Letter to Direction concerning breathing

I wrote this in some exasperation at what I perceived as the general view – within the Alexander profession, as in the outside world – of the Technique concerning itself almost exclusively with people who used their voices, and their breath, ‘professionally’.

Dear Editor,

Interesting as the articles in the Voice issue of Direction were, I found myself wondering how useful, in a practical sense, the information they contained would be for the average reader, even allowing for the likelihood of that reader being experienced in the Alexander Technique.

Far more relevant, and certainly more fundamental, than what we might do in order to breath more freely, would have been a reminder to stop what most of us, pupils, students and teachers alike, spend vast quantities of time already doing. I refer to the all too common practices of holding our breath and sucking in air.

Anyone can check this for themselves by noticing next time they slice a loaf of bread, sign their name, thread a needle, get out of bed, change gears in their car, scrub out a pan, lift any sort of weight, or – heaven forbid – rise from or descend into a chair, whether they stop breathing; and while talking – or shouting, singing, chanting or whistling – whether the quality of their inspiration leaves anything to be desired.

The point is, we don’t have to be opera singers or seekers after an elusive inner voice or even experienced Alexander people to benefit from breath work. What we do need is a degree of perspicacity, and also, I’m afraid, humility. So many of us hold our breath when we do anything even remotely stressful, and gasp audibly as soon as our vocal functions are called into play, that it sometimes seems a natural process rather than a sign that that process is being interfered with; yet it is well within our capacity to rectify this, not by learning to do anything new, but by stopping doing something we are overly familiar with.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Brockbank.

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