Posture: The Alexander Technique
When you know how to stand correctly, you allow your body to breathe correctly and sing with energy, correct tone, and good projection.
Many vocal problems arise simply from poor posture. This is because it leads to breathing difficulties and tension in the throat and body. Correct posture allows breathing to flow freely through the body.
Try This Simple Test
Try singing a musical phrase with your neck protruding forward and your head slightly elevated. Then, sing the same line with your head in balance with the base of your spine, with your eyes looking directly ahead, and with your body feeling buoyant (not rigid).
Which position is free of tension?
The second position is much better, of course, because your body is in alignment. Balance is essential.
Now, you may think this is a little silly, but observe some other singers—maybe at your local restaurant. Most singers develop a bad technique of “neck out and chin up,” leaning into a microphone when they are performing. This can cause fatigue in the voice, and in the long term, it can cause vocal problems.
The Alexander Technique
This technique was created by Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor. After years of suffering with vocal difficulties, he developed a holistic method of correcting functional problems associated with using the voice. He spent countless hours studying the body—specifically, posture and breathing in relation to the voice. Not only did he improve his own vocal quality, but his technique improved his health as well. As a result, Mr. Alexander became a leader in this transformational technique. It is still used today by performers as well as those who experience injuries.
The Alexander Technique will help you correct these problems and also improve health and general well-being. The technique focuses on the importance of your neck, head, and spine being in correct alignment with the rest of your body.
I had a student who had been in a serious car accident. For many months, she had great difficulty singing without any tension. This was causing her voice to sound strained and constricted. I spent some time teaching her several simple principles of the Alexander Technique. During one lesson, as she corrected her posture and began to sing, her voice audibly changed. The freedom in her voice was astounding. She looked at me in complete amazement. All it took was a realignment of her body for her true voice to shine!
The Benefits of the Alexander Technique
There are many health issues that can benefit from using this technique. These include:
• Vocal disorder and nodules
• Performance anxiety and anxiety attacks
• Functional disorders
• TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)
• Tension headaches
• Strokes, injuries, post-surgery issues
• Pregnancy/back pain
• Non-specific regional pain syndromes
Here’s a simple posture exercise you can do:
Find a blank space on the wall and stand with your back facing the wall.
Stand with your feet around two inches away from the wall.
Allow your body to fall back and see what hits first: your backside or your shoulder blades.
If you feel you are leaning too far back, bring your feet a little closer to the wall.
Now try and fall back, allowing your backside and shoulder blades to hit the wall at the same time.
You may find this difficult, and as this exercise teaches you to realign your spine, you may also notice problems in your posture.
For example, if your backside hits the wall first, it is generally because you hunch your shoulders forward. This can cause neck and shoulder pain.
If your shoulder blades hit the wall first, it could be that you arch the middle of your back or there is tension in your knees. You may often feel pain in your lower back and legs/knees.
In the next lesson, you’ll learn the correct breathing technique for healthy singing.
For more detailed information on posture, check out the book The Handbook for Working Singers.
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