Resilience and the ability to bounce back

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It’s been a week in which my personal resilience has been tested. A sudden death in the family – someone distant in geography but not affection – has shaken me. On top came some online aggression.

Resilience is two-fold. Its first meaning is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks. And the second relates to physical elasticity and the capacity to spring back into shape.  In both of these the Alexander Technique has helped me time and again.

Less rigid, more elastic

Recently I’ve been assisting another teacher running a course on the Alexander Technique for performers (for breathing, voice, nerves and stage presence).  We looked this week at balance.  In a practical exercise in small groups we noticed how tightening the neck makes you rigid and more likely to fall over from a gentle push.

Then we gave the students some hands-on Alexander work to the head and neck, asked them to breathe and think about support from the floor through their feet. We then pushed gently again. This time by freeing their necks they had become more elastic, less rigid – and more resilient.

Choosing how to react

The Alexander understanding is that the mind/body is a single entity – the self. So in the longer term creating greater elasticity in the musculoskeletal structure brings greater emotional resilience. It becomes easier to deal with life’s difficulties. There’s something else that helps here too. We learn through Alexander work to change our reactions. So when something does go wrong, or we face an unexpected or uncomfortable situation, we don’t have to respond automatically. We allow time, choosing how to react rather than shooting from the hip to defend ourselves or attack others.   

Strong internal support

As human beings in the world we often allow our internal physical arrangement to become like the stones in the photo below - piled up randomly, no room to breathe and at imminent risk of collapse unless held up with tension. Or we can nurture our own qualities of resilience and elasticity like a flower after a day of heavy June rain - able to find natural direction upwards with strong internal support so we can hold our heads high in the sunshine that follows the clouds.