The “Whispered Ah” – for Calmness, Muscle Relaxation and the Posture

I was recently reminded of an Alexander Technique known as the “Whispered Ah” [Josefsberg Breathing] [Dias_WhisperedAh, p. 4] [Breaking_WhisperedAh] – developed primarily for those in the performing arts.   It is a very simple technique that initiates, for me, a process of increasing inner calmness, muscle relaxation and posture restoration.

This article presents the technique, some personal observations, a wrap-up and some quotes on the Alexander Technique.


How to do the “Whispered Ah”:

Whisper “Ahhh”, smile with the eyes and inhale through the nose.  Repeat as many times as desired.

Notes:  Release all tension from the jaw, tongue and eyes.  Inhale with the lips opened or closed as desired.  Thinking of something funny naturally seems to bring about relaxation.  This technique can be done, for example, while seated, standing, walking or waiting.  More details on the technique are provided in the aforementioned references.


Some personal observations:

The observations are loosely categorized as body-related, mind-related and general observations as they can cross-over from one category to another.

  • Body related observations:
    • Though the release of muscle tension starts in the jaw, tongue and eye areas, it gradually extends to other areas such as the neck, shoulder, spine and arms – as awareness of muscle tension elsewhere arises.
    • As I  repeat the “Ahhh”, my breathing gradually becomes deeper (filling more of my lungs) which seems to help correct my posture.
      • The awareness of discomfort along the spine when hunched could also be a contributing factor.
  • Mind related observations:
    • Calmness seems to grow as my attention is redirected to the “Ahhh” and away from thinking and thoughts.
    • After a while, I sometimes catch myself no longer doing the “Whispered Ah” and notice that my attention has gone back to thinking and thoughts.
      • It as if the thoughts have magnetic powers to attract my attention and ninja-like stealth to accomplish the re-direction of attention without notice –  as described in [KendoNotes_Meditation2].
  • General observations:
    • The calmness, relaxation, posture correction and a general sense of well-being seems to grow with each repeated “Ahhh.”
    • This may be an effective way to “warm-up” prior to a session of meditation or deep belly breathing.

Wrap-up

During a recent experience of walking outside in cold winter weather in the East Coast, I recall opening the mouth, exhaling steam (mist) from the mouth like a dragon while whispering “Hah”, inhaling the frosty air deeply through the nose and then repeating the process.  In retrospect, it seems that I was naturally doing a slight variation: a “Whispered Hah” with a bit of tension in the mouth.

I think this technique is Ahhh-some! 😉


Quotes on the Alexander Technique

  • Peter Buckoke, Musician and Alexander teacher, The Royal College of Music.  I believe that his comments in the context of music can be applied to kendo, sports and other areas of life.
    • From [AlexanderNow]:
      • For performance to be healthy, spontaneous and creative, it needs to be free from rigidity of mind, body and intention.  Alexander thinking facilities all of these freedoms.
      • The work develops awareness that we can choose the responses to stimuli in our lives rather than responding automatically.  Another way of describing the state we might choose to be in is ‘truly present’.
      • The work starts by developing an understanding of the nature of habit and the identification of any negative personal habits.
      • Performance anxiety is a perfect example of an automatic ‘response to stimulus’ and can be tackled with this psycho-physical approach – like any other habit.
      • Alexander work tends to free the mind, body and spirit from automatic repetition and gives one the feeling of being alive and ready for anything.
    • From [Buckoke_Learning]:
      • We all learn effortlessly about anything that genuinely captures our interest.
      • I see learning a skill, such as playing an instrument, as building a huge variety of reliable repetitive responses (a collection of habits) to different but connected stimuli.
      • Our repertoire of habits can be recognized as character or musical personality. Described in this way, recognising habits that we would like to change is part of what is involved in developing as a musician.
      • How to change habits:
        • Noticing the existence and nature of the negative habit empowers us to change.
        • We also need to see there is a moment of choice between stimuli and our automatic or habitual response to it -­ that is, potentially, the moment of change.
      • A research project carried out at the Royal College of Music about60years ago concluded that the Alexander technique should be the basis of the education of all musicians.  I agree with that bold statement.

Additional quotes can be found at [Alexander_Quotes], [Bloch_Alexander] and [Plake_Quotes].


References

[AlexanderNow] “What is the Alexander Technique?” AlexanderNow.org.

[Alexander_Quotes] “Alexander Technique Quotations,” AlexanderTechnique.com.

[Bloch_Alexander] Peter Bloch, “What some well-known people have said about the Alexander Technique,” peter-bloch.co.uk.

[Buckoke_Learning] Peter Buckoke, “Learning how to learn,” (PDF, 3 pages).

[Breaking_WhisperedgAh] “Alexander Technique for Well-Being,”  BreakingDepression.com, Jan. 13, 2014.

[Dias_WhisperedAh] Georgia Dias, “Voice work in the Alexander technique.” (PDF, 6 pages).

[Josefsberg_Breathing] Mark Josefsberg, “Alexander Technique Breathing,” MarkJosefsberg.com.

[Kabat-Zinn_BodyScan] “Jon Kabat-Zinn Body Scan Meditation GUIDED MEDITATION,” July 18, 2016 (45:27 mins).

[KendoNotes_Meditation2] “Reflections on Meditation – Part 2: Some Experiences and Catching the Ninja,” KendoNotes.com, June 16, 2019. 

[KendoNotes_SoftEyes] “‘Soft Eyes,’ A Way of Seeing and Being – Quote and Resources,” KendoNotes.com, December 21, 2018.

[Mindful_BodyScan] “The Body Scan Practice,” Mindful.org, Nov. 7, 2012.

[Plake_Quotes] Bill Plake, “The Alexander Technique – Quotes & Aphorisms,” AlexanderTechniqueFoothills.com.

 

Keywords:  Peace, Heijoshin

 

Copyright 2019 KendoNotes.com

 

 

Self-Inquiry and “Who Am I?” – Quotes and Resources

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