When Bushwick resident Ariel Carson first shared her website with me, I had no idea what The Alexander Technique was. “It helps you improve posture, relieve pain, and feel calmer,” she explained in an email. “It can be applied to absolutely any activity, so it makes daily life easier all around.” While the specifics were still a mystery to me, that description alone made me certain I’d been missing out on something amazing.
I filled out a few survey questions so she knew a little bit more about me, and booked a session at her private studio space at Irving Ave & Starr St. Ariel met me at the door with a bright smile and we had a quick chat about how the session would work. The technique was a combination of spoken instruction and light physical guidance as I went through simple motions like sitting and standing, rolling onto my side and even lying still.
It felt effortless and soothing, but it was also educational. Ariel candidly explained how bones and muscles were functioning in precise parts of my back and neck, and—I swear it was magical for someone as tense as I tend to be—I was able to release immense amounts of tension and become aware of my stress points.
It was my first brush with the technique, so beyond saying it was an amazing experience, I want to leave it to the expert to let you in on what exactly The Alexander Technique is. Ariel took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and get specific about the benefits of posture improvement and body alignment.
How would you describe the Alexander technique to someone who’s never heard of it before, in a sentence or two?
It’s a technique that helps you improve your posture and promote the efficiency and sustainability of your mind-body-self in any situation, as well as increase your level of calm and relieve physical pain. It’s like embodied mindfulness or meditation, in action.
How does posture and physical alignment impact the way we react to the world emotionally?
We often think of posture as static positions, either bad or good, but it’s an ever-changing synthesis and expression of your mental, emotional, and physical unity. Posture and emotions can’t be separated.
Your posture undeniably affects how you react to the world, and how the world reacts to you. The more consciousness you can cultivate around how you breathe, move, and support yourself, the freer you are to choose how you want to be at any given moment.
What brought you to this line of work?
It was an integral part of my acting training. It’s very popular with performers of all kinds because it recognizes that our bodies are our primary instruments, and by learning how to play them well first, we become better performers. It can also help relieve performance anxiety, and prevent injury.
In any case, it was super clear to me from the beginning of learning it that the benefits extended way beyond just helping performers. Now I’m on a totally different track. I don’t perform anymore, and my interests lie increasingly in how this work helps people release fixed habits that no longer serve them.
I think a big concern for young professionals in our area is the amount of time they spend sitting in a computer chair. Can you talk a bit about how this technique can address this?
There has been a lot of demonization of chairs and sitting in the media lately. While it’s true that sitting for extended periods of time is not great, and some chairs are more conducive to maintaining “good posture” than others, in the Alexander Technique we say: it’s not the chair, it’s you!
Ultimately you have to take on the responsibility of how you support yourself. No chair can do that for you. The technique can teach you practical ways to optimize your time sitting at the computer in order to support yourself well, avoid injury, and help you stay energized and alert.
What inspires you most about Bushwick?
There is a wealth of creative and inspired individuals here dedicated to living their lives as art in all different forms; people who care about joining forces with, and positively impacting, the local community as well as the world at large. Not to mention all of the delicious restaurants, cafes, and bars. And the sunsets! Bushwick sunsets are gorgeous.