Engaging Curiosity and Dialogue: How to Introduce the Alexander Technique

by Morgan Rysdon On Monday, January 13th 2014, a panel convened at ACAT to discuss an issue of great concern to so many teachers of the Alexander Technique who struggle with talking about this rich and complex work. "Engaging Curiosity and Dialogue: How to Introduce the Alexander Technique" was moderated by Karen Krueger and included myself, Bill Connington, Rebecca Tuffey, and Jessica Wolf on the panel. The audience ranged from more senior teachers to trainees, all with a desire to explore this never-ending topic of how do we—as teachers of the Alexander Technique—introduce this unique work to others

Sage Advice From Seasoned Teachers

The diversity of the teachers sitting on the panel clearly illustrated the range in which we can approach this topic. Jessica Wolf, for example, strongly believes that as teachers we have a responsibility to raise the bar on how we present ourselves and the Technique to the world. Highlighting that teaching the Alexander Technique is a profession—just like any other kind of profession—and therefore, we should always be treating it as such when we talk about it with others.

While Rebecca Tuffey made it a point to emphasize the importance of knowing who you are talking to. Encouraging teachers to start asking those who are in front of them questions about themselves to help better direct their conversation. Stressing that it is easier to talk to someone about what the Technique is if we know who they are and where they are coming from.

My dear friend and colleague, Bill Connington, made by far the most interesting comment (for me) of the evening—he does not "sell" the Technique, but rather he informs people about it. This simple approach of educating people about what he does lends itself to the idea that talking to people about "What is the Alexander Technique?" does not always have to be as hard as we think it is. If we start thinking we have to 'sell the work' we run the risk of getting too complicated. Keep it simple! This is Bill's common theme—and one that seems to be working well for him and his practice—his new book is coming out later this year!

Practice Saying "Yes"

When it came to my own participation on the panel, my 2 points were:

1. Practice, practice, practice:

I think the more often we practice talking about this work, the more comfortable we become sharing it with others—no matter what scenario we find ourselves in.

2. Get into the habit of a "Yes" practice:

I say 'yes' to whatever someone brings to me. For example, "Is the Alexander Technique like Tai Chi?" I might be asked. "Why yes," I'd respond, "in the sense that it is a process that is always growing and further develops over time. And once you think you have mastered one aspect, new things always present themselves for you to continue learning." This practice of 'Yes' allows my dialogue with others to continue—and helps people draw similarities to those things they are already familiar with to the Alexander Technique.

What Is Your Way?

None of the teachers had a set way of explaining this work—and the varying responses were a helpful reminder that there is no one 'right' answer, just different answers. As a teacher or a teacher in training, what are some of the ways that you have found work well for introducing the Alexander Technique to new people? Do you have any sure fire ways to spark interest? Or perhaps you've had an experience that helped teach you what NOT to do when talking about this work to newcomers? We would love to hear from you!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/morgan-rysdon.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Morgan Rysdon enjoys introducing the Alexander Technique to new audiences. She holds a BA in Acting and received her teaching certification from ACAT in NYC. She has an active private practice in Hoboken, NJ, and Manhattan, where she coordinates and teaches introductory classes, group classes, and private lessons. She also assists with a weekly Parkinson's class at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and is active in improving work environments for company's who value their employee's health. To support her professional community, she serves as Chair of ACAT's Board and sits on AmSAT's Membership Committee.She can be found at atcenterstudio.com[/author_info] [/author]

"So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?": A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers

Starting on Wednesday, February 12th, and running for the next 4 Wednesdays, Brooke Lieb will be leading a workshop open to all Alexander Technique teachers, members and non-members of ACAT. Q: What prompted you to design the class “So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?: A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers”?

A: I used to lead presentation and leadership skills workshops for TAI Partners in the early 90s, where we helped consultants, corporate trainers, teachers and performing artists find their authentic style of presenting to large and small groups. My background as an actor and Alexander Teacher allowed me to streamline the process for these participants, and give them real time experience presenting to a group so they truly embodied the tools and ideas on skillful presenting. The only way to get better at it is to do it, not read a book or listen to a lecture about how to present well.

Working with clients over the years, I realized I also understand workshop and presentation design. Again, my background in theater, training Alexander Teachers, and corporate training exposed me to a wide range of design elements, from presentation/storytelling, to interactive dialogue, to experiential group and partner activities. These skills are teachable, and learnable, and the best way to refine them is to have a place to practice them.

This workshop will give participants a chance to learn design and practice presentation. Everyone will walk away with ready to use components for introductory talks, content for your online introductory video, workshop design, and pitches to corporations. I expect more of us will have the chance to participate in conferences and TedX type events, and it's an important aspect of attracting clients and educating the  marketplace about the Alexander Technique.

Alexander Teachers can offer high level media training to our clients, so this course is also a chance to see how to incorporate the Alexander Technique when coaching your client in preparation for a talk, seminar or pitch she or he may be presenting. This might be a part of a client's job, even if she or he doesn't realize it. People rank the fear of public speaking higher than death, and we have a vital resource to help people not only survive but stand out in their communications.

"The lesson you gave me was super helpful. It was the calmest I've ever been during a presentation, and several people remarked on my delivery!" Jessica Santascoy, ACAT '14, on presenting at an Astronomy Conference.

For more information on course content and how to register, click here.

[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]