The ability to allow coordination to emerge reflexively
Singing, like any other skilled activity, works best when you can get out of your own way and allow your body to coordinate reflexively. Singing is accomplished almost entirely through the action of muscles which are not accessible via conscious control. When we ignore this reality — when we resort to manipulating muscles we can control instead of finding an indirect means of activating a reflexive response of our autonomic laryngeal muscles — we risk throwing off the delicate balance of the system and creating unwanted tension.
This challenging situation, calling for an indirect pedagogical approach, mirrors that of our postural system as addressed in Alexander lessons. Like singing, posture is accomplished by the reflexive interaction of a network of muscles, most of them outside our direct control. And, as with singing, many students initially try to improve their posture not by stimulating their natural muscular reflexes, but by contracting muscles they are able to control at will (the pull-your-shoulders-back-and-stick-out-your-chest approach), thereby throwing off their natural muscular balance.
In our “Just do it” world, in which we are continually urged to solve problems by trying harder, the Alexander Technique provides a rare opportunity to explore a non-doing, but paradoxically more productive option: learning how to indirectly stimulate your muscles into coordinated action. As you practice this unfamiliar option in your Alexander lessons as it relates to your posture, you will become more confident with allowing a reflexive response of all of your physiological movement patterns that operate through the action of involuntary muscles, such as your walking, your breathing, and, of course, your singing.
(to be continued)