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

 

Alexander Technique and Voice: An Interview With ACAT Teacher Training Student Ezra Bershatsky

Ezra Bershatsky by Sandro Lamberti Photography-23by Brooke Lieb LIEB

I began taking voice lessons with you, Ezra, recently, and have been fascinated with the process, and very grateful for your skill and clarity. We established that I haven’t injured my voice, since I don’t sing regularly and was lucky not to have any harmful teachers in the past. I think my ability to inhibit along with my blissful ignorance of “vocal technique” and my lack of attachment to what sounds I produce, has helped me explore what you are offering. I am excited to see how your practice evolves as a result of your progression through the TCP at ACAT. Tell me about how your lessons in the Alexander Technique have influenced your own singing?

BERSHATSKY

Well, I believe and teach that vocal technique is a state of being rather than something to do. I used to employ a vocal technique to sing rather than allow for a spontaneous, natural, mutable technique to evolve in response to music. Unsatisfied with my progress in the former, I eventually found functional voice training, which stresses spontaneity and function over aesthetic. The Alexander technique has helped me expand my awareness and curiosity for anything that might prevent my voice from organizing itself in response to vowel, pitch and intensity. I sing now with the added awareness of the floor I stand on, the space around me and the overall organization of my body, whereas before the Alexander technique the process of singing so fascinated me that all of my attention was focussed on singing and I was basically unaware of everything else, including where I was. This narrowing of focus isn't very conducive to spontaneity or freedom. The Alexander technique is my practical guide to explore the unexplored and helps me keep my bearings in unfamiliar lands.

LIEB

How has your work with Alexander Technique informed your work with your voice students?

BERSHATSKY

My first major realization was how important words are and how varied are students' responses to them. A lesson with an advanced student is almost completely devoid of spoken cues, relying on my piano playing and mouthing the vowel to be used for the exercise, while talking is mainly for validating an experience. But for new students, talking is very helpful. I was already used to customizing exercises for each student, but hadn't considered that wording could have such an effect on the outcome of an exercise. For instance, I used to tell students to "hold" a pitch, but discovered that this rarely happened without the student tightening somewhere in response of their desire to feel and grasp something. I now say “sustain" or merely indicate with a gesture from my hand instead. I used to use the word "attack" instead of "onset". I also now encourage my students to remain aware of their environment as they sing. I already strove to encourage a judgement-free environment where aesthetic is suspended and the student is permitted to experiment and release sound rather than manage it. The Alexander technique has given me more awareness of the impact of what I say and do and the responses they elicit in the student, so that I can communicate more effectively. When one approach fails I don't persist with it, but will rather look for another means that will facilitate a more organic, unhabitual response in the student. The most important benefit I am reaping is that I can teach for longer periods of time with less of a toll on my own body, use and vocal technique. When I first began to teach, much of my information about what the student was doing came from empathetically responding to the students’ use, so that when they sang poorly my throat would begin to ache or feel dry or I would notice what felt like my larynx trying to climb out of my throat. And after teaching a long day my body would complain and I'd be left feeling drained. The idea of "staying back and up" while I teach has been invaluable and helps me maintain awareness of what I'm doing as I listen to my students. The student benefits as much as I do as I hear more accurately and am less attached to any outcome. I still have the choice to allow my body to try on their misuse pattern but it's a choice now instead of a habit.

LIEB

Why did you decide to train as an Alexander Teacher?

BERSHATSKY

After a few Alexander teachers suggested I might enjoy training I started to seriously consider it. Especially after I began teaching voice to a graduate of ACAT, who pointed out some of the similarities between what I was teaching and The Alexander Technique. My primary draw to start training, however, was to improve my own use and understanding of the Technique.

LIEB

How do you see your work as a singer, voice teacher and Alexander Teacher evolving in the future?

BERSHATSKY

I'd like to have a private Alexander technique practice alongside my vocal studio. My plan is to use the next two years of my ACAT training to further hone my skills as a singer and teacher while learning repertoire along the way. When I finish training I want to do as many auditions as I can and get as much stage experience as possible. If I'm successful, my teaching practices will mostly be on hold, but the experience will add another dimension to my teaching and is crucial to my own happiness as a performer. I don't want to live vicariously through my students.

LIEB

What are some of the things you are working on as a teacher?

BERSHATSKY

I never want to limit my students with my aesthetic and this is an ongoing endeavour. To hear past aesthetic to the overall function. And to allow each student’s voice to be unique, as an expression of them, rather than of my idea of what their voice should be. I’m working on the clarity with which I communicate to each student. I'd love to get to the point where I consistently feel as good as the student does after a lesson. This is rarely the case at present, although the better I teach the better I feel during and afterwards.

LIEB

What do you love most about teaching voice, and teaching in general?

BERSHATSKY

I love watching as a student has a completely new experience. It's like watching a child taste ice cream for the first time. I imagine seeing the new neuronal pathways forming. I also love the trust that forms between teacher and student. I strongly believe that the burden of teaching should fall solely on me as the voice teacher and that there is no burden on the student to learn. Assuming the student who is willing to pay with their time and money is genuinely interested in improving, the student can't help but learn if they are being taught well.

[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]

Seven Questions with ACAT Teacher Training Student Tim Tucker

TTby Brooke Lieb Q. What, if anything, did you learn from putting hands on faculty?

A. ACAT's faculty offers me the ultimate laboratory to test my skills as a budding Alexander Technique teacher. The faculty is incredibly sensitive to the messages I'm transmitting, or not transmitting, through my hands and can quickly diagnose and tactfully communicate what my hands are up to. The learning that putting hands on faculty permits is quite unlike what happens when working with fellow trainees or supervisory students -- faculty feedback and guidance has repeatedly taken my practice of the AT to a whole new level.

Because I tend to "try too hard" and am often "highly serious" my work with faculty also helps to address those particular habits in the context of my attempts to teach them. I'm repeatedly offered the chance to lighten up and do less when working with my hands on the teachers, and to see how easing up can make me a better teacher and my teaching practice more sustainable.

Q. Did you observe direction in your teacher when you put hands on her or him?

Teachers at ACAT offered me vivid direction -- sometimes consciously amplified by them because of where I was in the training process -- whenever I put hands on them.

Q. If you did observe direction in your teacher, did the experience illuminate the concepts of AT, the actual mechanism of h/n/b integration/primary control, or any of F. M.'s ideas from his writings?

Teachers know when I'm inhibiting, and when I'm not. And they illustrate, sometimes overtly and sometimes implicitly, the impact of inhibition coming through my hands on their nervous systems and coordination.

Q. How did the supervised teaching in the third year contribute to your learning, and/or prepare you for teaching on your own?

Having faculty observe and participate in supervised teaching has been a boon for me as a trainee. Often supervisory students exhibit patterns of misuse that I have not encountered before on the training course; having faculty immediately available to answer my questions and offer suggestions regarding a student's misuse takes the pressure off in challenging teaching situations and supports my learning. Meanwhile, faculty often put hands on me as I put hands on my student, helping me to come back to my own use and address my own habits as the foundation from which my teaching must originate. Lastly, the opportunity to discuss each supervisory session with faculty and colleagues after the students leave has helped me to gain more insight from my own experience and to learn from my colleagues as well.

[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]

Epiphany

Cate9thTerm-Judy by Cate McNider

As a soon-to-graduate Alexander Technique teacher, my time at ACAT, and why I embarked on this Alexander journey, has crystallized into this realization: I love epiphanies and live for them! I love that moment when ‘I get it’. That is in the direction of the UP for me. That realization is the inner up that supports the physical going up. Getting out of my own way, and allowing my head to go forward and up is what allows the space to receive information from my consciousness. We focus a lot on the physical habits and procedures to enliven our dynamic oppositions in this biomechanical suit we call a body, and it works. What underlies the physical is our curiosity, our innate impulse to rise, to evolve, to discover who we are, to be ourselves. That journey is a process, the process is a journey. It is the best investment we can ever make, to take that journey consciously, to think in activity, to be aware of what we are doing to and with ourselves, and how those habits are reflected back to us in the world.

It is this love of deepening understanding that makes me curious about how can I help this person, this student, realize they are compressing themselves and that they can stop whatever the habit is and dis-cover the un-ease and allow the ease to reveal itself.

Words are always a problem. For example, how I mean these words and how I am crafting them to communicate a feeling to you may not be what you hear or understand, which is where the hands come in to give you an experience of the AT principles and how that applies to you personally. Most of us share some variation of the ‘back and down’, but how that manifests in our neural network is unique and individual. Many books are written about the AT and the authors themselves struggled to various degrees to describe what FM was doing and what the principles point towards.

The quality of the touch is what takes three years to ‘get’, to just begin this ‘teaching’ journey, to allow the energy of the thought to be transmitted to the student’s whole wedded self. The epiphanies come more often after 3 years of study because I am pausing enough, thus more available for what comes through me and to me, the result of ‘getting out of the way’.

And this communal moment of ‘inhibition’ when the teachers hands are on me, and we are thinking together, powerful change occurs. This ability to change is within all of us. If we don’t let go of the old that no longer serves us, we wear it on our body, as the wind shapes the sand, and our lives repeat old outcomes. Breaking out of a cycle of any psychophysical habit is enhanced by practicing the principles and like a run in stockings, it runs both ways.

How you read this is how YOU read this. What I wrote is what I have real-ized. Take your own trip and find out for yourself!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/McNider.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]CATE MCNIDER is in her final term at ACAT and soon to graduate (all requirements being completed)! She has been a bodyworker since 1991, also practitioner certifications in Body-Mind Centering® and Deep Memory Process®.  She is a dancer, poet and painter (see youtube).  She most recently performed a piece called: ‘Habit and Non-doing‘ at Dixon Place.  Her art can be seen at: www.artsicle.com/Cate-McNider and contacted thru her website: www.thelisteningbody.com.  Many thanks to all my teachers, volunteer teachers and fellow trainees at ACAT.[/author_info] [/author]

Five Questions with ACAT Teacher Training Program Alumna Barbara Curialle

by Brooke Lieb Barbara Curialle graduated from the ACAT Teacher Training Program in June 2009.

Q. What made you decide to train as an Alexander Technique teacher?

A. Many years ago, I saw a former piano student of my teacher play the same piano piece before and after 2 years of Alexander lessons. He was completely transformed, and his playing—stiff and constrained the first time—had become open and joyous. It was many more years before I was able to take lessons, but my first teacher—Nina D’Abbracci—encouraged me to do the training.

Q. Why did you choose ACAT's training program?

A. I chose ACAT because it was the first program in the U.S. and because of the faculty’s amazing credentials and backgrounds.

Q. What, if anything, did you learn from putting hands on faculty?

Once I got over my initial nervousness, I appreciated the guidance—especially the verbal portion—from the faculty. Everyone’s friendly encouragement and appreciation of my efforts was a tremendous boost to my confidence. I also appreciated the opportunities to work with many faculty members: Everyone’s use and comments were different, but they all helped me integrate my own thinking.

Q. Did you observe direction in your teacher when you put hands on her or him?

A. Yes! I think that at first I was expecting some dramatic, large-scale change, but the changes I noticed were more subtle than that.

Q. If you did observe direction in your teacher, did the experience illuminate the concepts of AT, the actual mechanism of h/n/b integration/primary control, or any of F. M.'s ideas from his writings?

A. Yes, the experience did illustrate the AT concepts and especially HBN integration/primary control. In terms of F. M.’s ideas and writings, the connection was more subtle but still strong.

Q. How did the supervised teaching in the third year contribute to your learning, and/or prepare you for teaching on your own?

A. I’m glad I had the experience of teaching with supervision. Having a faculty member there when I ran into a problem was very helpful. Again, having so many different viewpoints that all led to the same goal enriched and validated my learning experience immeasurably and helped me to formulate my own goals for working with students and making the work my own.

[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]

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']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]

From Our ACAT Faculty: "Does training teachers require a different set of skills?" by Brooke Lieb

Brooke headshotsby Brooke Lieb

Training teachers is a different contract than work with private students.

My private students are the ones who set the pace and depth of how they work with their own habits. I explore whatever activities or concepts are most useful, relevant and meaningful to them. I have no timeframe for their progress, and no agenda about their level of understanding or interest in the work. As a teacher, I need the scope of understanding to meet my students where they are, and to give them the skills of Alexander’s work to use as they choose. They, on the other hand, are there for themselves and their own needs. I notice things going on in their behavior, use and function that they may be unaware of. I take my lead from them to determine when and how I might share those observations with the student. Learning this skill is something I hope to impart to a teacher-in-training.

On the training course, I expect and demand a much higher level of rigor and commitment from teachers-in-training. They are no longer focusing exclusively on themselves and their needs and interests. I am assessing their skills against a standard and there are specific developmental benchmarks for them to meet to progress to the next level. I strive to be clear and able to articulate in every moment what I am doing, why and how so I can transfer that knowledge in a way that will be accessible for teachers-in-training when they are the ones teaching.

When I teach a private student, I have an awareness of myself, my student and the interplay between us. My private students don’t need to observe or understand my role in their learning, but the teachers-in-training need to understand the "means where-by" of teaching. They are using the skills they learned when studying privately and applying them to the task of teaching. On the training course I teach teachers-in-training pedagogical skills that are not specific to the Alexander Technique. A teacher-in-training needs a clear understanding of how and why touch is used to teach, whether touch is ultimately used in a given class or lesson. I also need an understanding of group dynamics, and how to support individual needs balanced with the needs of the group.

[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]

From Our ACAT Faculty: My First Contact With The Alexander Technique, by Marta Curbelo

Marta.Curbeloby Marta Curbelo I always loved movement and dance. I became a “star” in my brand new elementary school when I danced in front of my father’s Latin band at a school assembly. As a stay-at-home mom, I missed dance. When Nicole was eight, I decided to get active again: I joined The Nickolaus Technique exercise classes. After a few years of taking classes, I became an instructor and gave classes. One of the franchise owners was training at ACAT and asked me to volunteer as his student. At the time, I was about to buy a Nickolaus franchise. After volunteering at ACAT and experiencing a lightness I had never before felt, I started The Alexander Technique lessons with Sarnie Ogus and my life changed. Forget about the Nickolaus franchise, this was for me. My then-husband was going to be assigned to London and I knew I could find a home in England with The Alexander Technique. We never made it to London, but I have been able to teach The Alexander Technique wherever I found myself: New York City, Stamford CT or Santa Fe NM; even being invited to give annual workshops in Italy and Switzerland over a six-year period.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years after graduating in 1987 from ACAT. At the time, I had a private practice in Stamford and was an assistant ACAT faculty member. My symptoms were (and are) fatigue and paresthesia, or nerve-ending pain, and spasticity on my left side. I found early on that I could quiet my nervous system by applying the principles of The Alexander Technique. This has enabled me to minimize the debilitating effects of the disease. I am in the process of working with my neurologist on a case study to show the potential of using The Alexander Technique in the management of MS symptoms.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Marta.Curbelo.png[/author_image] [author_info] MARTA CURBELO was certified by ACAT to teach The Alexander Technique in 1987, immediately volunteered as an assistant teacher and then became an associate teacher and finally a member of the Senior Faculty in 1989. Marta has taught at The Juilliard School and has had private practices in New York City, Norwalk CT and Santa Fe NM. She has conducted workshops in New York City, Switzerland and Italy and taught in a physical therapy facility in Mt. Kisco, NY.  Marta also has been certified, after a one-year course of study in the Art of Breathing, to teach breathing coordination in conjunction with The Alexander Technique. See her website: MartaCurbelo.com.[/author_info] [/author]

From Our ACAT Faculty: My First Contact With The Alexander Technique, by Daniel Singer

Daniel-Singerby Daniel Singer As a young man in my 20’s and well out of college, I was continuing with the spiritual search I had consciously begun at age 15. So as it happened, I found myself living in upstate New York on a rural farm, with a serious group of spiritual seekers. We were studying, in a practical way, the ideas of Gurdjieff. This farm/craft guild was an extraordinarily impactful learning environment, centered around traditional arts like pottery, weaving, woodworking, printing, farming, home-crafts, etc. We were studying the ideas of Gurdjieff; and working at traditional crafts was part of a means we used for self-study. I myself became a glassblower artisan there, and made this community my home for 6 years.

While I was living there, a group of musicians visited us from Minnesota. They were from the orchestra in St. Paul. As it happened, their Alexander teacher, Goddard Binkley, (who had been trained by F.M. Alexander), had been invited by one of their group to visit us. And so, when he visited we all received a single private lesson with Goddard.

My half-hour lesson with Goddard was a very simple, no-frills chair session. The only procedure besides sitting and standing was a formal lunge. Although it was my first lesson, (and I hadn’t a clue about the AT or what was expected of me as a student taking a lesson) few words were exchanged and, strangely, nothing at the time felt like it actually needed an explanation. I recall the education in that lesson felt sufficiently implied through the intention of Goddard’s touch, directly impacting my kinesthetic sense. Looking back on it now, it is quite easy for me to argue against adopting such a model/strategy for teaching a “first lesson.” His choice to not explain anything was a curious and radical choice. I speculate that his view might have been: “If my student is leaving themselves alone sufficiently to receive new kinesthetic data from my hands and not fall back into their old pattern of thinking, this new student’s nervous system will sufficiently interpret and use the new data, even in a first lesson.” Again, it seems like a less than optimal model for most first lessons, in my current view. Yet, in Goddard’s defense, it might be useful to note that the residents of this community were all rigorously focused on mindfulness, a living relationship to silence and contemplative inquiry. We were all studying together, as a group, the axiom "Know Thyself.” Therefore, it may be likely that Goddard felt that relative silence in a first lesson was a feasible strategy in the case of these particular first lessons in the Alexander Technique. However, I only speculate.

I recall the feeling of Goddard's hands to this day…inviting, strong and dynamic. They mysteriously sculpted my body and calmed my mind. He guided me into the chair in a totally new way. There was no table work given in that first lesson. When my half-hour lesson was done, I experienced a feeling that was truly unprecedented in my young life experience. It was an epiphany without words and I felt profoundly altered in my sense of self. It was as if I had landed on planet Earth for the first time, a wakeful presence mixed with a lightness of being that had hitherto eluded me. Much to my own surprise, right after walking away from the chair at the end of the lesson I turned to Goddard and said to him, “I know this must sound strange to hear, but someday I am going to teach this work to others.” To this day, I don’t know how I had the chutzpah to say that to him in that way, but I did. And even though it took 5 more years before I actually was able to have another Alexander Technique lesson, this time with Judith Leibowitz, eventually my prediction came to pass and I trained to become a teacher of this work.

As a child, I had been rather sickly, not having sat up until almost 2. As an infant, I couldn’t keep food down so barbiturates had been medically given as a remedy for that. Prone to continuous infections, I had been well-meaningly placed on oral penicillin for 11 years until the doctors decided that medical choice was no longer a smart one. I developed acute asthma and my nervous system became overwhelmed by the “speedy” drugs given for that. I wasn’t reading until after age 7. So there were definitely developmental lags and missing pieces, as well. Yet, through the graces of nature, by the time I was a young man, I had caught up in many areas. But my relationship to organization, self, balance, breath, movement and a normal sense of physicality was still quite challenged.

I feel it was a gift from God that I was guided to my first lesson with Goddard back in 1974. The trajectory of my life was significantly altered during that half-hour with him. And so, today I teach and help train others to study awareness, inhibition and direction through the Alexander Technique as I continue this ever-new investigation into the I-Thou-ness of living.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Daniel-Singer.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]DANIEL SINGER is a senior faculty member at the American Center for the Alexander Technique Teacher Certification Program. He maintains a private practice in NYC and is currently on staff as the Alexander Technique teacher at three performance Conservatories: AMDA, Circle-in-the Square and Michael Howard Studio. Daniel is an author of the book The Sacred Portable Now (Prima Publishing, 1996). He also co-produced a CD “The Back Alive Advantage” based on principles of Alexander Technique self-lesson work. Additionally trained and certified in educational and therapeutic uses of visualization by the American Institute for Mental Imagery, he’s an artist whose mediums have included glassblowing, painting and writing. And for the last ten years he has joyfully pursued a passion for studying and dancing Argentine Tango. [/author_info] [/author]