The Alexander Technique has been eye opening in many different ways but one thing I found invaluable is a practise they call ‘Constructive Rest’ or 'Active Rest'. In this practise, we lie on the floor with our legs bent and feet flat on the floor. We also keep a stack of thin books under our head to maintain the natural alignment of the spine.
Once we are in this position we gently ask different muscles/ parts of our body to release. When done in a mindful way without pushing for any response and allowing the body to respond in its own way and time, we encourage deep release and relaxation in the muscles. It can be compared to a decompression/unraveling or ‘blooming’ of the body and feels incredibly relaxing afterwards.
There is a popular and widely accessible variant of this practise- body scanning meditations. A relaxing voice guides your awareness to different parts of your body and relaxation is sought simply by being aware of any given part of your body. Sometimes we may be required to ‘ask’ for release. Ever so often, simply by placing our attention on a certain part of our body, we elicit a relaxation response. One word of caution- keep your eyes open to avoid falling asleep.
This state of deep physical relaxation basically resets our muscles. All unnecessary tensions drop away and we are left with a clean slate. Any newly arising tension can immediately be identified. For better effect, you can work on deeply relaxing your facial muscles. You can draw your attention to the muscles inside your mouth and throat- the soft palate, laryngeal muscles, pharynx, muscles under the chin, the vocal folds themselves etc.
After you’re done with your body scan meditation, think of singing. Don’t sing yet. Just think about singing. You’ll notice that your body starts to reorganise already.
For instance, if you’re someone with vocal fatigue, you may observe tension building up in your neck muscles, jaw, shoulders and even in your back. Of course this is not an exhaustive list and tension may build up anywhere. One thing to keep in mind is that some amount of tension is normal. Otherwise it wouldnt be possible to sing. However, what needs to be practised is to minimise that tension as we sing and give up unnecessary tension. One way to do so is to ask your body- can I do this with lesser effort? Can the unnecessary tension drop off?
Undo that tension by commanding your attention to the parts where the tension starts to build and seek for release again. Do this a few times until you master letting go and asking for release. Once you get good at relaxing your muscles on demand, you can try to command and ask for release while singing (still lying on the floor)
The better you get at releasing tightness in this supine/semi-supine position, the better you will get at applying the same principles when you’re upright. When you’re lying on the floor, a lot of your muscles needn’t work to support you and so they can be relaxed deeply. Your chest is naturally open so breathing is deeper and much easier too. Practising in this way heightens sensations and makes it easier to catch even the minutest changes.
This technique offers incredibly superior results and builds body awareness like nothing else. Practising this every day can accelerate your results by allowing you to promote relaxation in your body while doing your exercises as well as while you actually sing.