Last week I was given a very exciting opportunity, Robert Rickover, an American Alexander Technique teacher, invited me to take part in two interviews for his Alexander Technique podcasts called ‘Body Learning’. I subscribe to these podcasts and there are some great interviews about all different aspects of the technique and how, where and with whom, it is taught. He invited me to talk about my work with the children at Educare Small School (3-11 years old), in Kingston and about my thoughts on teaching children AT in general. I felt honoured and excited to be asked, however, at the same time I felt slightly anxious; what would I say? What would he ask? Would I splutter out my answers or come clearly? The little self critic inside, crept in, something many of us experience!
So, I thought I would give myself the best chance of reducing this nervousness by being as prepared as possible. I chatted things over with my mentors and friends Sue Merry (Co-founder of Educare) and Judith Kleinman (my teacher at LCATT where I trained, AT teacher at the Royal College of Music and other music colleges). Both these teachers are leading experts in teaching AT to young people and I work with them regularly. I wrote notes on points I would ideally like to say. I organised my books and other resources so I could have them close at hand during the interview.
I also found it useful to mentally reframe any nervousness I was feeling as ‘excitement’. Excitement and nervous anticipation activate the same parts of our nervous system (similar to going on a roller coaster). This reframing helps me reduce the negative bias of the unknown and leaves more of a positive feeling. Lastly, when the moment of the interview arrived I was mindful and attentive of the habits of ‘nervousness’ that sometimes arise in me, and employed my Alexander Technique skills as I was speaking. I found I was able to talk and respond to Robert’s questions and still be aware of my body. I was able to think in activity.
Some of the habits and things I noticed and the thoughts and skills that helped me were:
Before the interview I organised myself so that I felt grounded, comfortable and poised, I sat on an upright and comfortable chair with my feet flat on the floor, my back supported, so I was able to sit balanced with a soft and tall body.
When I talk about subjects that are personal to me I often find my physical response (habit) is to start shaking slightly. Over time I have realised that this involves a tightening in my tummy muscles, clamping of my ribs and some tension in my jaw, so my breathing and voice are affected. I used to worry about this happening, which wasn’t helpful and added yet another layer of tension! Through my Alexander Technique and mediation practice I have accepted that this may happen, a self compassionate first step. Then through my embodied awareness, I was able to pause and employ certain strategies to help. I thought about a long slow ‘out breath’ to calm my system, then I let go of my tummy muscles whenever I notice them tighten (using the out breath again to let them go). I allowed my ribs to move freely with my breath and my jaw to release by thinking of freeing my neck.
The interviews, were over Skype and I used a hands free headset. I was able to freely gesticulate and talk naturally using my hands and arms. This freed up my whole body. It was relaxing being able to speak naturally and freely with my whole self. All of these tools also allowed my voice to sound calmer.
If you want to know more about working with the physical affects of anxiety or public speaking, presenting and interview skills using Alexander Technique please contact me. You can learn to make the most of yourself and become empowered to overcome unhelpful habits. To listen to the first of my interviews click here.