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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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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Make Your Life as Interesting as a Procedural Drama with the Alexander Technique

sherlock-holmes-968046-mby Witold Fitz-Simon In genre fiction, movies and TV, there is a type of story known as the procedural. The classic version of this type of story is the Police Procedural, best exemplified by the TV show “Law & Order.” The crime is committed and the detective is on the case, using forensics to search out cues, canvassing the neighborhood for potential witnesses and piecing together the truth. A good police procedural can be riveting. Each clue uncovered, each witness questioned can build up to a fascinating portrait of passion, of greed, of intrigue. The Alexander Technique can make your mundane daily routine just as interesting, even without the drama!

One of the key ways in which we can get ourselves in trouble in life—doing things like stressing ourselves out, or giving ourselves repetitive stress injuries or back pain—is by not paying much attention to the how and why we’re doing things. We go for the end result of our goals without being mindful of the choices we make to achieve them. This puts us at the mercy of habit: a history of behaviors that get the job done, but not usually in the most effective way possible. And if those habits have in them the seed of mis-use of our bodies, or emotional unease, then we can only add to our problems no matter what we do to get away from them.

Be Your Own Detective!

The solution to this is to be more like the police detective in the P. D. James mystery, or the Crime Scene investigator in the TV show. To pay more attention to the process and the details. In the Alexander Technique there are certain practices that you do over and over again in a lesson like sitting, standing and walking around. Even though there is a lot of repetition of these activities, we don’t think of them as exercises.

The idea of an exercise is something that you can learn to get right once and keep doing the same way, often quite mindlessly, to achieve a goal. In the Technique we think of the activities we carry out as “procedures.” You might spend a lot of time with your teacher sitting and standing, but the point is not learning to sit and stand correctly. The point is to become aware of how you approach the activity. What is your intention when you do it? What do you think about. You must become the detective in the mystery of your own life!

Get On The Case!

Try this right now, if you have the time. Do something simple and easy: stand up and sit down, or reach out and take a sip of your drink, if you have one at hand. Whatever activity you have chosen try it once or twice without thinking about it very much.

Now that you have your chosen activity fresh in your mind, take out your mental notepad and pen and interview your prime witness, yourself. Ask yourself these questions:

Did you notice anything special about what you just did? What were you thinking about as you did it? What did it feel like to do the activity?

If you don’t have any concrete answers, try the activity again a few times and see what you come up with.

Okay, now you’re going to put the pressure on your witness and ask for more details:

What was the first thing that you did to carry out your chosen activity? What part of you did you move first? When you moved, what happened to your neck? Did it get tense or was it easy and free? What was the quality of your movement? Was it rushed and effortful? Was it lethargic and slack? Was it easeful and effortless?

Let’s change tack here. You’re going to put on your forensic scientist hat and try some experiments.

Think about doing your activity again, but stop for a moment before you do it. Notice if you have tensed up in preparation. If you have, let everything soften, even if just a little bit, and try it again. What happens when you do it again this time?

Next time you do your activity, notice what you do with you head? Does it move in the direction you are moving, or does it seem to be heading somewhere else? What happens if you let it lead the movement in some way?

It doesn’t take much to go from rushing around mindlessly, oblivious to what’s going on around you, to having a bit more awareness of yourself and your environment and to start to change the way you do things. All it takes is curiosity and interest, and applying that to yourself. And if you need a little help, take an Alexander Technique lesson with a qualified teacher. You’ll never be bored again!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/After-crop1.jpg[/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. <a href="www.mindbodyandbeing.com">www.mindbodyandbeing.com</a>[/author_info] [/author]

How Learning the Alexander Technique Has Saved Me Money

savings_piggy_bank_smallerby Jeffrey Glazer Recently, I realized that it’s been years since I’ve spent a dime on efforts to get myself out of pain.

Before I learned the Alexander Technique, I went to practitioner after practitioner in an effort to find a solution to chronic pain in my arms and neck. But really I was just trying to manage it. In addition to the psychological and emotional cost of having chronic pain, my inability to manage it myself was costing a lot of money.

I went to a great number of medical and nonmedical practitioners. I went to two different neurologists, two different physiatrists, a Lyme disease specialist, massage therapist, multiple physical therapists, an occupational hand therapist, a chiropractor for active release therapy, multiple acupuncturists, a craniosacral practitioner, and an MD for trigger point injections. While I would often feel some relief in the short term, the debilitating pain would always come back.

At first it was similar with Alexander Technique lessons, I would walk out with less pain, but it would eventually come back. BUT, what separated the Alexander Technique from the other things I was trying was that I wasn’t being treated; rather, I was being educated. I was becoming aware of what I was doing that was actually causing my own pain.

For the first time, I made a connection between my use (how I carry myself and react to life) and my pain. And all my teacher, Judy Stern, was doing was bringing my awareness to how I was moving, pointing out areas of excess tension and distortion, and giving me the experience of carrying myself in a radically different, and almost freakishly easier way.

Once I had enough Alexander Technique experience under my belt, I became adept at creating change in myself. I learned to identify when I was doing an activity in a way that would eventually lead to pain, so that I could then use my Alexander Technique skills to make a change. Now, when I start to experience pain, I am self-sufficient in dealing with it, no longer dependent on someone else to make me feel better.

Did years of Alexander Technique lessons, including teacher training, cost money? Of course!

But, the money I’ve spent on learning the Alexander Technique has been an investment, rather than a sunk cost.

And I am now reaping the return on that investment, not only in the form of greater ease and enjoyment of life, but the economic return of savings on health care costs.

As the saying goes, “health is wealth”, now I know that can literally be true.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/jeffrey.jpg[/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. www.nycalexandertechnique.com[/author_info] [/author]

The Alexander Technique: A Technique About Nothing?

iStock_figure-with-question-mark_smaller_squareby Jeffrey Glazer For those familiar with the popular Seinfeld show, there is an episode during which Jerry and George are thinking of ideas for a sitcom to pitch to NBC. George comes up with the idea to make it “a show about nothing”.

George:   “Everybody’s doing something, we’ll do nothing.” Jerry:       “So, we go into NBC, we tell them we’ve got an idea for a show about nothing.” George:   “Exactly.” Jerry:       “They say, “What’s your show about?” I say, “Nothing.” George:   “There you go.” A moment passes… Jerry:       “(Nodding) I think you may have something there.” (Source: “The Pitch.” Seinfeld Scripts.)

Most people, when trying to make a positive change in themselves, always want to know what to do. This is especially true for improving posture, body mechanics, and generally how they carry themselves. They want to be told what the “right thing” is, and they assume that is all they need to know to successfully make a change.

But how many times have you tried to “sit up straight”, only to give up because it feels like too much effort?

In the Alexander Technique, the idea of being told what to do gets flipped up on its head. In order to make a change, the first step is to do nothing. All this involves is taking a moment to pause so you can discover what you are already doing that isn’t necessary.

For example, when I find myself slumping at the computer, I don’t go to immediately hoist myself out of the slump. Rather, I pause and take a good look at what I am doing with myself. I may begin to notice that my neck is forward, my jaw clenched, and that I am actively pulling my body towards the screen. So, once I am aware of that tension, I can begin to let it go. As I do so, my body returns to a more natural upright state, and it’s the result of letting go rather than imposing a shape on myself. In other words, I don’t sit up so much as I stop pulling myself forward and down, I do less.

F.M. Alexander, the originator of the Alexander Technique, is quoted as saying the following:

  • “Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing the things we shouldn’t do.”
  • “Like a good fellow, stop the things that are wrong first.”

And in order to stop doing the things that are wrong, you must be aware that they exist. When you find that you are uncomfortable or in pain, see if you can really pause and take a moment to do nothing. You will be better able to find out what your tension habits really are. Once you recognize the habit, you can begin to let it go.

When I first took Alexander Technique lessons, I was struck by the fact that I had never stopped to be in the present moment to look at the reality of what I was doing. I realized I was looking for a solution to my chronic pain everywhere except in the most important place of all, myself.

I’d like to come back to Seinfeld for a moment. When Jerry and George make their pitch to NBC, George keeps insisting the show is about nothing. But Jerry says, “Well, maybe in philosophy. But, even nothing is something.” (“The Pitch.” Seinfeld Scripts.)

So, is the Alexander Technique really a technique about nothing? Even though the first step is to do nothing, it leads to a heightened awareness of self and the unnecessary tension habits that get in the way of effortless upright posture, breathing, and movement that is our birthright. The awareness of and ability to let go of unnecessary tension habits is not nothing, it is most indeed something quite valuable.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/jeffrey.jpg[/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. www.nycalexandertechnique.com[/author_info] [/author]

Comedy and Tragedy: Performance and the Alexander Technique

red-curtain-1374248-mby Brooke Lieb This summer, I decided to check some items off my bucket list while I am healthy, happy and had time. I spent Tuesday afternoons in "Acting for the Camera" in the afternoons, and in a Stand Up Comedy class in the evenings. Although I have a Bachelor's Degree in Musical Theater Performance, I haven't worked on a text or studied acting technique in over 25 years. I have never done Stand Up. The first point at which my AT skills kicked in was the act of registering. I tend to think inhibition is about overtly stopping from impulsive and habitual behavior. In this case, inhibition helped me override the habit of keeping in my comfort zone, to do something new, different and unknown.

Tragedy

I had a chance to observe the on-camera acting class before I registered. I noticed my first impulse as I watched the teacher, Karen Ludwig, work with her students, was to run as far in the opposite direction from this class as I could. As I thought about being in the class, I found a number of rational reasons not to register. I also had the chance to observe my thinking from a new vantage point and understood that my love of acting is the reason I am afraid. I care about learning and doing well. The paradox is that doing well requires me to take my attention off the result so I am present, focused, specific and connected to the reality of the circumstances of the scene. I have to do what I am doing, in as heightened a state of reality as possible.

We have had 9 classes so far, and I've seen my work played back on the camera 4 times. I also have the chance to watch my classmates, working live and on camera. It's much easier for me to hear and see what the other actors are doing well and need to work on. I have a bit of a blind spot watching my own work, so my first order of business is just to be able to see and hear my own work on playback. I haven't seen anything in my performance that horrifies me or makes me go running from the room, even if I'm not satisfied with the reality.

The work I'm doing in class reminds me of my early Alexander lessons. I feel like I have little or no experience, I don't know what I'm doing, and this will be a long and deep process. My relationship to studying acting is much more loaded than my relationship to studying Alexander Technique. I am having to deal with a much stronger stimulus to end gain, i.e., produce a successful result. I feel like a rank beginner and I have to learn how to balance my passion to learn; the vulnerability of being watched and judged; and the need to give myself time and space to explore, be curious, make mistakes, and play.

I have decided to register for the class and continue this upcoming semester. It is so challenging and I am so out of my comfort zone, that I know I need more time and opportunity to practice the craft.

Comedy

I have always been curious about stand up comedy, and comedy improv/sketch comedy. I love to tell jokes, and friends and family have always told me I have a good sense of humor. I didn't really consider that in stand up, it isn't only a matter of one's ability to deliver the punchline, you must be a writer. I have done a lot of improv (where I always have a scene partner and someone to play off) over the years. I had never done stand up before. I admired brilliant stand up comedians over the years, and their creativity and ability to craft stories out of life's foibles.

I didn't really think it through when I signed up, which was a good thing, because I might not have done it otherwise. It ended up being easier to write my material than I expected. I was fully prepared to find out I had no skill in this area. Unlike acting, with which I have a long history of failure and success, I had no attachment to being any good at stand up. Also, knowing that I wasn't going to be forced to perform at the graduation show made it easier for me to give it a go.

My Alexander tools seemed to be the most useful when it came to relating to the audience. During my 5-minute set, I started out focusing on remembering my script and not starting the next line until the laughs died down. (Yes, I managed to get plenty of laughs!) As I realized they were enjoying the material, I started slowing down mentally, talking to the audience and relating to them as I would in a real conversation. Pacing took care of itself, and I really enjoyed myself. One caveat: this was an invited audience of friends and family of everyone from our acting class, so they were pre-disposed to like us, support us and laugh at our jokes. I must attend some open mics to get a better sense of what it's like to connect (or not) with a roomful of strangers (many of whom are drinking.) I haven't encountered any hecklers, so that is uncharted territory.

All in all, the stand up comedy experience was easy, fun and fulfilled a curiosity I've had for a long time. My whole attitude about it was one of curiosity and play. The nerves I felt getting up to try out new material every week in class, and at performance, was attached to excitement, without much fear. It is a stark contrast to my acting class.

How can you apply Alexander Technique tools to your performance?

In addition to the more physically based tools of freeing your breath, slowing down, taking time to see, hear and choose how you might respond in the moment, you can work with your thinking and internal dialogue.

1. Get clear about your level of desire to be there, doing it, especially if you are particularly afraid or indifferent. Most of us understand the idea that we get performance jitters. Fear makes sense. Apathy doesn't make as much sense, but sometimes a strong desire can trigger apathy as a protective mechanism.

2. Ask yourself:

  • Am I doing this because I want to, and I am invested?
  • Am I doing this because I think I should; or have I internalized the voice of someone else telling me I should do this?
  • Can I tolerate any discomfort long enough to get some experience and see if there is satisfaction or pleasure from this experience?

3. Talk to people who are doing what you want to do. Ask them about what kinds of fears, doubts, experiences they have had. Ask them how long it took for them to feel better, or get to a point that they knew they were going to show up and keep going. Talk to a number of people, and notice how varied their advice and stories can be. We all respond to desire and passion in different ways. Some performers seem fearless and outgoing, others seem crippled by doubt, others seem blasé and indifferent, like it's no big deal. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB (ACAT, '89) is the Director of ACAT's Teacher Certification Program. She has a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Musical Theater Performance from Empire State College, and maintains a private practice in New York on the Upper West Side, and in Pipersville, PA. Her clients include performing artists, people dealing with chronic and acute pain, and those living with scoliosis. Brooke will be performing another set Monday, September 22 at 7:30 - doors open at 7 at Caroline's Comedy, 1626 Broadway between 49 and 50 - call (212) 757-4100 to make reservations and mention you are coming to see Brooke - if you mention her name, your cover is only $5! www.brookelieb.com [/author_info] [/author]

Bedbugs, Lead Paint, and Neck Pain: a Case Study of Alexander Technique NYC

emergencyby Dan Cayer In 7 memorable months, my family was visited by 2 of New York City’s dreaded housing plagues: lead paint and bedbugs. If you count hardhearted, greedy landlords, then we had that plague, too. Twice, we packed up all our stuff, tried to keep normalcy for Ruby, and twice we were disappointed (crushed, really) to find out that we could not live safely in the apartments we had moved into.

In the first apartment, our landlord evicted us after Ruby tested high for lead in her blood rather than deal with the lead. We were living on a month-to-month lease since things had been previously very friendly between us. He also blamed all the lead exposure on a single bookshelf we attached to a wall. In our next apartment, my wife had two allergic reactions to bug bites before we happened to catch a bedbug scampering across our bed at 3 AM. Ruby and I soon started getting bit as well. Our landlord had lied to us about bedbugs in the building – the previous tenants lasted only three months.

We weighed our strategies: court, rent strike, living in plastic biohazard suits, but ultimately, though we were deceived both times, we had little recourse but to walk and take our revenge fantasies with us.

The feelings of powerlessness, rage, and worry were having a field day on my body. I’d walk around during the day, thinking of how unfair it was and hating my landlord. It felt as if someone were drilling my head down into my body. My neck and shoulders were hardening into concrete. Adrenaline was pumping all day long; it began production early in the morning, waking me up around 4:30 or 5.

Each time I thought about the unfairness of our plight, I could feel a wave of tightening seize my body. My wife and I were paralyzed with how to proceed. How do we fight to get back our security deposit? What were our rights when we were clearly not at fault?

It wasn’t until I checked in with my body that one decision became clear. When I thought about staying and fighting and going to court, my body contracted into a fist. When I imagined just leaving – money be damned – I felt the fist relax and enjoyment seemed possible again. At that moment, and many others throughout the 7 months, my training in the Alexander Technique helped me find a place, as Rumi wrote, “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Steering myself over and over from the hypothetical, from rehashing the past or recounting our injustices, to the present experience of living in my mind and body was tremendously healing. It not only kept me moored to sanity (mostly), I was training for how I want to deal with hard times in my life. I don’t want to be driven mad with fear or completely lost when life becomes unstable. I want to be embodied enough to breathe and to think. In the revenge fantasies and fearful projecting into the future, I was always having to fend for myself. Coming back to my body and mind also meant returning to my family and the humor and love we still managed to improvise, picnicking on top of our plastic bins with Thai takeout. Soon, it would be time to move again and leave the plastic bags behind. By returning faithfully to the present moment, I could really leave it all behind.

This post was originally published at dancayerfluidmovement.com

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Dan-Head-Shot-13.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]DAN CAYER is a nationally certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. After a serious injury left him unable to work or even carry out household tasks, he began studying the technique. His return to health, as well as his experience with the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of pain, inspired him to help others. He now teaches his innovative approach in Union Square, Carroll Gardens and in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He also teaches adults to swim with greater ease and confidence by applying Alexander principles. You can find his next workshop or schedule a private lesson at www.dancayerfluidmovement.com.[/author_info] [/author]