How To Sleep Better

kitty by Jessica Santascoy

Many people ask me if the Alexander Technique (AT) can help with insomnia and getting a better night’s sleep. Yes, AT can help!

My sleep ritual is inspired by AT principles and strategies, and it’s one of the most effective I’ve ever used. This ritual requires very little effort and it can be done before bed, in bed, or if you wake up in the middle of the night. Also, the order of the steps isn’t important - you can do them in any order you like.

1. Say your AT Directions

“I allow my neck to be free, so my head may balance delicately at the top of the spine, to allow my whole torso to lengthen and widen.”

Wish your directions without searching for a release and without doing anything like stretching. Trust that over time your thinking will help you move into more ease and less tightening.

I like to think of how a cat, dog, or a baby sleeps - there is no unnecessary tension.

2. Soften your vision

About an hour before you go to sleep, begin to soften your vision. What does this mean? In a nutshell, this means not over-focusing or straining your eyes.

The verbs “look” and “see” imply we do something, we work, in order to see. To soften your vision, allow what you are seeing to come to you. It’s a passive seeing, imagining that what you see is coming into your sight, rather than actively looking.

Begin to include your peripheral vision. It’s common to over-focus on objects and people during the day, such as on a laptop or a mobile device screen.

But now, you want to direct your vision to be easy and soft, and including the peripheral vision is a good way to help you do so.

3. Notice your breathing

Don’t try to change it, just simply notice it.

No need to try to deepen your breathing by emptying your lungs completely or sucking in air when you inhale.

Simply allow the breath to move in and out.

You could put one hand on your ribs and another on your abdomen. Notice how your torso changes shape as you breathe. If you like, you can gently place your attention on the out breath.

When I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping, I do constructive rest. So add constructive rest into my ritual above, and take practical steps to sleep better (less caffeine, turn off your mobile device/computer an hour before bed), and see how that works.

What are your favorite ways to get yourself to sleep and have a restful night?

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]

What We're Reading: Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones

jones_72by Kim Jessor and Jessica Santascoy

SANTASCOY

What book do you recommend for new students?

JESSOR

"Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones," which was the first book I read when I began studying the Technique in 1977. Since then I have reread it many times, (as evidenced by my very dog eared copy!). It is a book we read and discuss in our training course, as well as one I return to as a means of clarifying my thinking and teaching.

SANTASCOY

Why do you recommend "Freedom to Change?"

JESSOR

It is a classic; a comprehensive, thoughtful, and clear book. It is well-written and accessible while being extremely thorough and detailed. Freedom to Change gives an introduction to and a context for so many aspects of the Technique for someone new, while remaining an essential reference for teachers. For example, I often reread the section on the reflex response, or on the center of gravity of the head. That section in particular reminds me to convey to students that it is the nature of our design, with the center of gravity forward of the spine, or what Debby Caplan calls "the elegantly unbalanced head," that facilitates the lengthening of the muscles of our spines when we are not interfering through tension.

Jones approaches the Technique from multiple angles, so it can appeal to people with different interests and perspectives; those wanting to know the history and development of the Technique, the scientifically-minded wanting to understand what he learned from his experimental studies, the educator, those who want to understand more about the relevant anatomy and physiology, the curious potential student looking to improve health, as well as the trainee seeking a more in depth understanding of the process of teaching this work.

Jones’ own story is fascinating, and chronicled in the book. A classics professor who came to the Technique in the 1930s to deal with his own fatigue and pain, he trained to teach with F. M. Alexander himself and his brother A. R. He knew the brothers well, and carried on a lengthy correspondence with FM Alexander.

Jones taught the Technique for over 30 years. During this time he learned the scientific method in order to design studies which measure and validate the effect of the Technique. Like Alexander he had great persistence to pursue his goal of precisely defining the Technique and measuring its effect, in order to bring it to the attention of the larger world. His contribution is significant and I feel it is important for students to know his work.

Jones's descriptions of his own first lessons with both F. M. and A. R. Alexander and his impressions of them bring the brothers vividly to life, as well as his accounts of his learning process. He also writes about influential people who were proponents of the Technique, such as John Dewey and Aldous Huxley, and it's fascinating to see how his work impacted their thinking.

The chapter on experimental studies is the most technical part of the book. Photographs enhance the text, showing us the multiple image photography Jones used to measure changes in movement patterns, as well as x-rays, charts, diagrams, and images of Jones teaching. He also includes the list of adjectives the subjects were asked to use to describe new kinesthetic experiences resulting from AT lessons (ex. being lighter, less familiar, higher and smoother). It is a model for how to quantify the seemingly magical experience of the Technique.

Additionally as a skilled and experienced teacher, his chapters on "The Re-education of Feeling" and "Notes on Teaching" articulate his approach with great clarity, which is illuminating for students.

SANTASCOY

How does this book speak to someone who is not yet a student of the Technique?

JESSOR

I think the book intrigues the potential Alexander student who is truly looking to change. Jones often emphasizes the pleasure in the learning. He states that the pleasure of the greater ease in movement is an immediate reward of applying the process, and says of the Technique “It brings into learning some of the pleasure and excitement which children feel when they do things for the first time-and begin to explore the world (196)."

Jones also states in the chapter "Learning how to Learn":

“Alexander’s discovery (as Dewey pointed out) is comparable to the discoveries that were made during the Renaissance and that caused men to change their ideas of external nature. When you look through a microscope or telescope for the first time you are forced, if you accept the evidence of your senses, to revise your views of the universe outside yourself. Alexander discovered a way of using his hands to give a person new experiences which force him to revise his ideas both of himself and the universe (188)."

It seems to me that sentiment might inspire someone to try to find out what the Alexander Technique is all about!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Kim-Jessor.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]KIM JESSOR has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 30 years. Certified at ACAT under Judith Leibowitz, she is a member of ACAT's senior faculty and former director of the Teacher Certification program. Kim teaches Alexander in the Graduate Acting program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and maintains a private practice in Manhattan. She has a varied practice and specializes in working with performing artists. Kim has taught at the Mannes College of Music, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and the Miller Health Care Institute for Performing Arts Medicine. Contact Kim at kj292@nyu.edu.[/author_info] [/author]

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]

What We’re Reading: Body Learning by Michael Gelb

GelbBy Daniel Singer and Jessica Santascoy Daniel Singer, an Alexander Technique teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique with over 30 years of experience, tells us why he recommends Michael Gelb’s "Body Learning," and gives us a couple of questions from the book to ask yourself about habits.

SANTASCOY

Which book on the Alexander Technique do you recommend for new students?

SINGER

The book that consistently meets my need for clear presentation of the Alexander Technique (AT) and that I recommend is "Body Learning" by Michael Gelb. The book is a valuable resource for people taking AT lessons, those who want to take lessons, and interested readers who like ideas as the basis for practical change.

SANTASCOY

Why do you recommend Body Learning?

SINGER

Body Learning lays out the Alexander Technique principles in a lively context that I find particularly enriching for a new student. The book sticks closely to almost all of the original ideas presented by F.M. While exceedingly careful not to water-down or dumb-down any important concepts or history for the convenience of the reader, Michael Gelb does a superb job of presenting concepts fairly succinctly and completely. He doesn’t insulate the reader from details about the ideas. Yet, he doesn’t overburden the reader, either. He takes them into the history of the Alexander Technique quite fully in a way that might bring some gravitas and intellectual interest to the reader.

The book is an overview and somewhat of a practical guide for the person interested in answering the question “What is the Alexander Technique and how can it help me?” The book helps answer that question, by anchoring the student in concepts such as Use and Functioning, The Whole Person, Primary Control, Unreliable Sensory Appreciation, Inhibition, Direction, Ends and Means.

Peppered with invaluable photos such as the Nuba tribespeople, the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, cats, and a student learning to write hunched over a desk, the book speaks to the holism and humanism of the AT work, by way of multiple, visual examples. At the same time, the photos sustain curiosity and illustrate concepts.

Michael provides "Checkpoints" at the end of every chapter, encouraging the reader to apply AT ideas to everyday life:

"Are you aware of your habits of moving, thinking and feeling? Try listing three habits of body use, thought, or emotion. (34)"

"Do you ever catch yourself responding habitually but find that you can't seem to change? (67)"

While presenting the intellectual and practical basis for Alexander’s unique ideas, Michael brings in personal anecdotes and stories by other teachers, which students can often relate to. He discusses matters such as "Learning How to Learn” and “What can I do myself” at the end of the book, just enough to inform and tantalize a reader about the importance of linking any interest in these ideas with Alexander lessons.

SANTASCOY

How have your students used to Body Learning to enhance lessons?

SINGER

A few months ago, upon my recommendation, a new AT student of mine (a graduate student in History), who obviously likes to read, got hold of Body Learning and read it. When she came in for her lesson the next week, she was surprisingly burning with interest to understand inhibition more deeply. She really got that fire more from Michael, than from me. His presentation simply clicked for her with additional “umpf." I had explained inhibition and referenced it in each lesson, repeatedly. But somehow Michael’s chapter on inhibition got to her in a way that I could not.

Presenting ideas is not always simple if they are to be presented with a reference to history and supporting evidence, and I am eternally grateful to Michael Gelb for having taken on that task and accomplishing it in a concise way. Bravo, Michael.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Daniel-Singer.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]DANIEL SINGER has over 30 years of experience teaching the Alexander Technique and is a senior teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT). Graduating from the State University of New York at Buffalo, he then certified to teach the Alexander Technique and pursued post-graduate Alexander studies in London. Daniel teaches at Michael Howard Studios and is author of the book "The Sacred Portable Now" and co-producer of “The Back Alive Advantage” a self-lesson CD based on the principles of the Alexander Technique. Daniel has a private teaching practice in Manhattan. Connect with Daniel via email DSingerNY@aol.com or by phone at (917) 326-0493. [/author_info] [/author]

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]

What we’re reading: Back Trouble: a New Approach to Prevention and Recovery by Deborah Caplan, P.T.

by Deborah Caplanby Judy Stern and Jessica Santascoy Deborah "Debby" Caplan, author of "Back Trouble: A New Approach to Prevention and Recovery," was a physical therapist and taught the Alexander Technique for over 50 years. She was a founding member of the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) and a senior faculty member.

Judy Stern, a faculty member of the ACAT Teacher Certification Program and a teacher with almost 30 years experience, was more than impressed by her cousin's recovery from excruciating back pain after taking Alexander lessons with Debby Caplan. At that time, Judy had been a practicing physical therapist for 18 years, and was excited by the possibilities of pain relief that the Alexander Technique offered. Within four years of her cousin's life-changing course of lessons, Judy moved from Gainesville, Florida to New York City to study the Technique herself, and she was mentored by Debby.

SANTASCOY

Why do you give "Back Trouble" to your students when they have a first lesson with you?

STERN

Back Trouble is a basic Alexander text easily read and understood by anyone who wants clear, accurate medical information and is struggling with back issues. I often say at the end of the first lesson that "everything I have taught you today is explained in the first 4 chapters of this book.” I then ask my students to go home a read those chapters.

I believe that learning should be addressed through multiple channels—ie: the visual sense - reading and video, the auditory sense - verbalization, and the kinesthetic sense -  touch—to achieve the most effective introduction to the Alexander Technique. I also use the photos in Debby’s book as teaching tools, and let students know that many of the questions people ask about, including the efficacy of the Alexander Technique, are directly answered in the book.

SANTASCOY

What's an essential part or paragraph of the book and why? In other words, what do you think is important for students to remember from this book?

STERN

This is a challenging question!

I believe this book offers the public a basic understanding of the anatomy and physiology of musculoskeletal pain and explains the efficacy of addressing problems with the principles of the AT.

I first saw this book in manuscript form when Debby was writing it, and threatened to “steal” the chapters on back and neck pain for my physical therapy patients, if she didn’t publish it. I am the Judy Trobe (now Stern) who Debby mentions in the acknowledgments, and I was deeply influenced by Debby.

I am partial to Chapter 5 - "Low Back Pain," and Chapter 3 - "Concepts of Good Use." They are both clear, concise explanations of challenging subjects we Alexander teachers are confronted with explaining daily. I also like chapter 9, Emergency Treatment of the Back.

If I had to choose a section to quote from, it would be "Eliminating Tension":

“Learning to do less with the body is one of the most useful aspects of Alexander’s work for back sufferers. Doing less does not mean being less active, but rather, eliminating all the unnecessary muscle tension and harmful postural habits that can cause, and prolong, back pain.

"As you begin learning to eliminate unnecessary muscle tension, you will be able to stop the tension cycle that invariably accompanies back problems. This cycle occurs because pain causes more tension, which in turn causes more pain, and so on. Many of my patients have found that by using the Alexander Technique they are able to stop this painful cycle themselves and thus avoid taking muscle relaxants and painkillers. They also feel more energetic, since they are not using so much of their energy in the form of unnecessary muscle tension.” (Caplan, 14)

SANTASCOY

The Technique is practical, and helps people change everyday habits. How does "Back Trouble" complement AT lessons?

STERN

Debby was a master at teaching people to apply the AT to daily life. This wisdom can be found on pages 75-79, "Applications To Daily Life," and in Chapter 7, "Positions We All Get Into." The illustrations say everything about what working with ease and better use "looks like." The explanations are simple and clear for the general public (no Alexander Technique jargon). Sitting, standing, and walking are the basic activities of life we all address when teaching the Alexander Technique. Debby addresses them all in these parts of her book.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Judy-Stern-headshot.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JUDY STERN is a senior faculty member at the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT). She has been teaching the Alexander Technique for almost 30 years. She has a post-graduate certificate in Physical Therapy and a Master of Arts in Health Education from the University of Florida/Gainesville. She was a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Physical Therapy early in her career, and worked for 19 years as a traditional physical therapist. Judy has a special interest in the neurophysiology of the Technique. She has a private practice at her studio in Rye, NY, and specializes in working with people in pain. Connect with Judy at her website. www.judithcstern.com[/author_info] [/author]

 

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]

What We’re Reading: Evolution of a Technique in "The Use of the Self" by F. M. Alexander

"The Use of The Self" by F. M. Alexander by Brooke Lieb and Jessica Santascoy

Many students benefit by reading books about the Alexander Technique, because it helps elucidate concepts and ideas when taking Alexander lessons. Brooke Lieb, the Director of the American Center for the Alexander Technique and a teacher with over 20 years of experience tells us what she recommends for students, and how she uses it in her teaching, and shares F. M.’s 5 step process that you can use on your own or with a teacher.

SANTASCOY

What do you recommend new students read?

LIEB

In recent years, I have been asking my students to read the chapter “Evolution of a Technique” from The Use of the Self by F. M. Alexander, who originated the Alexander Technique. I give it to them sometime during their early lessons, depending on when I think they have had a clear enough practical experience in lessons to relate to the concepts and F. M.'s self-experimentation.

SANTASCOY

Why do you recommend this chapter to new students?

LIEB

I find this chapter particularly helpful in illuminating the idea that the student is actively engaged in the process, applying her or his thinking to influence what happens during the practical work in the lesson. There is a great deal of intellectual participation involved in learning, which can sometimes escape students when they first start to study, because of the tactile aspect of hands-on work.

Hands-on instruction is unique to Alexander. The intent and degree to which touch is used in the hands-on cuing in yoga, exercise, dance or movement instruction, or sport instruction, is completely different to Alexander. Also, hands are used so much less in those forms of learning.

I also recommend this chapter because it tells Alexander’s story, in his own words, and takes the reader on the journey of why and how F. M. made his discoveries, some of the pitfalls he had to overcome, and a simple 5 step process to explore.

I would encourage any student to seek the assistance of a teacher to demonstrate the process, but in conjunction with lessons, I have found that this piece stimulates many questions and interest in the work in my students. I find their questions, and their confusion has contributed to how I have refined and simplified how I illustrate these concepts through activities, the explanations and the analogies I use.

SANTASCOY

What kinds of responses have you gotten from students who have read the chapter?

LIEB

I recently sent this to a new student, after her fourth or fifth lesson, and she came in the next week with great interest in the ideas and concepts in the chapter, and also some extreme confusion about the 5 step process. Once I understood her confusion, I was able to explain the practical process, and how we were using this process in the lessons. She was confused by the fact that he talked about speaking a sentence, so I explained he was probably referring to a line of text, and that being an actor, he would be deeply invested in being “right” and successful when speaking text. Her question gave me an opening to talk about endgaining - the tendency to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and at the expense of, how the result is achieved.

I also refer to the fact that after Alexander saw what he didn’t feel in the mirror - that he was pulling his head back and down, he then assumed since he had now seen it once, he could rely on his feelings and was no longer pulling his head back and down. He returned to the mirror after a period of time, and realized that he was still pulling his head back and down, and acknowledged his faulty thinking: if he couldn’t feel it in the first place, why had he thought that in one moment of recognition, he had repaired a lifetime of not feeling it and could suddenly trust his feelings? This illustrates the force of habit, and that we’re not often doing what we think we’re doing. I find this revelation in F. M.'s story helps students begin to question how much they do or should rely on how things feel.

Some students begin to relate the practical work to ideas they remember from the chapter on their own, even if I have never articulated how the activity we are exploring relates to the concepts.

SANTASCOY

Do you refer to this material in lessons or relate your practical teaching to this material?

LIEB

Most definitely. I often reflect after the experiential part of a lesson, that what we were emphasizing was inhibition, direction, awareness, or the unreliability of how we interpret our kinesthetic sense. Having read this chapter, I find the student is more inclined to make connections to what we are doing in the activities we explore in the lesson to the practical application of the concepts they have read about. It is where the idea becomes a concrete, lived experience.

I often use the 5 step process in early lessons to teach a student how to receive my hands-on work, and to recognize the difference between allowing me to guide her or his movement, and how the student can initiate movement on her or his own. Students are able to understand the idea of doing less in upright work, and thinking more actively and participating more in table work after reading this chapter in The Use of the Self.

The 5 Step Process Applied to Public Speaking

Let’s imagine that you are going to give a presentation next week. You’d like to appear poised, elegant, and connect with the audience.

Think of a sentence that you might begin the presentation with, such as “My name is…”

1. Pause before you speak the sentence. Don't say it yet.

2. Instead, say the Alexander Directions to yourself: I free my neck to allow my head to balance delicately at the top of the spine, to allow the torso to lengthen and widen.

3. Continue to say these directions until you are fully engaged in the intent and purpose of the directions, and more committed to this new state in your system than achieving the result of speaking.

4. Then say to yourself, “I might say my first sentence, I might not.” The point is to recognize how the thought of giving a presentation may tighten your neck (and the rest of your body), and the first sentence may act as a stimulus (a trigger), that starts the tightening. But, just the thought of giving a presentation might make you tighten, so if you tell yourself you might or might not start, you are gently persuading yourself to not go into habitual tension.

5. Decide:

a. not to say the sentence and continue to direct b. to do something completely different, like “lift your hand instead of speaking the sentence” and continue saying the directions c. to say the sentence and keep saying the directions

Practicing these 5 steps will help you notice your habits, and decide to replace them with the new, efficient habit which is more easeful. When you’re easeful, audiences connect with you more because they sense that you are enjoying yourself. (These directions and the 5 steps have been modified by Brooke Lieb and Jessica Santascoy. The 5 steps as written by F. M. Alexander are on pages 45-46 in The Use of the Self.)

What other habits can you work with using this 5 step process?

[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]

 

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]

Less Pain, More Productivity: Demonstrating the Advantages of Primary Control with Muscle System Pro III

Alexander Technique, Primary Control, productivity, painby Jessica Santascoy What is it that makes the Alexander Technique unique? One of the main ideas is primary control, and the understanding that it can help balance the whole body.

What is Primary Control?

Primary control refers to how the head, neck, and torso are working together. When primary control is working well, the head is poised at the top of the spine, and the neck muscles are supple and flexible. When primary control is not working well or has vanished, more muscles are recruited than are needed for movement, there is more joint compression, and there is stiffening. The head becomes a weight. The whole body will eventually feel the impact of the loss of primary control.

If the head, neck and torso are working efficiently together, then we have more ease, which equals higher productivity and more energy, because the body is freer.

Effortless Learning

Muscle System Pro III is an excellent anatomy app that can help you understand or explain primary control and other dynamics of the body.

Allowing the head to drop towards a laptop or a mobile device is a common habit that can cause pain.

One of my favorite features of the app is the robust amount of 3D animations. They help demonstrate key principles and can lead to “a ha” moments. Let’s take a peek inside Muscle Pro III, and find out how it can help you explain or learn about primary control.

Laptop Pain

A friend of mine had tremendous neck and back pain. She was working in cafes, where the screen of her laptop was about 4 inches lower than her eyes. She was dropping her head towards the laptop to see the screen. Her head became a weight, pulling on her neck and back. After working this way for 6 hours or so, she was in excruciating pain, very irritable, often had a headache, and had to stop working. (See Figure 1.)

img_2_top_spine

Ease Pain with Primary Control

Through Alexander lessons, my friend became aware that allowing her head to drop down was causing a lot of the pain. The laptop had become a stimulus for her to “dump” her head - when she’d start working on the laptop, she dropped her head down. She realized that she could choose not to do this, and learned a better way to work, using only the muscles necessary and moving the head at the top of the spine (at the atlanto-occipital joint). (See Figure 2.)

Now, my friend uses less muscular action and effort, and gets more done because she’s not in pain. She is proactively preventing pain, which increases productivity.

What Do You Think About Learning Anatomy?

In my experience, learning anatomy clarifies learning and helps bring about a deeper understanding of Alexander principles.

What do you think? Does understanding anatomy help you learn? Teachers: What are the advantages of using anatomy to demonstrate primary control and other principles? Are there disadvantages to teaching with anatomy?

Features in the App Include:

  • A robust amount of media, including animations showing movement of the body including articulated area and range of motion; still images with different views: anterior, lateral, posterior
  • 3D perspective and ability to move the images
  • Remove and add layers of muscles quickly
  • Quick access to information - including audio pronunciation, origin, insertion, action, and nerve supply of a muscle
  • The ability to take notes in the app, and share images via social media

For Teachers

I recommend getting these apps by 3D4Medical for your app library: Muscle System Pro III, Skeletal System Pro, and the free Essential Skeleton 3. You can switch between the apps to show your student various views and media to clarify concepts. There are iPhone, iPad, and Mac versions. No Android version at this time.

For Learners

My friend bought Muscle System Pro III for iPhone, so she could have a quick review of what she’d learned at the lesson. The iPhone version is an inexpensive investment for your learning, at $3.99.

App images via Muscle System Pro III by 3D4Medical

Top image: Joe Cieplinski

 

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]