Attention, Awareness and Inhibition. We practiced getting up from a chair, for example, paying attention to how our muscles are engaged. Most of us became aware that we were automatically tensing our necks instead of using our lower torsos to move us. The next step was to inhibit our habitual response by standing while concentrating on keeping the neck long and free.
Each participant then had the opportunity to sing while getting hands-on Alexander work with Pyeng, and discovered increased freedom in their voice!
What is the connection between Alexander and singing? In Somatic Voicework™ The Lovetri Technique, we emphasize the importance of keeping a free instrument. We believe that any kind of purposeful constriction or manipulation of the vocal folds is counterproductive and can be harmful. Does this mean that just being relaxed, like a wet dishrag, is going to make you sing great? No, of course not. In fact, there are muscles in the body that must be trained to be very strong and work hard, but they must be working correctly.
For example, in SVW, we emphasize the role of the vocal folds themselves. Since these cannot be directly accessed, they must be trained through vocalizes – singing on different pitches, vowels, sounds, etc. However, if there is undo tension in the neck, where the larynx is located, that can cause problems. Likewise, it is impossible to breathe fully and freely if the chest is collapsed. These kind of postural problems are becoming almost an epidemic in this country due to our use (some would say abuse!) of computers and cellphones.
Alexander Technique is just one of several modalities – yoga and Feldenkrais are other good ones – that help to create body awareness and improve posture and are a great complement to voice training.
See Pyeng’s attached handout for more information about how you can learn more about Alexander technique.