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The Practice That Saved My Life

The Alexander Technique is a mind-body practice and way of living/thinking that saved my career as a full time musician.

Julian Lage is a jazz guitar virtuoso who is known for being associated with the Alexander Technique. Julian is also a certified teacher of the technique. 

If you've read up on the Alexander Technique a little bit, I'm sure you know the history of where it stems from. If not, I'll give you a quick overview. (It's extremely important, I promise.)

In the late 1800s, a fellow named Frederick Matthias Alexander (F.M. for short) was a Shakespearian reciter and voice actor. One day, he kept losing his voice, and he was no longer able to recite for long periods of time. F.M. went to a bunch of doctors and people to help him figure out what was wrong with him, and it turns out he was in perfect health! So, he went back to work and low and behold his voice gave out on him once again.

It was here where F.M. decided to take matters into his own hands. He started to observe himself reciting. He discovered that the way he was holding himself and the body he occupied was creating tension inside himself. He noticed that the way he would move (from the habits he formed growing up) would determine whether his voice would give up or not. From here, F.M. decided to inhibit his physical actions with his mental commands. He was able to direct his own self in ways that he wasn't able to detect physically, and he unlocked the full capability of himself. 

After he went back to work, the world was astonished by what he had done! Everyone wanted lessons from him, and everyone wanted to know his secret. It is here where he started teaching his concept of "using the self," inhibiting negative habitual patterns, undoing negative patterns of physical behaviour and the concept of allowing your human organism to work as organically and naturally as possible. This is what we know as "The Alexander Technique."

Sounds like a mouthful, right? It is. It's extremely difficult to grasp (especially through text). But the real question is this ... How did the technique save me?

I have to give you some background on myself in order for you to fully understand what happened. So, I've been a guitar player for about ten years, and over the course of my self-taught experiences for the first seven years, I developed some poor postural habits, some might even call it "guitar posture." The first time I actually ever took official lessons was when I went to music school in 2015. If anyone reading this is currently a music student, you already know how intense these programs are. The amount of work I had to put into my guitar playing skyrocketed, and I ended up developing a repetitive stress injury, otherwise known to the public as tendonitis.

It was at this moment when I didn't know if I was going to be able to be a musician anymore. I had developed tendonitis in both my arms, from the wrists up to the shoulders. There was a point during my injured period when I wasn't able to open doorknobs with my left hand. This was a painful experience, and I truly hope no one has to live what I lived.

I tried every possible thing available for me to help cure my injury. As we're taught in Western society, if you're broken, go to the doctor. I saw medical doctors, physiotherapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, you name it, I've been. After countless appointments, meetings, and a lot of money spent, nothing worked. Everything was a temporary fix ... Until I found the Alexander Technique.

When I officially moved from Red Deer to Vancouver, I knew that I could take a lesson in AT. I had done a decent amount of research, but everyone said that it wouldn't make sense until you've experienced it, and at this point, I was ready to do anything. I went in for my first lesson, and it absolutely changed my life. The concept that I was responsible for my injury was life-changing. It had been caused by the way I was carrying myself. This is something no one would have ever told me outside of the Alexander world. I honestly thought it was too good to be true. I started studying with a fantastic teacher named Mark Vasak. I started reading books on the technique and my entire life changed.

I wanted to play guitar again. I felt better inside myself and I knew that with enough work I would be able to play again. To this day, I am still recovering from my injury. But if I hadn't discovered the technique, I wouldn't be the same person I am today and I wouldn't be able to do what I love.

If you have a teacher in your area, I'd highly recommend seeing them, even if you aren't injured. The technique is much more than a technique. It is a process for understanding the organic human experience, and it aids us in applying ourselves to the greatest ability we can. It changes lives. It changed mine.

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