On Training Teachers: Choreography and Improvisation

On Training Teachers: Choreography and Improvisation

When I trained to be an Alexander Teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique from 1987 to 1989, I was fortunate to benefit from the wisdom of a large faculty of teachers with all levels of experience. Our Senior Trainers had anywhere from 6 to 30 years of experience teaching and training teachers. They each had a distinctive approach to the art of teaching. Alongside them, we were also taught by associate faculty, recent graduates and classmates who were at all levels of training.

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On Teaching: "Speaking without words"

On Teaching: "Speaking without words"

by Brooke Lieb

Brooke: During our work together on the ACAT Teacher Certification Program, I remember you repeatedly sharing with me that you found lectures and the verbal component of hands-on turns virtually un-intellligible, and stressful. I was able to appreciate that auditory learning wasn’t particularly useful to you, but in retrospect, I know I didn’t have a meaningful understanding or appreciation of how unique sensory processing is from one person to another. I was also fascinated because I know how much you read and comprehend, and that you studied much more complex subjects than I ever have and are articulate and versed in those topics.

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Working with Rhythm: Smoother movement for better coordination

Working with Rhythm: Smoother movement for better coordination

As an Alexander Teacher, I have been trained to observe and analyze my students’ movements and behaviors, so that I can teach them tools to maximize their efficiency while minimizing physical and mental stress.

One measure I use to that end is movement quality. I use a couple different scales, one of which is the range from smooth to jerky.

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Learning the Alexander Technique can reduce your degree of head forward posture, and most students enjoy their lessons

Learning the Alexander Technique can reduce your degree of head forward posture, and most students enjoy their lessons

by Brooke Lieb

A simple google search with the term “effects of head forward posture” yields results that show a possible correlation between degree of forward displacement and pain in computer users; increased time spent sitting at a desk increasing instances of neck pain; and a decrease in respiratory efficiency. Read more here.

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For Alexander Teachers: Foundations of effective teaching

For Alexander Teachers: Foundations of effective teaching

Training teachers and offering post graduate lessons and classes has been one of my passions during my 30 year career as an Alexander teacher. It has informed my studies, how I interpret Alexander’s writings, and is the area I focus my continued learning and development.

One consistent standard I see across all approaches to training is to emphasize that the teacher’s application of Alexander principles to the act of teaching is the foundation of teaching. Before working hands on with another, a level of self-organization is vital.

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Alexander Technique applied to weight management

Like many of my friends and family, with age my metabolism has slowed down. Once I could eat whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted, and my weight was stable. In my mid-thirties, I noticed a slow but steady weight gain. At one point, I was 25 pounds heavier and decided I would need to change my habits.

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Organization: start with yourself

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"When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way.  But usually, without being aware of it, we try to change something other than ourselves, we try to order things outside us.  But it is impossible to organize things if you yourself are not in order.  When you do things in the right way, at the right time, everything else will be organized. "   -- Shunryu Suzuki (Japanese Zen Master)

When I read this quote, I saw the Alexander Technique.  Our reaction to our environment is to be pulled in by it, losing our connection to our support - quite literally, the support our skeleton offers us.  Much of the time, we are pushing ourselves out into the next moment, and falling off of our bones.  Our muscles come into action, gripping to hold us up, while trying to move us at the same time.

  • How often have you spoken only to wish you had taken time to think more fully about your response?
  • How many times have you worried over something that never came to be? 
  • How often have we missed the mark, whether bowling, playing pool or golfing, not having taken the time to allow our body to coordinate with our eyes?

While I cannot say that everything in my life is existing in the right place, in the right way all of the time, when I slow down and come to a place with more stillness and presence, I can feel tension and pain ease in my body, I can enjoy a sunny day in the middle of winter, I can delight in my cat playing "hockey" with his bottle caps.

Perhaps our internal state is more a predictor of our quality of life in any given moment than our circumstances.  How many times have you met someone who has things your wish for (a happy relationship, a beautiful home, physical health, artistic skill) and they are stressed and unsatisfied with their conditions.

Try This:
Can you find a way to be present to whatever abundance there is in your life?  Take 2  minutes now to find something in your immediate environment that reflects something you've created, or brought into your life that brings you pleasure, contentment or joy.  What is it like in your body and mind now?

(Originally Posted at www.brookelieb.com 3/13/18)

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. www.brookelieb.com

Strategies for a Lie Down #1: Expand, like rising dough

by Brooke Lieb

During many Alexander lessons, part of the lesson is spent with the student resting on her or his back on a table as the teacher uses verbal guidance and hands-on assistance to help the student expand her or his back onto the table, release arms and legs away from the trunk, and ease mental and physical tension and stress.

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The Alexander Technique Applied to Mindful Eating

by Brooke Lieb

In an effort to reduce stress, I have stopped watching the news. I skim the homepage of the Guardian and the NY Times to keep current, but otherwise, I rarely watch news on TV or online.

Instead, I watch British films and TV, comedies and crime dramas, home improvement shows and I am a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show.

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Election Cycle Fatigue: What you can do to take care of yourself and those around you

by Brooke Lieb The first time I voted in a Presidential election was 1984. My memory is far from perfect, but I cannot recall a presidential race that began as early as the 2016 race, with one party's campaigning for the nomination starting in March, 2015; nor can I remember the type of rhetoric I am hearing as overt and extreme in US politics as it is during this election.

vote
vote

Frankly, it frightens me. And I am not alone. There are a plethora of articles about the heightened anxiety levels precipitated by this current election cycle. A search for "election anxiety" yields online articles from The Atlantic, US News, Newsweek, Time Magazine and The Washington Post, among other news outlets.

As an Alexander teacher, I spend my days teaching my students how to self-regulate so they can manage moments of spiking anxiety. To be an effective teacher, I use the very tools I am teaching, at work and in my life.

No matter which side of this debate you are on, it is likely that you feel strongly, believe in your own point of view and fear the outcome. It is also likely that your feelings are being heightened by the coverage you are exposed to.

What can you do to take care of yourself? Here are some resources, including simple tools I teach my students.

1. Remind yourself that you don't have to hold your breath.

When we experience fear or other strong emotions, we sometimes freeze. It may be a tight jaw, it may be subtle or not so subtle clenching in shoulder, chest or abdomen. Frequently, tension reduces the mobility of our torso, and breath requires movement in the ribs.

2. Stand with your back touching a wall or door.

Use the contact with your back against the surface to bring you into the present environment. See and name what is around you, in as much detail as you can. (Example from my studio: Area rug with floral patterns, in beige, burgundy, sage green; massage table with a green cotton sheet that has stripes; dark brown wood computer desk with a cordless phone/answering machine and an iMac; fireplace mantle surrounded by teal tiles).

3. Research what actions you can take to assure your vote counts and that your elected officials represent your values.

Search your state and federal nominees to find out where they stand on the issues (search "[your state] 2016 candidate platforms". In addition to finding out where they stand, you can find out how to support the campaign of those who represent your views.

4. Learn how to bring awareness to, change the subject, and minimize participation in conversations that upset you.

It is possible to effectively bring awareness and shift the conversation without shaming anyone. This article from the New York Times is entitled "Lessons in the Delicate Art of Confronting Offensive Speech"

5. If someone has decided who they are voting for, there is no need for discussion. If speaking to an undecided voter, learn how to listen to what matters to that person.

Here is an article "5 Ways To Have Great Conversations"

6. Limit your exposure to media

Once you have done your research and know which candidates represent your values, and how you can take action to improve their chances in the election, take a media vacation. This has not been easy for me, but I have designated media black out days, when I do not read or watch anything about the election.

7. Have an Alexander Lesson

Alexander Technique teaches mindfulness in daily living. Akin to meditation, Alexander Technique teaches conscious inhibition, or how to calm your "flight or fight" response.

This article in Wikipedia explains the neural mechanisms of mindfulness techniques.

This blog was originally posted at brookelieb.com

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/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. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]