When I was 18 years old, I had three herniated disks in my neck that created so much pain I couldn’t turn my head more than one degree to the right and three degrees to the left.
At that time, the only help that doctors could suggest involved surgery and pain medication.
Through research, I was able to find a teacher of the Alexander Technique and began a course of study that continues to this day.
Throughout my training to become an Alexander teacher, I noticed that my breathing was compromised. I would yawn continually from the time I entered the classroom until I left, and I often felt tremendous exhaustion after simply doing three hours of training. Mostly, what I was feeling was the back and forth of release and holding of my breath.
Eleven years later, one of the other participants from my Alexander training recommended that I begin study with Carl Stough, founder of the Stough Institute of Breathing Coordination.
Carl was a master musician, vocalist, and choir director who vowed that by the end of ten weeks with him, students would find their breathing greatly improved—and they would begin to have a singing voice.
I was incredulous, doubtful, and actually cynical that breathing could improve the quality of my life. I surely never expected it could help the neck pain I still suffered. Alexander Technique had helped me 50 percent, but I would still have occasional bouts of neck muscle spasms and restriction of movement.
My work with Carl Stough began after my first session. I was testing him, doubtful that I would see any more improvement after eleven years as a teacher of the Alexander Technique.
Miraculously, after my first session of working with Carl on his table, with his very gentle manipulation of my tension patterns in my head, neck, and jaw, and focus on my exhalation, I had almost full rotation in my neck.
More important, all the pain was gone and has not returned from that day in 1992. Over the years, I’ve seen many of my students gain similar help from the simple act of breathing.