The Art of Breathing focuses on restoring our natural breathing coordination through the Alexander Technique. By learning not to interfere with the natural mechanism of the breath we can help to improve its functioning and capacity, and find relief from the harmful effects of faulty breathing.
Breathing is an involuntary and automatic process (we don’t need to do anything to breathe, it happens even when we are sleeping!). However, for most of us it is a frequent subject of interference. Many of us experience a lot of effort in our breathing, whether it is through forcing ourselves to take big breaths, holding our breath, or using accessory muscles when we breathe and when we speak. The coordinated breath is something we can develop by addressing these habits of effort and in doing so we improve our overall functioning.
Early in his career, F.M. Alexander referred to his work as ‘The Art of Breathing”, and that is now what Jessica Wolf calls the body of work she developed. The Art of Breathing looks at the breath through the non-doing, educational, and restorative lens of the Alexander Technique and incorporates the work of Carl Stough (1926 – 2000). Stough developed what he called ‘Breathing Coordination’ – a process that allows the respiratory system to function with maximum efficiency and minimum effort. I was introduced to Carl Stough’s work as an undergraduate prior to beginning my studies of the Alexander Technique, and was so taken by his approach I had my entire family on their back exhaling with me at Thanksgiving break my freshman year. After finishing my training as an Alexander teacher I immediately sought out Jessica Wolf as I knew that I wanted a greater understanding of Carl’s work to inform mine.
By integrating the work of these two like-minded innovators, Jessica Wolf has developed a training for Alexander teachers that furthers their already-heightened sense of the natural breath. With a non-invasive and highly refined gentle touch, the teacher helps pupils to discover the ongoing nature of the breath and how to restore it to fuller functioning.
The Art of Breathing work is especially useful for public speakers, actors, singers, athletes, instrumentalists, and those with breathing difficulties like emphysema or asthma. In my work with students, I have also found it to be a key in helping people with chronic neck, back and shoulder pain, as it enables them to release from the inside out.
For more information about my thoughts on the Art of Breathing work for performers in particular, click to read the interview Backstage National Edition. For a first person account of the usefulness of the Art of Breathing for ‘Air Hunger,’ click to read a case study from one of my students. For Jessica Wolf’s writings and excellent animation of the breathing mechanism see Recommended Reading.