A lot of my students ask me if there’s anything Alexandrian they should do when they go to bed. Do I have some nifty moves to recommend?
I’ve always said no. Enjoy. Go to sleep.
Alexander Technique is about becoming aware of your habits and when you’re asleep, you can’t be aware of your habits.
If you push me, I guess there are things that Alexander Technique can help with in bed.
I think active rest aka semi-supine is best done on the floor, not in a bed, because the bed is too soft and you’re less likely to lengthen and widen. Still, active rest can be done in bed. Lie on your back. Use a pillow to comfortably support your head (some people need no support and other people like me need more than an inch of support or the head will start tipping back, compressing the neck and making breathing more difficult).
The optimal time of day to practice for sleep enhancement is before bed and then first thing in the morning.
Position: Eyes open. Lie on your back, head supported by a book or firm pillow, feet in line with the hip sockets, knees apart and pointing to the ceiling. Alternately, use a thick pillow to support the knees. Let your hands rest easily on your belly, chest or hips.
Alternate between thinking the following Alexander directions and observing your body and your mind state, keep your eyes open. Experiment with placing about 75% of your awareness on the external world and about 25% on your body.
If you don’t have time to set aside to practice before sleep, you can still benefit from mentally reviewing the Alexander directions as you drift into sleep.
Let my jaw, lips, tongue, eyes and forehead melt
To let my neck be free
To let my head balance forward and up
To let my back lengthen and widen
To let my knees direct forward from the hips and ankles and away from each other
To let my shoulders widen to the sides
Note: Directions are a sequential set of instructions that help to lengthen the spine, free up the breath, and create mental and physical ease. Directing is the process of thinking, wishing, ordering, projecting or seeing the above series of movements. Although directing may cause physical change, it is important to try not to “do” the directions. Directing is a mental process. Physical changes may occur as a result of directing, but the main focus is the thought. Finally, the sequence of directions is important, since the optimal physical pattern can only occur with the initial freedom of the neck and head.
If you have a problem with clenching and grinding, see if you can catch yourself starting to clench as you begin to unwind during constructive rest or as you drift into sleep. This is a very important moment and takes quite a lot of practice to notice. Alexander Lessons can dramatically heighten your awareness of your body, and can help you to prevent clenching in the daytime and grinding at night. Once you are able to notice the beginning stages of clenching and grinding as you slip into sleep, you have the opportunity to retrain the habit. This approach has worked for both myself and for my students.