Feminism and the Alexander Technique / by Ariel Carson

During a private lesson, one of my students recently said as a result of the work we were doing she felt like she did not have to do anything other than what she was doing, or be any other way than how she was in that moment.

We are often programmed to think we need to do or be something more than we are. Even with the freedom I am privileged to experience as a woman in the United States, I still encounter pressure from society at large, and in personal relationships, to act and look and be a certain way in order to conform to a socially acceptable standard of femininity.

Mark Seliger / HBO

Mark Seliger / HBO

I have been told that as a woman I should have long hair, and specific bodily proportions to be attractive. I have questioned whether my voice is too low, my laugh too loud, the hair on my upper lip too thick and dark, or the cellulite on my thighs too unsightly. In short I have been told that the way I am is LESS THAN enough or TOO MUCH, and that if I want to fit in, I’d better figure out how to rectify these misgivings.

These self-conscious patterns of thought affected the way I acted, held myself, and moved throughout my life. In Alexander Technique terms, they affected my Posture. 

From my personal experience and observations, many women possess postural habits that include some way of diminishing personal space to make them appear smaller, like sucking in their stomachs or crossing their legs. Many women have also developed some postural form of protection, like rounding the shoulders forward related to feelings of shame or embarrassment about their breasts.

Another popular postural pattern includes sticking the chest out, and holding the head high, in an effort to appear proud and confident. But try it right now for yourself, and notice that this pattern creates more tension all through the neck and back.

These ways of holding ourselves not only affect how we feel (as seen here in Amy Cuddy’s fabulous Ted Talk), but they also affect how other people view us in the workplace or walking down the street.

flower bud

The Alexander Technique alternative is to become aware of, and release, these personal patterns of tension to unfold and expand. Think of a tightly closed flower bud, which then opens toward the sun. We release our necks and backs in order to grow up through our spines out our heads, and let our arms and legs free away from our backs.

This new pattern of coordination is not a new way to be or do. It is stripping away of the excess being or doing so you can uncover a more authentically confident version of yourself who does not apologize or diminish her space.

This extends beyond women to any human being who holds in their mind-body feelings of not being good enough or smart enough or whatever enough. It is not that these old postural patterns are wrong, but in the Alexander Technique we want to give you a choice in how you hold yourself, so you are not overruled by your habits. Because underneath those habits of doing and trying to be something other than you are is pure potential. And when you release and redirect that excess tension, you can move forward with greater clarity, freedom and efficiency in everything you do.  

Claim your space as you are. You are enough.

 

"I'm good enough., I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." Stuart Smalley played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live.

"I'm good enough., I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." Stuart Smalley played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live.