I started learning the Technique to decrease pain. Becoming more easy-going and confident was a surprising bonus. Even under unusual stress, like being harassed by a colleague at work, I was able to step back and use what I’d learned from The Technique to approach problems. I learned skills which I wish I had known about as a child.
The Technique is based on recognizing habits of unnecessary tension of thought and movement and then replacing the old habits with expansive, open movements and thought patterns. But, why does confidence tend to increase with Alexander Technique lessons? Why do most if not all of my clients say they feel deeply calm and better able to handle stress after a lesson?
Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard, has shown that your body language influences your perception of yourself by changing your biochemistry. The more open and expansive your movement, the more confident you will tend to feel.
Let’s look at the research:
Expansive nonverbal gestures, including power poses, affect two hormones. They raise testosterone (a dominance hormone) and lower cortisol (a stress hormone) which increases your confidence. Other people perceive your confidence, too. Remember Wonder Woman? That’s an example of a power pose.
“Shrinking” yourself or “making yourself small” lowers your testosterone and increases your cortisol. So you’ll tend to feel less confident and more stressed. Slumping, pressing your arms tightly to your torso, and crossing arms and legs tightly are examples of making yourself small.
Lessons in The Technique teach you how to change habits of unnecessary tension and contraction and replace them with expansive movements and thoughts, so power poses become part of your body’s vocabulary.
Practice on the Train
How do you change a habit of shrinking when you’re not in class with me? Practice expansiveness during situations when you are not being evaluated, perhaps on your daily train ride, when the tendency is to make yourself small. Or practice when you’re meeting new friends. You want to practice during situations in which the stakes aren’t too high. Then, when you need to give a presentation, go for an interview or to an audition, your practice will enable you to meet the situation with expansion. The point is to learn your new habits of expansive thinking and moving before that presentation, interview or audition.
Before you go into a high stakes situation, take two minutes to do power poses. In Cuddy’s research, she found that when people do power poses for two minutes, they lead to hormonal changes (an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol) that convey confidence and power to one’s own brain and also to the people around him or her.
Use the Directions
I allow my neck to be free, so that my head may balance at the top of my spine, so that my torso may lengthen and widen, and my legs may ease away from my torso. The Technique’s directions are inherently expansive, and contain the recipe for sustaining the high power pose outcome of confidence.
Watch the video below. It's worth it and it'll help you enjoy your lessons more.
You may also enjoy reading the article, Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance by Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yapp, Association for Psychological Science.