Now in eBook: Back Trouble by Deborah Caplan

Now in eBook: Back Trouble

“Keep It Simple”: The legacy of Deborah Caplan

My strongest recollections of Debby’s teaching was how elegantly simple and practical she was. The clarity of her teaching is evident in these video clips (Debby training third year teachers and teaching a first lesson).

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The Pitfalls of the Knitter’s Craft

by Witold Fitz-Simon

Five years ago I discovered knitting, and it quickly became one of my favorite pastimes. Working with needles and yarn is a deeply satisfying experience on many levels. The color and texture of the yarn running through your fingers, the rhythm of the needles slipping and sliding away in your hands, the satisfaction of seeing the project develop bit by bit, all build into an experience that is visceral, addictive, and deeply calming.

What if the aches and pains, the limitations and injuries that you experience as a result of your everyday life were not a result of the flawed workings of a crude machine, but were instead the result of all the things you do in a day that interfere with that complex coordination? What if, in order to stand tall and have good posture, to be grounded on your feet and light on your feet all at the same time, all you had to do was do less or let go of all the pushing and pulling, compressing and collapsing you do to yourself all day and allow that underlying coordination to reassert itself?

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New Group Class: Experiential Anatomy and Alexander Technique

fig-70-deep-muscles-of-the-upper-part-of-the-backExperiential Anatomy and Alexander Techniquewith Witold Fitz-Simon

Tuesday Evenings (see dates below)

Learn to see, understand and talk about anatomy with an Alexander Technique twist. In this 10-week class, we will learn about bone, its physiology, function and use as a support structure and foundation for movement, with a special focus on the head and spine. This class is part of the American Center for the Alexander Technique's teacher-training program, the longest-running program in the US, but is open to anyone interested in the body and the way we use ourselves. Excellent for teachers of dance, yoga or other movement modalities, and for anyone interested in how their bodies work.

Class Day/Time: Tuesdays, 7:55 pm to 9:15 pm Class dates: September 13, 20, 27 October 25 November 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 December 6 Class Fees: $400 for 10 classes; $45 per drop in class All fees are payable by cash or check to “ACAT” To register for the whole series: send $400 payment in full* to ACAT, 39 West 14th Street, Room #507, between 5th and 6th Avenue or click below to pay via PayPal (processing fees apply) Buzz #507 to enter the building *There are no refunds for missed classes


Nine Questions with Alexander Technique Teacher Bob Britton

Bob Britton by Anastasia Pridlides

We are so pleased to have visiting teacher Bob Britton presenting a workshop—"Tuning Direction"—and there is still space for you to join us at ACAT on Saturday May 14th at 1pm. In advance of him joining us in our space we thought we would ask him a few questions to introduce him to the community.

Q. How long have you been teaching?

A. I first started taking lessons in 1974, and graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher in 1978.

Q. What was your first exposure to the Alexander Technique?

A. I first experienced the Alexander Technique because I had a knee injury as a result of sitting intensively in Zen meditation. A friend recommended that I try taking a lesson with Frank Ottiwell after I found out that the surgery for my knee injury would be a major operation. As soon as I walked into the lesson Frank noticed that my habitual style of walking was awkward because I habitually carried my right foot pointing out to the side ever since I had broken my leg when I was 10 years old. Frank asked me to completely relax my leg and then to drop the foot to the floor. My foot came down pointing straight ahead. Frank then asked me to take a step and I put it down with the toe facing out to the side. Frank said, “You see the foot knows where it wants to go, but you think the foot should be pointing out to the side.” I was amazed that what I was doing with my foot would make a difference in my knee. Gradually after six weeks of lessons my foot gradually came back around to pointing ahead as Frank introduced me to the larger organization of my whole body. Then the knee problem basically took care of itself and healed. I was impressed!

Q. What made you decide to become a teacher of this work?

I was not planning on becoming an Alexander teacher while I trained. I really was training to deepen my own experience of this marvelous work. After I graduated many people started coming up to me with ailments and the Technique was quite successful in helping them out. So when I left the Zen community it was a very natural choice to pursue the way of life of being an Alexander teacher.

Q. What most excites you about your upcoming workshop at ACAT?

A. Teaching workshops in the Alexander Technique is always energizing and gratifying. Somehow, thanks to human evolution, when we are sharing knowledge and skills about moving with more grace and efficiency everyone has a chance to experience joy and satisfaction. This is because our nervous systems are not neutral about the experience of moving with more efficiency. If we are moving with more skill we have more of a chance of survival, and the nervous system rewards us with endorphins. Of course working with old friends and new teachers who want to learn is always is a delight.

Q. What is your favorite way to engage with the AT in your daily life right now?

A. My favorite way of engaging with the Technique is organizing myself dynamically upward each morning, and throughout the day, especially by allowing my ribs to move buoyantly upward and engaging with the engaging with the environment around me. Meeting life from a dynamic and energetic organization is a true pleasure.

Q. What is most fascinating to you about the AT today?

A. Our human vertebrate structure is very, very old, and tuning into its beauty and brilliance is constantly refreshing. In addition, I love refining and finding more depth and sophistication in Alexander’s work.

Q. What is the most surprising effect your study of the AT has had on your life?

A. My experience is that everything changes with our posture. When our posture is dynamic, expanded, and engaged with our environment, the freshness of being happens. This is possible in every moment. The Alexander Technique is the best thing we can do in the present moment to improve our quality of being.

Q. Tell us about an interest/skill/passion of yours other than of the Alexander Technique.

A. One passion I am following now is going out with my local astronomy club to observe our Universe from dark sky locations. To be peering through my telescope and suddenly see the light from a distant galaxy that left there millions of years ago and now is arriving inside of my eye, is a rather awesome experience.

About Bob

Robert Britton graduated in 1978 from the Alexander Training Institute-SF (Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pinkas). In addition to his private practice in San Francisco, he has taught the Alexander Technique to musicians at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1984. He served as the Chairman of the American Society for the Alexander Technique, and was a director of the 2011 International Congress of the Alexander Technique. He has helped train Alexander Technique Teachers since 1989, and regularly gives workshops to Alexander Teachers around the World.Find out more about Bob at

There are still a few spaces left in Bob's workshop. Go here to find out more and to register.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]ANASTASIA PRIDLIDES teaches Alexander Technique, Bellydance and Yoga in New York City.  Studying the Alexander Technique has been a deeply transformative and life changing process for her. Every day she wakes up excited to know that her job is share it with others. You can find her at[/author_info] [/author]

The Alexander Technique as a Tool for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

Source: by Rachel Bernsen

In February 2016, Senior Alexander teacher Judy Stern convened a panel discussion entitled Living with MS and How Alexander Technique Can Help: A Students Perspective. The discussion centered around a student named Ron, who shared the numerous ways the Alexander Technique has been effective for coping with symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). To protect Ron’s privacy I’ll only use his first name.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as “an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.” Ron credits the Alexander Technique with lessening the severity of his symptoms, improving his quality of life and overcoming several professional prognoses that “there is nothing you can do”. With the aid of the Technique he is still ambulatory, walking with only a cane. He also drives, plays golf and is very physically active.

Ron is in his mid-70s and has been living with the disease for many years. He is a resident of the greater New York metropolitan area, is married with grown children and is a retired business executive. He has studied Alexander regularly for the last seven plus years. During the panel he spoke about how learning the Technique has transformed the way he lives with the disease.

Stern gave a demonstration of working with him in walking, inviting the audience to observe visible changes in his movement patterns. One of Ron’s great concerns is his gait. A few years ago his right knee began to lock involuntarily; spasticity or involuntary muscle contraction is a major symptom of MS. This prevented him from being able to transfer his weight fully onto that leg as he walked. The demonstration showed both Ron and Stern attending to his overall coordination, taking into account the working of his whole body in walking including his head, neck and back. They examined how his whole system responded to weight transfer on to the compromised leg. With an awareness of how he was using his whole body he was able to control his knee spasticity in walking enough to execute a smooth and complete weight transfer onto that leg. Ron was able to release his hips, allowing for an easier leg swing and hence greater flexion through that joint. Conscious releasing of his neck and back muscles helped him resolve the compensatory, maladaptive patterns in his upper body that formed as a result of the knee spasticity. He uses a cane to further improve his balance and coordination but doesn’t need to use it for weight bearing.

Ron discussed how Alexander Technique helps him deal with symptoms of fatigue and stress. These are extremely debilitating symptoms for people with MS. In his Alexander sessions he spends some time lying on the table, practicing constructive rest. The focus in AT on learning to release unnecessary tension often provides him a complete release of spasticity during his lesson time on the table. In addition, a lot of attention is given to releasing his ribcage and improving his breathing coordination. All of these components of the work likely lessen his fatigue and stress level. Working with his breathing in AT piqued his interest in mindful meditation, another modality that has brought him some relief from these symptoms.

Ron describes how his lessons have helped him develop a keen kinaesthetic awareness of himself in movement, learning to pause thoughtfully when he becomes aware of maladaptive patterns, gaining more control over his motor coordination. He describes how it maximizes his abilities in other techniques such as yoga and strength training, both of which he does everyday and have been crucial to his health maintenance. He credits AT as helping him become more adaptable to the rigors of these techniques, able to more quickly and efficiently learn new movements, developing crucial new neural pathways.

The discussion took place at The American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) in New York City during their Annual General Meeting 2016. In addition to Judy Stern, four other teachers (Kim Jessor, Rebecca Tuffey, Joan Frost and myself) who’ve worked with Ron joined the conversation after the demonstration to share methodology, insights and observations. Each of us remarked on what we saw as his extraordinary progress.

The event provided an important context for looking at the benefits of AT through a medical framework, offering an anecdotal example of how Alexander Technique has improved the quality of life for a patient dealing with MS and how it may, with further study, become an accepted practice for functional recovery for MS patients.

This post originally appeared on Rachel's blog:

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]RACHEL BERNSEN is a choreographer, performer and a nationally certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, M.AmSAT. Bernsen maintains a private Alexander practice in New Haven, CT. She has been guest faculty at Yale University, Wesleyan University, Miami-Dade College Live Arts Lab, Texas Woman’s University, Seattle Pacific University and the Moscow Dance Agency Tsekh. She is currently a visiting assistant professor of dance at Trinity College and is on faculty at Movement Research. Committed to interdisciplinary performance practice, current collaborators include choreographer Melanie Maar, musicians Taylor Ho Bynum and Abraham Gomez-Delgado, visual artist Megan Craig, and legendary composer Anthony Braxton.[/author_info] [/author]

How To Be A Happier Texter

by Witold Fitz-Simon better.texting.001

The Alexander Technique can help you fine-tune the things you do in your life. Instead of your daily routine making you more tired, more compressed, more achy, it can help you find ease, lightness and freedom.

To find out more about how you can save your neck and make your back stronger and freer, come to one of our monthly free introductions to the Technique or to a drop-in group class.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]WITOLD FITZ-SIMON has been a student of the Alexander Technique since 2007. He is certified to teach the Technique as a graduate of the American Center for the Alexander Technique’s 1,600-hour, three-year training program. A student of yoga since 1993 and a teacher of yoga since 2000, Witold combines his extensive knowledge of the body and its use into intelligent and practical instruction designed to help his students free themselves of ineffective and damaging habits of body, mind and being.[/author_info] [/author]


From the ACAT Faculty: “What is my Alexander Teacher doing with her hands? It’s not like anything I’ve experienced before…” by Brooke Lieb

FindaTeacherby Brooke Lieb When I was taking private lessons, I had no idea how my teacher was facilitating changes in my sense of ease and freedom, I just knew it was different from anything I had ever experienced. I recognized some of it was what what she told me to think and wish for, but it seemed most of the changes were the result of some mysterious and magical quality in her hands.

I decided to give the man I was dating at the time, an Alexander “lesson." I had him lay on the floor and I copied what I thought my teacher was doing. Afterwards, all he noticed was that his shoulders weren’t pulled up around his ears anymore. Other than that, nothing much happened and I realized I had no idea what my teacher was doing with her hands. I began to take private lessons with other teachers as well, and it became clear they had all been trained to use their hands in a specific way. There were differences in the quality of their hands, but the ideas and thought process was the same and I recognized the changes that I experienced with different teachers.

When I started teacher training, I was relieved and delighted to discover that teaching would be an extension of the same skills I had been learning as a private student, and these skills would be applied in a practical, step-by-step process, to the use of hands and all the activities of teaching.

I have now been training teachers on the ACAT Faculty since 1992 and while each graduate has a unique quality to their touch, they are also able to facilitate the same response in my system when they have hands on me as my other teachers. The use of the hands is a skill that can be taught.

A Skill That Can Be Taught

In his book Freedom to Change, Frank Pierce Jones writes:

"F. M. told me that in 1914 he was just beginning to find a new way of using his hands in teaching. By applying the inhibitory control (which had proved so effective in breathing and speaking) to the use of his hands he was learning to make changes in a pupil that were different from ordinary manipulation or postural adjustment."

Throughout my training at ACAT, I was taken through a series of activities where I was touching objects, including a hat maker's head form, balls, cups, common objects, a phone book, and a stool. These activities were preparing me to use the same inhibitory control Alexander referred to when using his hands to teach.

My task was to practice my skills of inhibition and directing during these highly stimulating activities, while the teacher lifted or moved the object with her or his hands over mine. I learned how to avoid unneeded (but very habitual) tension in my hands, wrists, arms, legs and back as I allowed the teacher to do the work. I became increasingly able to allow myself to remain empty of intention and habitual tension as the teacher acted upon the object. I was merely the observer.

As I mastered this ability to follow the leader, I was given more and more responsibility for taking over lifting and moving these objects myself. I continued to override my habit of excess effort and tension and the objects felt lighter and easier to move.

This was the model I was taught to use my hands in teaching: recognize my habit of stiffening or tensing throughout my body to use my hands; pause to give myself time to reduce the level of effort I bring to the task; and use my intentional thinking to carry out the task in a more easeful way, with tone and effort distributed more easily throughout my body.

I use this step-by-step method throughout a lesson, and it is how I train teachers to develop their own step-by-step methods for themselves.

Lifting A Head

A practical example: Adjusting the height of books under a student's head during a table lesson.

This task involves lifting and supporting the weight of a student's head with one hand while adding or removing books with the other.

My first strategy is to spend as little time as possible weight bearing while still accomplishing the task. At strategic moments along the way, I give myself time to pause and release the bracing and effort that arises from anticipating and then actually lifting.

  1. I roll my student's head to one side or the other. The books are still supporting the weight of the student's head.
  2. I rest the hand that will lift her or his head on the books and let the back of that hand release onto the book. This helps me interrupt my tendency to grasp the student's head with tension.
  3. I roll the student's head onto my hand, and give myself time to refrain from lifting. Instead, I keep resting my hand on the books with the stimulus of my student's head on that hand. This moment of inhibition is valuable for me and for the student.
  4. I consider lifting the student's head and observe where I want to brace in anticipation of lifting. I undo the preparation I have observed, since I am not yet lifting. This allows me to actually lift with less anticipatory and wasted tension.
  5. As I lift, I continue to think in ways that allow me to minimize effort and tension as I support the weight of my student's head.
  6. I change the height of the books with the other hands as I continue the thinking process described in step 5.
  7. I return my hand to rest on the new book height, and take time to let my student's head rest in my hand, letting go the effort of weight bearing.
  8. I use my available hand to gently roll the student's head off the hand that did the lifting.
  9. I roll the student's head back to center.

The American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) runs the oldest Teacher Certification Program in the United States and is proud to have trained more than a third of the country’s Alexander Technique teachers, taught by our world-class faculty. ACAT also serves as a membership organization for Alexander Teachers and students. To find out more about the program click here or come to our Open House May 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists.[/author_info] [/author]

Lessons in the Art of Group Teaching: Two Workshops for Alexander Technique Teachers with Meade Andrews

meadeby Brooke Lieb Meade Andrews will be offering a two-weekend program on the Art of Group Teaching. Teachers and Third Year Trainees can register for one or both weekends. Click here for more information.

BL: Tell us a bit about your background and how you first encountered the Alexander Technique:

MA: From the age of 8, I was a devoted student of ballet, hoping to train professionally and become a ballerina. In my first year of college, I began to study modern dance. I sustained a knee injury, which never healed properly, and eventually resulted in an injury to my other knee. I tried modalities such as Rolfing and massage, but did not find healing for my knees. In the early 70's, I attended a theatre conference and watched Ilana Rubenfeld teach an AT class. She is a great teacher, and I saw people moving with ease and whole-body connectedness, and I decided to the study the work. In 1974, I moved to Washington, DC, where there were no AT teachers. However, a group of women were importing an AT teacher from NYC: Rachel Zahn, another pioneer teacher from ACAT. And that's where I began.

BL: Tell us about your training to become an Alexander Teacher?

MA: After I had studied AT for 8 years in DC, with teachers Charlotte Coe, Carol Boggs, and Susan Cohen, I began to study with Marjorie Barstow, who taught in DC twice a year for two weeks. I went to the summer intensives in Lincoln Nebraska where Marj taught for many years. There I met Bruce and Martha Fertman, and when they created a training school, I took their course. When I finished the course, I left my tenured position in the theatre and dance program at American University to become a full-time teacher of the AT. I have been fortunate to have a long and varied career as an AT teacher, traveling throughout the US and abroad: Japan, Spain, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and England.

BL: How did you develop The Art of Group Teaching?

MA: I first developed my work in the Art of Group Teaching at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, in 1989. I was first hired to teach a weekend workshop in the AT for actors. When we sat in a circle, I told them that I was there to introduce them to the AT. In a flash, every single one of them "sat up straight". In that moment, I knew that I would have to develop various group explorations as a means of presenting the work in a meaningful way within a group setting. I knew that I could not work with one person in front of the group, unless we all shared group experiences designed to focus attention and awareness on creating an understanding of the "receptive field", a condition of kinesthetic and cognitive alertness that enlivens and enhances an understanding of the AT principles. Only then, when I could create shared learning experiences and create a learning ensemble, would the students be able to focus their attention knowledgeably while I worked with one student in their presence. We all needed to be on the same page for true learning within a group setting to be accomplished.

BL: What do you enjoy most about offering Post Graduate workshops?

MA: My favorite aspect of teaching Post-Graduate offerings is the opportunity meet teachers from various backgrounds of life study, and AT training. Having studied in group settings and performed in group theatre and dance work for most of my life, I love working with groups of AT teachers and trainees. Meeting and sharing experiences and explorations together, and offering my approach to group teaching, has enriched my professional and personal life immeasurably.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists.[/author_info] [/author]

ACAT's 9th Annual Summer Intensive

ACATSI1by Witold Fitz-Simon ACAT’s 9th Annual Summer Intensive takes place July 13 - 17, 2015. There are still a few spaces left, for more information and to register, visit our events page

Brooke Lieb, Director of Training, created the Summer Intensive as an opportunity for new and experienced students of the Alexander Technique to have an in-depth learning experience, similar to the structure of a week on ACAT’s Teacher Certification Program. Each year, participants have commented on what a pleasure it is to be among a group of others who know and appreciate the Alexander Technique.


Brooke, How did you conceive the Summer Intensive?


There have been residential courses being offered in the Alexander Technique throughout the country, but none right here in New York. ACAT has a world class Faculty, and I wanted to share our work with a wider audience. I imagined the program would offer local students a “staycation” opportunity, which would make for an economical, in-depth learning experience. Interestingly, some summers we have as many as half the participants travel from out of town to join the program. There are also a number of students who have attended multiple years.


What does the Faculty enjoy about teaching on the program?


There is a fresh energy and excitement for the participants and the faculty, since the week is an “event”. We work with the trainees on our Teacher Certification Program 30 weeks per year, and that allows for depth-learning, but it requires a slow and steady pacing. On the summer intensive, the novelty of new experiences, new students and new energy creates a different quality to the teaching. Also, the Summer Intensive is focused on the individual interests, needs and learning style of the participants to apply Alexander Technique to whatever is most of interest to them. Training teachers has a different emphasis, and we are teaching different curriculum.

For me, the opportunity to come back to simple and basic ways of explaining Alexander’s concepts and methodology puts me back in the beginner’s mind, and this deepens my understanding and appreciation for the essential genius of this work!


What have past participants said about the experience?


Here are some wonderful quotes from past participants:

"The quality and passion of the teaching was mostly excellent…. I'm so happy that I participated. Many of the teachers were quite brilliant, even inspired. I learned a tremendous amount. I will likely want to repeat next year!” D. S., Summer Intensive 2013, 2014

"I find it helpful to combine information and learning along side the hands on practice.  I also found it helpful having a different teacher everyday, each of whom presented different information with there own personal take and approach to the work.” Jennifer Hanley, Summer Intensive 2013

“I feel that this summer’s intensive enabled me to make unbelievable progress in both my understanding and usage of the Alexander Technique. Concepts I thought I knew have become even clearer, and the class exercises and hands-on experiences have made a huge difference in my everyday movement.” S. B., Summer Intensive 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]WITOLD FITZ-SIMON has been a student of the Alexander Technique since 2007. He is certified to teach the Technique as a graduate of the American Center for the Alexander Technique’s 1,600-hour, three year training program. A student of yoga since 1993 and a teacher of yoga since 2000, Witold combines his extensive knowledge of the body and its use into intelligent and practical instruction designed to help his students free themselves of ineffective and damaging habits of body, mind and being.[/author_info] [/author]

Blueprint for a Better Back

by Witold Fitz-Simon Monkey-Directions

To find out more about how you can make your back stronger and freer, come to one of our monthly free introductions to the Technique or to a drop-in group class.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]WITOLD FITZ-SIMON has been a student of the Alexander Technique since 2007. He is certified to teach the Technique as a graduate of the American Center for the Alexander Technique’s 1,600-hour, three year training program. A student of yoga since 1993 and a teacher of yoga since 2000, Witold combines his extensive knowledge of the body and its use into intelligent and practical instruction designed to help his students free themselves of ineffective and damaging habits of body, mind and being.[/author_info] [/author]

Transform your Career: One Woman’s Path to Becoming an Alexander Technique Teacher

by Rebecca Tuffey

As a student of the Alexander Technique, I thought my teacher was a magician. She said some thought-provoking words, put her hands on me, and - voila!- I grew taller, lighter, and more free. One day, she said, “You would make a good Alexander Technique teacher. Why don’t you consider training?” I thought the idea was preposterous. She was the magic-maker; me? I was an actress. I pushed the idea away, fully contented with my weekly lessons. Like most skilled Alexander teachers, she wasn’t forceful or pushy, but kept presenting the idea as a perfectly viable possibility. She had already been teaching for twenty years. “I’ve never been bored. Each lesson is something different”. Hmmm, that intrigued me.

Then, the day came, when I realized that life as an actress was not what I had imagined it to be. I needed to figure out what I was going to do for the next twenty-some years. Six years of Alexander Technique lessons had taught me not to rush impulsively into transition. So I gave myself time and permission to consider what might come next. It was a year before I had “career clarity.” I wanted to work with bodies, be able to make real connections with individual people, and contribute something practical and helpful. A list of potential careers was made. At the bottom—but the one that sang to me—was “Alexander Technique Teacher.”

Discovering the American Center for the Alexander Technique

My teacher had trained at ACAT (the American Center for the Alexander Technique). She gave me a list of training programs, and I visited some courses. The day I visited the ACAT TCP (Teacher Certification Program), I found two skilled teachers leading a three hour class about “monkey”. The room was dynamic and quiet at the same time. There was some group discussion, and then the group separated for “turns”. I noticed that the teachers were both very engaged with the students and the process, and yet were working quite uniquely. There were no “cookie cutter” lessons being offered. This must have been what my teacher meant when she said “each lesson is something different”. I was inspired.

Life as an Alexander Technique Teacher

I was certified by ACAT to teach the Alexander Technique three years later, along with three others who began training at the same time as me. I have been teaching for almost eleven years now, and I consider my time on the ACAT TCP to be one of the most formative of my life. I found a rich community, a dedicated faculty of highly skilled teachers, an intimate environment to explore myself within, a loving and meticulous connection to the legacy of F.M. Alexander, and (most days) a lot of fun.

Teaching speaks to the creative spirit in me. Occasionally people ask if I miss acting. I don’t. As an actress, I enjoyed exploring different characters and their stories. As an Alexander Technique teacher, I get to explore human patterns (of body, mind, and spirit) from the unique point-of-view of each student who walks in my door. And…we don’t need to audition. We don’t need an audience. We show up for each other and explore doing something different with our lives.

Teachers: let’s inspire the next generation of Alexander Technique teachers. Tell your story in the comments section.

Want to meet ACAT’s Training Course Director, Faculty, Students, and Alumni working in the profession? Attend the Open House – Monday, May 4, 2015, 7-9pm Q&A, conversation, and light refreshments. R.S.V.P. to Please write “May 4 Open House” in the subject line.

Ready to visit the training course? Email to make an appointment.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]REBECCA TUFFEY graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in June 2004. She is an Art of Breathing Instructor (2010) and holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. Rebecca has a multi-dimensional private practice, teaching the Alexander Technique to students ages 9 to 102. She currently serves as an Associate Faculty member on the ACAT TCP and as an Adjunct at Pace University in the B.F.A. for Acting in Film, Television, Voice-overs & Commercials. She can be found online at[/author_info] [/author]

Five Questions with Alexander Technique Teacher Jean McClelland

Jean McClelland by Anastasia Pridlides

[Jean McClelland is teaching a free workshop for ACAT members—"The Flow of Voice, Breath and Body"—on Monday, January 26th, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. To confirm your space in the class, email the ACAT office.]

Q. How long have you been teaching?

A. I was certified by AmSAT and ACAT in 1991, although I have been teaching singing since the late 1970s.

Q. How were you first introduced to the AT?

A. I was introduced to the Technique through a friend of mine at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, where I went in 1972 (after college) to study with the extraordinary singer, artist, and teacher, Olga Averino. My friend Susan had been studying voice since high school but had developed enormous vocal tensions. Susan's teacher at Longy (not Olga) had lived for some years in South Africa and was acquainted with the Technique and felt that Susan would benefit from lessons. There were very few AT teachers in the area at the time, but Susan started lessons with Joe Armstrong. Susan would share with me her experiences in her lessons, and she encouraged me to study with Joe by saying that she thought I would like the AT because it was "very intellectual!" Without knowing a whit about what the Technique was about, I went off for Alexander lessons. Everything in my life changed. I remember so clearly my first lesson, looking at Joe and thinking that he was standing in a very odd fashion. He clearly had a "torso back and up off the legs,"which is what we see in great athletes and musicians, but it was foreign to my eyes and foreign to my body. It was however exactly what Olga meant when she said that a singer must, "stand like a baseball player." At that time, I had little understanding of how to use my body. Indeed, the comment after my first jury in conservatory was, "Musically very intelligent but needs to develop the physical requirements necessary for solo singing."

Q. What made you decide to become a teacher of this work?

A. About six months after I started lessons with Joe Armstrong, my posture changed quite significantly, and about a year after that, I had an experience that was quite revelatory. I was in conversation with someone, and for the first time in my life, I was totally present and spontaneous. I think that experience made me understand the profound nature of the Alexander Technique, even though I was light years away from understanding it. Those early years of study were so transformative to every aspect of my life that it seemed natural to want to share this work with others. I have always loved teaching, and once I started doing more and more voice teaching, it became apparent to me that including Alexander as part of voice study would be ideal. In the late 80s, I began to shift my performing away from musical theater to more concert work, and it became easier for me to commit to the three-year training. I entered ACAT in the spring of 1988.

Q. What most excites you about your upcoming workshop at ACAT?

A. The art of using one's voice in singing and acting can often seem quite mysterious. In her autobiography, "The Inner Voice: the Making of a Singer," the opera singer Renée Fleming asks: "How can I describe a process to you that is mostly unconscious?" And Olga Averino in her book, "Art and Principles of Singing," writes that "the process of good singing is a process of physical and psychological coordination. Physical coordination depends on the alignment of the singer's instrument. In itself, it produces no sound, but it creates the conditions which allow the imagination to produce the sound." As Alexander teachers we guide our singing and acting students to an improved use of their bodies and their coordination, but we must also be able to help them free their imaginations and encourage them to have a curious and improvisational mind. Only then will they truly sing or act freely and expressively.

My main goal for this workshop is for participants to explore how to use their imaginations to stimulate breath and voice, and to understand and how to creatively work with many of the vocal concepts that abound in voice lessons, such as: vocal support; open throat; breath movement; diaphragmatic breathing; grounding; embodied voice, intention, etc.

Q. What is your favorite way to engage with the AT in your daily life right now?

A. It's simply a way of being present in the world, isn't it?

[author] [author_info]JEAN MCCLELLAND received her B.A. from Vassar College, did graduate study at Boston University in opera, and has studied extensively at the Carl Stough Institute, Psychosynthesis Institute of New York, and the Michael Chekhov Studio. As a performer she has appeared in the Broadway production of "Camelot" and has played leading roles in numerous musicals and operas. Jean also performs in concert with her husband, Bill McCelland. Jean is on the faculty of the New York Open Center and has given workshops at New York University, Vassar College, Rutgers University, William Paterson University, Stevens Institute and the Rowe Conference Center. [/author_info] [/author]

My Powerful Learning Experience from an Alexander Technique Group Class

helping Ian to standing_smallerby Jeffrey Glazer Group classes can be a great way to learn the Alexander Technique. I recall a vivid example of one group class when I discovered the power of the mind/body connection, and realized how much my thinking was affecting my body.

During this class we played a simple game. The students all stood in a circle, and the teacher introduced a soft, squishy ball to toss to each other. We were supposed to make eye contact with someone in the circle before we tossed the ball to them.

As we began, I didn’t notice much. Then the teacher asked us to tune into our bodies. It was then that I noticed a tightness in my neck, that I was clenching my jaw, and more or less holding my breath in anticipation of the ball being thrown to me.

Gaining a New Perspective

The teacher then pointed out that there were no penalties for dropping the ball or making an errant throw, no winners or losers, and no time limit. In fact, we could even let the ball drop in front of us instead of catching it. That’s when something clicked. I realized I was bringing the same attitude to this game that I brought to many other areas of life. Namely, that I was supposed to be right, good, and not mess up. I assumed the goal was to catch the ball, make accurate throws, and look good doing it.

I decided that the next time the ball was thrown to me, I would let it drop. But the instant the ball was thrown my way I found myself reacting and trying to catch it. It took a few times before I was able to stop reacting and let the ball drop. I had finally opened myself up to something different, a non-habitual reaction to a ball being thrown my way. Then I noticed my neck and jaw weren’t so tense anymore, and I had stopped holding my breath. The next time the ball was thrown to me I did catch it, but it was a choice rather than mandatory. The traveling of the ball through the air and into my hands seemed to happen in slow motion, and my movements were fluid and spontaneous.

Choosing How to Respond

I realized that my thinking really did affect my body, and not just in this game, but in all walks of life. I had learned that before reacting to something, I could decide how I wanted to respond. My habitual attitude of “catch it or else!”, only created fear in my nervous system, which I reacted to by clenching my jaw, tensing my neck, and holding my breath. Once I changed my thinking to allow for a choice, I was in a state of poise, so that during the times when I decided to catch the ball, I did so with greater ease. Most importantly, the chronic pain in my neck and arms began to dissipate as I let go of the tension in my neck and jaw, and stopped holding my breath.

What’s great about the Alexander Technique is that it paves the way to do something differently, with more ease and poise. Beginning this January, ACAT will be offering drop in group classes. Come for a class and experience for yourself how the Alexander Technique can help you.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]JEFFREY GLAZER is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. He found the Alexander Technique in 2008 after an exhaustive search for relief from chronic pain in his arms and neck. Long hours at the computer had made his pain debilitating, and he was forced to leave his job in finance. The remarkable results he achieved in managing and reducing his pain prompted him to become an instructor in order to help others. He received his teacher certification at the American Center for the Alexander Technique after completing their 3-year, 1600 hour training course in 2013. He also holds a BS in Finance and Marketing from Florida State University.[/author_info] [/author]

"Indirect Procedures" by Pedro de Alcantara at ACAT

indirect-procsby Brooke Lieb Alexander Technique teacher and author Pedro de Alcantara is celebrating the release of the 2nd edition of his popular book, "Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique," with ACAT! He will be discussing how his deepening understanding of the Alexander Technique in the sixteen years since the publication of the first edition has led to a substantial revision of the book in a free event open to all on Monday, November 10th. This will be followed by a weekend workshop, "Forward & Up: A Creative Approach: An experiential workshop for Musicians, Alexander Students and Alexander Teachers" on November 15th and 16th.

When did you first experience the Alexander Technique, and why did you decide to have private lessons?

I went to college at SUNY Purchase in Westchester. One of my cello teachers took lessons from Pearl Ausubel and suggested that I try the Alexander Technique to improve my coordination at the cello. I went along with his suggestion, not knowing what I was getting into!

What are some of your stand out memories from those initial private lessons?

Pearl was my first teacher, and I took infrequent but regular lessons from her for about two years. My memories of my very first lesson, in the fall of 1978, was the feeling of growing, growing, growing like a plant in a speeded-up stop-motion video clip. It was absolutely intoxicating.

Why did you decide to train; and how did you choose which course to join?

Lessons were having a deep effect, and I decided to see what would happen if I brought the Technique to the very center of my life. I trained with Patrick Macdonald and Shoshana Kaminitz in London, from 1983 to 1986. My motivation was partly to train with someone who had trained with Alexander himself, and partly to study the cello with a great London-based teacher, the late William Pleeth.

What was your inspiration for Indirect Procedures?

In the spring of 1990 I visited the pianist and composer Joan Panetti, one of my old music teachers at Yale (where I went after my undergrad studies at SUNY). She witnessed me in a somewhat directionless personal and professional transition, and she suggested that I write a book as a way forward. I’m of course very thankful for her insight regarding the merits of writing a book and my potentialities as a writer.

Tell us about the revised edition.

The first edition was published in 1997, but some of its concepts were borne of a research project I did while training back in 1985 and 1986. This is almost 30 years ago! Naturally enough I learned many things over the decades, and the old edition didn’t represent my convictions or my temperament anymore. I’d say the revised edition is actually a new book. You might want to check my essay “The Process of Change,” published in AmSat News, where I explain the book’s transformation.

What advice would you give to other Alexander Teachers to stay inspired and excited about their teaching?

Lessons are actually encounters in disguise—encounters with the “other,” who really is a mirror for you to learn about yourself; encounters with the unpredictable, the challenging, the entertaining. Years ago I actually stopped thinking of myself as a teacher, with the duties and constraints that the word implies. Now I think of myself as an informal researcher in the field of creativity and health; my students really are my partners and assistants, each bringing completely individual contributions to my explorations. It makes for a very gratifying professional life!

More information about Pedro de Alcantara can be found at his website.

To register for the free event on Monday 11/10 at 7pm, go here: An Evening with Pedro de Alcantara: “Indirect Procedures, New Edition: The Process of Change”

To register for the weekend workshop on Saturday 11/15 and Sunday 11/16, go here: Forward & Up: A Creative Approach: An experiential workshop for Musicians, Alexander Students and Alexander Teachers

Space is limited for both events, so be sure to register in advance to guarantee your place.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists.[/author_info] [/author]

Finding What You Need: Collaborating to Create Your Support Structure as an Alexander Technique Teacher

teamworkby Karen Krueger Teaching the Alexander Technique can be lonely. After the structure and camaraderie of training, it can be daunting when we suddenly find ourselves having to create our own schedules, our own ways of self-care, continued learning and practice development.

For me, the answer to this dilemma has involved connecting with other teachers and other professionals. The difficulties of creating a practice as a solo entrepreneur can lead us to view others solely as competitors, rather than potential collaborators. But there are many different models of collaboration being put into practice in our community. This blog post describes some of mine. At the next free member event at ACAT on October 20, we will explore this topic in greater depth. Please come, contribute your voice, and connect with fellow ACAT members.

The Many Benefits of Exchanges

My two weekly exchanges are my most important support. I also enjoy occasional exchanges with others, but there is something very special about the relationships that have developed through consistent, regular interaction with the same people, who are friends as well as colleagues. We share our questions and interests of the moment; experiment with different approaches (everything from where we put our hands to what we think and say); discuss challenges that we are dealing with in teaching; and generally have fun while honing our skills and taking care of ourselves. We also get to see each other, socialize, and support one another in practice development. We share practical information like where to find teaching space and what interesting workshops are coming up. These weekly meetings are a source of joy and well-being for all of us.

We also refer students to one another. I have several students who also work with one or more of my exchange partners. Occasionally we have had lessons with two teachers and one student—which is wonderful for all concerned, though perhaps not practical as a regular teaching model!

Other Collaborations

Many other forms of collaboration, both formal and informal, are possible. We can volunteer at ACAT's monthly free introductions to the Alexander Technique for the general public (the "Hands-On Demonstrations"). We can partner with other teachers to promote our work, or to develop our individual marketing approaches. We can team up with other professionals to reach people who might not otherwise hear of our work. For example, last year I taught a series of small group classes in a physical therapist's studio: she got her patients to enroll, and I showed up and taught. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the class, and several of the class participants went on to take private lessons with me.

Not every such effort bears fruit. I have done many things to promote the Alexander Technique and my own practice that have not resulted in an immediate influx of paying students. I keep making connections, though, because I believe that the more people have heard of our work and have some understanding of what it is and what it can do, the better for all of us.

Free Member Event: Building Your Practice Through Collaboration

If this topic interests you, I hope that you will join Michael Hanko, Anastasia Pridlides, Morgan Rysdon and me on Monday, October 20, 7-9pm, for "Building Your Practice Through Collaboration." We will explore ways to connect with others to create the support structures we need to thrive and grow as teachers. First, we'll hear from the panelists about how their various collaborations with Alexander Technique teachers and others have contributed to their teaching skills and helped them develop their practices. Then, we'll break into smaller groups so you can connect with others looking to support each other in various ways. I hope to see you there.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]KAREN G. KRUEGER became a teacher of the Alexander Technique after 25 years of practicing law at two major New York law firms, receiving her teaching certificate from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in December 2010. Her students include lawyers, business executives, IT professionals and others interested in living with greater ease and skill. Find her at her website: [/author_info] [/author]