Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? And two weeks into the year, have you managed to keep any?
“Around 50 per cent of Australians make a New Year’s resolution and there’s around an 88 per cent failure rate” according to this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. So how do you manage to stick to your resolutions, at least beyond January? This recent piece in the Guardian points out that “there is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution… In January, many of us resolve to develop better habits – and that’s a good idea, because habits are the invisible architecture of our existence. We repeat about 40% of our behaviour almost daily, so if we change our habits, we change our lives.”
“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” – Mark Twain
Alexander Technique is a method for changing habits, and hence for changing lives.
It’s a method for learning how to make a decision and stick to it. Alexander was an actor in the 1890s when he began losing his voice when performing. In his efforts to regain his voice, he discovered a method to change his habits, not just when acting but throughout his life. He’d learned how to replace his familiar but harmful movements with considered and healthy ones.
His technique is used by many people to change their habits – musicians like myself learn to change their habits when playing, to prolong their careers (or regain them in my case) and to improve their performance; athletes (unlike myself) learn to change their habits when running or swimming to reduce their chance of injury and improve performance.
Don’t sing, don’t run – what do you do?
How you sit, stand, walk, hold a cup – these are all habits too, the invisible architecture of your existence. You may think these habits are fine and not hurting you, and that may be true for the moment. But it’s a little like diet. It may not be causing you harm today, but poor habits will catch up with you in the future.
Habits can be changed and good health gained, or regained, or further improved. As Alexander said, “Change involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life”. And while learning to make this change for himself, he developed a technique which others could learn. If we repeat about 40% of our behaviour almost daily, then being able to carry out an activity against the habit of life is a skill worth having.
Do you get it?
When asked how to tell that a student is on the right track, Walter Carrington* said ‘No-one is going to manifest perfect functioning, nevertheless, people can exhibit distinct improvements“, including in “breathing, balance, upright stature, lightness and freedom of movement…But the criterion that Alexander valued most highly was an individual’s capacity to take a decision and stick to it when that decision involves going against the habit of a lifetime.”
And that is surely a skill worth learning. Perhaps in time for next year’s round of New Year’s Resolutions?