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

calm

"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

An Interview with Alexander Technique Teacher Pamela Anderson

by Brooke LIeb

Pamela Anderson was my second Alexander Teacher. I studied with her for about 2 years before entering ACAT’s Teacher Certification Program in 1987, when she began serving as Director of Training. I see her signature on my teaching certificate daily. Pamela just celebrated her 40th anniversary of teaching. Coincidentally, in a “six degrees of separation” fashion, I have been in dance class since this past summer with Pamela’s first teacher’s (Maya Clemes) daughter, who also knows Pamela. I had the chance to interview Pamela on this milestone anniversary.

Lieb: How did you learn about the Alexander Technique?

Anderson: I graduated from college with a degree in modern dance and psychology.  Although I was aware of the technique and had attended an introductory workshop, it wasn’t until one of my former dance classmates walked in for a drink at the restaurant where I worked and I saw her transformation, that the idea of studying the Technique became an imperative for me.  Her pronounced lordosis was gone as well as radiating from her was this easeful presence.

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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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Advice for a New Alexander Technique Teacher

Brooke Lieb, ACAT ’89

Remember to refer back to your student’s head/neck/back relationship frequently during the lesson. Help her understand that as she explores or attends to an activity, or observes more details about her specific habits, she can observe how this influences her head/neck/back. Conversely, as she returns to attend to her head/neck/back, she can observe how this influences the activity or pattern she was working with.

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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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Musings on F. M. Alexander's Directions

by Brooke Lieb

One key aspect of using the directions in Alexander lessons is to understand how they are intended to work. Thinking is the essence of the Alexander Technique, and this thinking influences our whole being. We often observe the muscular changes, but changes occur at every level.

I am always refining, re-inventing, and re-imagining how these directions are meant to be applied, and I found an envelope where I jotted down my musings about this. I didn’t date the envelope, but I would bet good money it’s been sitting on my desk for somewhere between 5 and 8 years.
 

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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]

Alexander Student, Alexander Teacher, Alexander Teacher Trainer - What's the difference, and why does it matter?

brookeby Brooke Lieb I have been taking lessons as a student of the Alexander Technique for over 33 years. I still take lessons to this day.

I began teaching 27 years ago, and have been training teachers for the last 25 years.

My greatest passion is training teachers, though I will take lessons for the rest of my life, and I get deep satisfaction teaching my private students.

I thought it would be useful to me, my students and the teachers-in-training that I work with, to consider what is different about each of these roles: student, teacher, teacher-trainer.

STUDENT

When I take a lesson, my attention is on myself. I gratefully accept the objectivity of my teacher as she uses her hands and words to engage me in learning. My learning takes place on many levels.

My teacher's hands are giving me information and experiences that assist my ability to observe and know how much excess tension I may be generating in my being. I am using my lessons to enhance the benefit I gain in my daily life when I bring my Alexander Technique tools to bear.

Sometimes the excess tension arises in response to a muscular demand, in activity, involving motion. We might explore how I carry out the activity of getting in and out of a chair, use my handheld device, or move into and out of downward dog during yoga practice.

I might observe excess tension in the context of my inner dialogue. Thinking about my workload, administrative tasks I have yet to complete, my response to someone's actions.

Any and every activity, mental or physical, can be material for the lesson.

Whatever I am exploring, I am interested in my own skills. I allow my teacher to be my guide and to educate me about myself and how I can best use my Alexander skills to access the efficiency and intelligence of being a human.

I have no focus whatsoever on assessing my teacher's use or process, I trust she is my guide. I am grateful and appreciative for the support and benefit I receive from the lesson and her teaching.

TEACHER

In contrast, when I am the teacher, my level of awareness is expanded to observe how my student is progressing, as I observe how I am teaching.

What skills might she benefit from learning or deepening during this lesson?

How can I use the hands-on component of the work to help guide her into a more integrated and poised state?

Private students (including me) take lessons for self-benefit, so they are focused on applying the Alexander principles to aid them in their lives. They are not planning to teach the work to anyone else. Their attention is NOT on the teacher.

As the teacher, I manage my end-gaining, and apply the principles to myself in the activity of teaching (hands-on work; choosing where to put my hands; what concept I may emphasize in the moment or in the lesson; speaking; and utilizing instructional aids, such as pictures of anatomy and videos). I use Alexander's means-whereby to teach, i.e., I am using the very same skills I am teaching in order to teach effectively.

As a teacher, my attention is on my student, her goals for learning and applying Alexander Technique to solve her own problem. That dual attention leaves me less time to wander around in my own mental chatter, so teaching becomes an activity that supports me in inhibiting my own habits on multiple levels.

I also benefit directly in my own self from working with Alexander principles, even if I am the "teacher" in this situation. When I give a lesson, I get a lesson.

My work is as healthy and beneficial to me as it is to my student.

TEACHER TRAINER

In this role, I am adding a level of assessment for how self-sufficient the teacher-in-training (trainee) is when working on herself, and as she reaches a high level of competence, I assist her in applying her means-whereby to teaching.

On our training course at The American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT), our trainees regularly put hands on faculty members as a tool for training. This approach is educational on multiple levels:

1) Faculty members all have a high level of competence at applying means-whereby to activity, so in the same way we use our hands on our trainees to convey inhibition and direction, when our trainees put their hands on us, we are still transmitting that information through our whole bodies. As the trainee progresses through the three-year training, she recognizes what she is witnessing under her hands, and with her eyes and ears. She has worked with classmates, and practice students with less skill, and can compare and contrast what she has observed under her hands. This gives her a sense of the kind of changes and progress she may observe in her students, so she knows that learning and change really are happening over time.

2) When a trainee works on a faculty member, we give specific verbal and hands-on cues so the trainee can observe how a change in her system facilitates a change in the teacher she has hands on. Sometimes the change is towards enhanced poise and efficiency, sometimes the change is towards increased strain, effort or tension in muscle tone. Either way, observing the change allows the trainee to consider her own internal state, use her developed skills at self-work, and observe the change in the teacher-trainer she is working with. This is the means-whereby of teaching in action.

3) As the trainee works with faculty, she realizes we all have habits of use that interfere with our full potential for poise and efficient coordination. The trainee can provide valuable instruction to the trainer, and can also understand that a teacher's use need NOT be perfect for a teacher to be highly skilled and effective in our teaching.

I theorize that when a teacher has hands on and is working with her skills to inhibit and direct in herself in order to communicate that to her student, that process is discernable to the student. It may be so subtle the student is not yet aware of how the teacher's use is facilitating ease and poise, but the intention comes through. So even if the teacher is sometimes tightening her neck in moments, she is ALSO freeing her neck and using inhibition and awareness. That intention is picked up by the student, who is also providing inhibition and direction in the lesson. Student and teacher assist each other in this process. Both startle and pull down in moments, but both ALSO apply inhibition and direction to antidote startle and pull down.

In Closing

In some ways, the same means-whereby is in play in all three distinct roles, but there are clear differences in the short-term outcomes for learning and how this is accomplished in these three roles.

This post was originally published on 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]