As you learn the Alexander Technique, you can apply its principles to every moment of your daily life. We call this “thinking in activity.” These days, we have plenty to think about as our daily activities include protective measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html).
Here are some suggestions for putting the Alexander Technique to work as we protect ourselves, our families, and our communities (Bold is from the CDC; the rest is from me.)
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
You have probably also heard that if you sing “Happy Birthday” twice completely, you’ll have made it to 20 seconds.
An alternative: Do a few whispered ah’s while you are washing hands:
- Breathe out (through your mouth) to breathe in (through your nose).
- Think of something slightly funny.
- On the outbreath, sigh out with the whispered sound of an “ah” as in father.
- Wait/pause/inhibit – the breath will replenish itself.
- Find out how many whispered ah’s you need to do to get to 20 seconds. If you do this a few times a day, you might find things change!
How are you reaching for the faucets and soap? Before you reach, are you balanced on your feet? Is the sink low? Could you practice a monkey or lunge as you lower yourself? Can you rub your hands without narrowing your shoulders or tightening in your tummy or elsewhere?
If you are singing/thinking Happy Birthday, can you let your jaw free? Can you feel vibrations throughout your body while you sing?
Can you become present to the activity and not just rush through it?
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
How do you get that hand sanitizer onto your hands? Do you push a pump or squeeze a bottle? First, notice where you are in relation to the bottle. What will make reaching for it easiest? Walking a step closer? Going into a monkey or lunge? Can you practice picking up the sanitizer with the least gripping in your hand as possible?
Notice your thoughts throughout the day. If you are starting to get irritated with the frequency of cleansing,
- See out.
- Quiet your thoughts.
- And cleanse.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
I am enjoying working with this one. On the practical side, I wear my eyeglasses when I will be in proximity with other people, like at the grocery store or post office. The frames prevent my hands from contacting my eyes. When I wear my contacts, I need to be more conscientious about not bringing my hands to my eyes (or any other part of my face!) Sometimes, I’ll put on my sunglasses. I may even try my swimming goggles.
I am wearing a hairband these days, or I tie my hair back to keep it off my face. That prevents my hands coming to my face to brush away any stray hairs.
But still, I get itches!
- I pause.
- I notice the itch.
- I observe my wish to scratch.
- I inhibit—I ask myself not to react to the sensation of the itch, and I ask myself not to want to scratch.
- I take care not to stiffen my shoulders, arms, or elbows while inhibiting/preventing my hands from moving up to my face; I just get more curious about the itch rather than reacting to it. Most of the time, my attention wanders from the itch and when I return, the itch has gone away (perhaps this is a good function of mind wandering!)
- If I really need to rub, touch, or scratch, I do so with my sleeve or a tissue or towel. I am learning to remember to wash my hands before bed so that the inevitable unconscious face touching will not be a worry. When I wake up, I feel okay about touching my face, and then of course, in the shower, I wash my face (but then it doesn’t itch!)
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Looking after Loved Ones
We may face a situation where we will need to care for a loved one.
Stop. Breathe. Give yourself a few moments to know how you feel, to know of any reactions.
Give yourself another moment to remember you can continue to breathe, you can continue to connect your heels to the ground and lighten up, no matter the circumstances. Take care of yourself as you take care of another.
Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Whatever the distance I put between another person and me, I can expand inside to take up all the space that is me. I don’t want to narrow or shrink, thus tightening or pulling down; that is not going to create the distance needed. I can continue to create space within me even as I increase the distance between myself and others.
Social distancing doesn’t just mean we are gathered in the same space but now farther apart. Have your events and meetings been canceled? Do you see a neighborhood friend on your walk and feel bad because you can’t exchange your usual hug? Do you worry whether you should go out at all?
We are all facing difficult situations, and we don’t know a lot about what will come next. We learn with the Alexander Technique to reason from the known to the unknown. How can we use that tool now.
When you have a decision to make:
- Give yourself time to recognize how you are feeling – emotionally, physically.
- Give yourself time to recognize what you want.
- Then Pause. Ask yourself:
- Is this the right time to do what I most want to do?
- Are there alternatives?
- Can I wait to decide what I shall do?
- Breathe, think up, wide, and forward, no matter what your emotional state, no matter your confusion.
- Give yourself time for an answer to arise.
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
As my breath moves out of my nose or mouth onto my face scarf (or mask), I am aware of the warmth of my breath. It is not habitual for me to cover my mouth and nose for extended periods such as the time it takes me to do errands. This is a novel experience; it gives me an opportunity to observe myself. It actually helps me observe many aspects of my breathing: the rate, the audibility, any tendency to pull the breath into me rather than open my ribs and allowing the breath to flow into me through my nose or mouth.
How about you?
Cover coughs and sneezes.
Sneezes and coughs come upon us rather quickly, and of course the most important thing is to protect droplets from reaching others. Even so, we can use these moments to become aware of unnecessary tightening or pulling down. We often know when the sneeze or cough is about to explode out of us. Besides covering it, can you give yourself an instruction to free your neck as you sneeze or cough? Can you be aware of where your feet are at the same time? When you do, it may surprise you that the felt effect of the sneeze or cough is different in you.
Clean and disinfect.
Think of this task as with any other housework, that is, an opportunity to practice monkeys and lunges, an opportunity to keep your balance as you use your hands to reach for the disinfectant, spray, wipe, etc.
Alexander Ideas for Quieting Anxiety
We are facing situations that may cause fear, alarm, anxiety to surge more insistently. Here are some reminders for taking care of yourself so you can find equanimity, even in the face of uncertainty. Key concepts: Slow down, pause, and reflect.
- Lie down in semi-supine at least once a day.
- Quiet your thoughts whenever you have a moment to do so.
- When you notice you are in reaction, give yourself time to let the reaction go. Pause. Breathe.
- Ask yourself not to tighten. Think spatially.
- Before you turn on the news, take a few minutes to stop, breathe, quiet your voices.
- Repeat after you’ve stopped listening/watching.
- When you need to make decisions, take some time to come to quiet first.
- Ask yourself the question. Wait. Continue to be aware of your whole self as you think through what the right thing to do is.
Sitting at your Computer/phone
Many of us have increased our time using devices. The same guidance applies as you may have heard me say at your lesson:
After 20 minutes, stop. Get up, move about, make a cup of tea – do things that shift your position, your mindset, your circulation.
While you are at your device, take mini-pauses. Shift your visual attention from a narrow point on your screen to a wider perspective. And/or, every once in a while look around the room, letting your eyes lead.
Hands-free Phones Help
When I’m going to be on my phone for a while, I plug in earbuds and put my phone in a pocket. If I don’t have a pocket, I put on a lightweight pack that snaps around my waste and put the phone in there. Sometimes I even wrap a long scarf around my waste and tuck the phone in the scarf. In this way, I am not dealing with the challenges of avoiding tilting my head or tightening my shoulder to keep the phone in place. An added benefit is that I can walk around to add to my aerobic activity for the day!
Good luck to us all.