On Training Teachers: Choreography and Improvisation

On Training Teachers: Choreography and Improvisation

When I trained to be an Alexander Teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique from 1987 to 1989, I was fortunate to benefit from the wisdom of a large faculty of teachers with all levels of experience. Our Senior Trainers had anywhere from 6 to 30 years of experience teaching and training teachers. They each had a distinctive approach to the art of teaching. Alongside them, we were also taught by associate faculty, recent graduates and classmates who were at all levels of training.

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On Teaching: "Speaking without words"

On Teaching: "Speaking without words"

by Brooke Lieb

Brooke: During our work together on the ACAT Teacher Certification Program, I remember you repeatedly sharing with me that you found lectures and the verbal component of hands-on turns virtually un-intellligible, and stressful. I was able to appreciate that auditory learning wasn’t particularly useful to you, but in retrospect, I know I didn’t have a meaningful understanding or appreciation of how unique sensory processing is from one person to another. I was also fascinated because I know how much you read and comprehend, and that you studied much more complex subjects than I ever have and are articulate and versed in those topics.

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Now in eBook: Back Trouble by Deborah Caplan

Now in eBook: Back Trouble

“Keep It Simple”: The legacy of Deborah Caplan

My strongest recollections of Debby’s teaching was how elegantly simple and practical she was. The clarity of her teaching is evident in these video clips (Debby training third year teachers and teaching a first lesson).

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Working with Rhythm: Smoother movement for better coordination

Working with Rhythm: Smoother movement for better coordination

As an Alexander Teacher, I have been trained to observe and analyze my students’ movements and behaviors, so that I can teach them tools to maximize their efficiency while minimizing physical and mental stress.

One measure I use to that end is movement quality. I use a couple different scales, one of which is the range from smooth to jerky.

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Rate of Change

Rate of Change

8/8/2005: When people begin studying something new (especially if it's helping them feel better), it's natural for them to want to learn all they can, right away and be a model pupil. Often, my clients get a great deal of relief when they first start to study, and because they have been in discomfort, they want to do all they can to hold onto the new state they are in. Unfortunately, you cannot hold on to a release. I am not just referring to a muscular release, I'm also referring to a release of a pattern or habit of attitude, perception or behavior.


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An Interview with Alexander Technique Teacher Pamela Anderson

by Brooke LIeb

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

Lieb: How did you learn about the Alexander Technique?

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

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Advice for a New Alexander Technique Teacher

Karen Krueger, ACAT ’10

1.  Trust your instincts.
Having completed a rigorous training course at ACAT, you are well-equipped to teach the Alexander Technique.  If your instinct suggests a particular approach with a student, or a particular insight that you think might be helpful, go with it, and see if it works.  If it doesn't, try something else. (See #2 and #3.)
2.  Throw out your agenda.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

In Closing

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

This post was originally published on brookelieb.com

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]

Riding the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island: How to manage a fear of heights with the Alexander Technique*

Wonder Wheelby Brooke Lieb *I recommend NOT riding the ferris wheel in the first place, but if you do find yourself having to manage your fear of heights, at least you might be able to ease some of the discomfort.

In early August 2016, I joined a friend of mine on her birthday adventure to Coney Island. There were three other friends joining us, and the five us rode the F train to the last stop. Our first stop was the 150 foot high Wonder Wheel. The birthday person vetoed the moving cars, the ones that swing along the spokes, towards and away from the center of the wheel, in favor of a stationary car, which had instructions “Do Not Swing This Car” repeatedly posted outside the ride and inside our car.

We bought a discount ticket – Five rides for $30.

There was no line, and there weren’t many people on the ride. That would mean less stops as riders got off and on, so this would be over soon enough.

I got in the back with one other woman, and our Birthday person and her two remaining friends got in front.

My seat companion began to tense up the moment we began our ascent. She expressed her discomfort at heights, and I could see she was starting to panic, just a bit.

“I don’t like heights, either” I said. “This is what we’re going to do. Let’s both move into the middle of the car. Look down at the floor, at our feet. I’m going to hold your hand, and we’re going to breath together. I bet your heart is pounding like a scared rabbit in your chest, I know mine is!”

“Yes, it is…” she said.

“Now, as you’re breathing, if you can think about releasing any tension at the nape of your next, that can help to.”

We managed to look out at the view, part of the time. We kept periodically stopping, rocking in the air and hearing the creaking sound of metal as riders were let off and on the ride. There was no way I could pretend this wasn’t happening.

I held my seat mate’s hand, and tried to see what else was happening, as I took comfort in knowing I would with another being at the moment of my death if this car came off and plunged to the ground. (Yes, I was ABSOLUTELY having those kinds of thoughts!)

Our birthday person’s two friend in the front were doing well, though she wasn’t so keen on it…

One woman had her selfie-stick out and was snapping shots of all of us and the view. The other woman, sitting in the middle, was very easy going and relaxed. Clearly, these two weren’t experiencing anxiety like the rest of us.

“You have a very calming effect” my seat mate said.

“Doesn’t she?” my friend replied.

As we began our descent of the first rotation, my friend speculated “Maybe we only go around once…” with hope.

Coming down didn’t bother me at all, and my anxiety immediately receded as we finished our first rotation. When we didn’t stop, heading up again, my friend said “Well, then it’s only two rotations, because it’s not too busy.”

I was surprised by the return, in full force, of my pounding heart, fluttering stomach and general discomfort as we headed up for the second round. My seat mate was just as uncomfortable as she had been during our last trip up.

We did talk about our discomfort throughout the ride, and the other women were sympathetic to our reactions. It strikes me, in retrospect, that it must’ve helped that we didn’t have to contend with either teasing or well intentioned attempts to calm us with intellectual reasoning. There is nothing intellectual about this fear response.

Once we were on our descent for the second and thankfully final revolution, my anxiety dissipated and was gone by the time I embarked from the ride.

What has the Alexander Technique got to do with this story?

It is my long time study of the Alexander Technique that gave me the skill to summon my inner resources in the face of a frightening experience. I have learned how to stay more present in moments when I have historically panicked.

Part of my skill as a teacher of the Alexander Technique allows me to teach others to summon their inner resources, and the act of teaching gets my attention off my own internal reaction to things that trigger me. Taking care of my student, by teaching and modeling this self-soothing, is best taught by me actually self-soothing as I teach. It’s a win-win.

Alexander calls this self-soothing skill “inhibiting” – that is, interrupting a habitual cascade of responses to a trigger (Alexander referred to it as a stimulus), in order to stay more present to assess the current situation more accurately, in order to respond more appropriately to this moment, in this moment.

I have an old whiplash injury, so any abrupt impact, whether it’s front-to-back or side-to-side triggers my injury.

I skipped the kiddy rollercoaster, I don’t ride any rollercoasters, and I don’t do water rides.

I do fine with spinning rides, so bring on the Merry-Go-Round!

I know I can survive the Ferris Wheel, so if someone offers me a good enough incentive (I am seeing a $ with at least 3 zeros after it…) I can do it, but otherwise, there’s no reason for me to EVER ride one again…

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]

Alexander 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?


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.


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


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.


Why did you decide to train as an Alexander Teacher?


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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]

Taking Action: How Does That Work in the Context of the Alexander Technique?

FreeImages.com/Local Guy by Brooke Lieb

In light of the recent hate crime, the mass killing in Orlando targeting the LGBTQ community on June 12, I thought about what it was to respond with meaningful, integrated action.

What has this got to do with the Alexander Technique? Alexander Technique often emphasizes “non-doing” which can be mistaken for inaction. Non-doing is more about having the time and space to unpack a response to find what may be habitual and automatic, and gain access to a conscious, reasoned response.

Working with this paradigm gives me a way to question the accuracy or validity of my feelings, both those I label as sensations, and those I label as emotions. I can also question the habits I have around using those feelings to guide my behavior and actions. I don’t want to respond to this latest tragedy comfortably or in my familiar and habitual way, I want to respond accurately and in measure with my examined belief systems.

I want to communicate with the people who feel particularly at risk of being targeted because of who they love or how they look, a danger that may be even more in the forefront of their day to day lives, as a result of this recent atrocity. I want to offer my support. But for me, my kind words are empty if my actions and behavior don't have the potential to generate a safer world for them.

I want to show empathy and connect with my friends and loved ones to show that I care about this issue and it breaks my heart that people are being murdered because of some distorted set of artificial values held by others. Those beliefs are what make some of us a threat to others of us.

I saw a number of posts about taking action, as the more impactful response to this latest in a “much too frequent and much too long” string of mass killings.

So I went to google to find out how to take action. I donated to the Brady Campaign, I signed a petition which I was informed was equivalent to writing a letter.

I wrote to both of my state senators to say I am a constituent who supports strict gun control, and when considering the second amendment as written: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” I support limiting access to and the use of guns to the confines of a well-regulated militia.

So, yes, I have been crying since Sunday, June 12, and looking at my transparent biases and bigotry to take responsibility for the ways I may have inadvertently contributed to the climate in our country by being ignorant and unable to see what I may be a party to. I see that my inaction contributes to the status quo. By the way, I was raised around activists, growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and I take a lot for granted because so many took action during that time in history.

What has this got to do with the Alexander Technique? I am saying “no" to my comfortable habit to remain silent while feeling hopeless. I often keep silent out of my desire to appear non-judgemental and neutral so my clients won’t feel judged in my hands. Silence can be useful in some situations, but silence can also be a way to stay comfortable and ineffective.

So, instead, I am taking action, and being non-habitual by using my literal and literary voice to express my fondest wishes and hopes - that we take the actions needed so we live in a world that values all human life and celebrates creativity and diversity in how we each express ourselves. I wish to live in a world where no one is in danger from another, because of what they have or don’t have, for what they believe or don’t believe. And that we don’t use our personal beliefs to injure each other.

If you want to learn more about some possible actions to take, here are some links:

Contact your congressional representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Contact your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

How did your senator vote on background checks?: http://everytown.org/senate-votes/?source=etno_ETActPage&utm_source=et_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=ETActPage

Tweet your congressperson: http://everytown.org/tweet-at-congress/?source=etno_ETActPage&utm_source=et_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=ETActPage

Support the Brady Campaign to end gun violence: https://secure.bradycampaign.org/page/contribute/center-enough

[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]


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]

Nine Questions with Alexander Technique Teacher Bob Britton

Bob Britton by Anastasia Pridlides

We are so pleased to have visiting teacher Bob Britton presenting a workshop—"Tuning Direction"—and there is still space for you to join us at ACAT on Saturday May 14th at 1pm. In advance of him joining us in our space we thought we would ask him a few questions to introduce him to the community.

Q. How long have you been teaching?

A. I first started taking lessons in 1974, and graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher in 1978.

Q. What was your first exposure to the Alexander Technique?

A. I first experienced the Alexander Technique because I had a knee injury as a result of sitting intensively in Zen meditation. A friend recommended that I try taking a lesson with Frank Ottiwell after I found out that the surgery for my knee injury would be a major operation. As soon as I walked into the lesson Frank noticed that my habitual style of walking was awkward because I habitually carried my right foot pointing out to the side ever since I had broken my leg when I was 10 years old. Frank asked me to completely relax my leg and then to drop the foot to the floor. My foot came down pointing straight ahead. Frank then asked me to take a step and I put it down with the toe facing out to the side. Frank said, “You see the foot knows where it wants to go, but you think the foot should be pointing out to the side.” I was amazed that what I was doing with my foot would make a difference in my knee. Gradually after six weeks of lessons my foot gradually came back around to pointing ahead as Frank introduced me to the larger organization of my whole body. Then the knee problem basically took care of itself and healed. I was impressed!

Q. What made you decide to become a teacher of this work?

I was not planning on becoming an Alexander teacher while I trained. I really was training to deepen my own experience of this marvelous work. After I graduated many people started coming up to me with ailments and the Technique was quite successful in helping them out. So when I left the Zen community it was a very natural choice to pursue the way of life of being an Alexander teacher.

Q. What most excites you about your upcoming workshop at ACAT?

A. Teaching workshops in the Alexander Technique is always energizing and gratifying. Somehow, thanks to human evolution, when we are sharing knowledge and skills about moving with more grace and efficiency everyone has a chance to experience joy and satisfaction. This is because our nervous systems are not neutral about the experience of moving with more efficiency. If we are moving with more skill we have more of a chance of survival, and the nervous system rewards us with endorphins. Of course working with old friends and new teachers who want to learn is always is a delight.

Q. What is your favorite way to engage with the AT in your daily life right now?

A. My favorite way of engaging with the Technique is organizing myself dynamically upward each morning, and throughout the day, especially by allowing my ribs to move buoyantly upward and engaging with the engaging with the environment around me. Meeting life from a dynamic and energetic organization is a true pleasure.

Q. What is most fascinating to you about the AT today?

A. Our human vertebrate structure is very, very old, and tuning into its beauty and brilliance is constantly refreshing. In addition, I love refining and finding more depth and sophistication in Alexander’s work.

Q. What is the most surprising effect your study of the AT has had on your life?

A. My experience is that everything changes with our posture. When our posture is dynamic, expanded, and engaged with our environment, the freshness of being happens. This is possible in every moment. The Alexander Technique is the best thing we can do in the present moment to improve our quality of being.

Q. Tell us about an interest/skill/passion of yours other than of the Alexander Technique.

A. One passion I am following now is going out with my local astronomy club to observe our Universe from dark sky locations. To be peering through my telescope and suddenly see the light from a distant galaxy that left there millions of years ago and now is arriving inside of my eye, is a rather awesome experience.

About Bob

Robert Britton graduated in 1978 from the Alexander Training Institute-SF (Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pinkas). In addition to his private practice in San Francisco, he has taught the Alexander Technique to musicians at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1984. He served as the Chairman of the American Society for the Alexander Technique, and was a director of the 2011 International Congress of the Alexander Technique. He has helped train Alexander Technique Teachers since 1989, and regularly gives workshops to Alexander Teachers around the World.Find out more about Bob at uprighthuman.com

There are still a few spaces left in Bob's workshop. Go here to find out more and to register.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Anastasia.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]ANASTASIA PRIDLIDES teaches Alexander Technique, Bellydance and Yoga in New York City.  Studying the Alexander Technique has been a deeply transformative and life changing process for her. Every day she wakes up excited to know that her job is share it with others. You can find her at movementhealingarts.com[/author_info] [/author]

Raising Self-Confidence in Teenagers through the Alexander Technique

happy-young-man-in-pink-hat-640x427by Dan Cayer A couple years ago, a quiet 17-year-old who I’ll call Len, was referred to me by his mother for a course of Alexander Technique lessons. She had heard that the AT could improve his posture and help him focus. Nearly 6’4” – and still growing – he stood and sat with a pronounced slump, which was likely contributing to back pain. His mother also suspected that his slouch was, partially, an attempt to not “stick out” at school.

Being reminded to “sit up straight” was not helping Len. He resisted an upright, healthy posture not only because he didn’t quite know how, but also due to discomfort with his body image.

I am writing about my experience with Len as an example of how the Alexander Technique is uniquely suited for the needs and temperament of young people. Teenagers (and I would include middle school age students in this category) are especially resistant to the agenda of older people and authority figures. For instance, it’s going to be a waste of money if Len thinks he has to change because I or his parents would prefer seeing him in a different shape.

Rather, I try to figure out what Len’s goals are and to frame this process as one that will help his goals, not mine. For instance, I help Len to see how he can feel less stress and pain if he lets go of some of his habitual slumping and tightening. By experimenting within the safe space of the lesson, Len can see how releasing into his full stature actually brings more confidence and energy. He tries adopting this new posture first as if it were a coat he’s trying on. Then, he sees that he actually likes it, not because I told him to but because he experienced it firsthand.

I also encouraged him to bring a basketball to a couple of our lessons and we worked on dribbling and passing using skills of the AT. He happily reported how his playing had noticeably improved with the Alexander influence. Over the course of 10 lessons, Len’s true stature and ease within himself emerged. He learned how, through awareness and conscious choice, he could find an upright, balanced posture that had eluded him for years.

That’s the story of “Len” but I’d like to say, in brief, why the Alexander Technique is well-suited for all young people.

1) In my experience, young people respond quickly (faster than adults) to hands-on and verbal guidance. They are less set in their patterns and more open to change.

2) Given that young people are naturally curious, I find that they can really run with the process of the AT. Rather than having to follow “rules,” students can learn how to manage their own posture and body. This naturally creates confidence and a sense of achievement.

3) Confidence. Though young people are often referred by their parents because of a compromised posture, confidence is usually the second reason. Being a young person nowadays is stressful and they often feel pressure to look a certain way. By slouching, young people might feel they “blend in” and won’t attract undue attention. However, by surrendering their body to tension and slackness, students invariably experience more stress and anxiety because they’ve lost their mind-body connection.

In closing, teenagers are a great candidate for the AT because of the acute pressures they face, their natural curiosity, and their ability to change quickly. I wish it had been sooner than my mid-20s before someone showed me how I could live in my body with more ease and freedom. Young people have such passion and conviction; it’s a wonderful thing to pair that with a little body awareness and wisdom.

This post originally appeared 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]

The Zen Coach

Exhibit A: proper shooting form, lines of energy moving forward and up. by Emily Faulkner

I have the privilege of being the movement coach for Steady Buckets, a youth basketball league in New York City that serves kids ages 6-18. It’s a free program that offers skill building classes as well as league play. Children from all walks of life come to this program, from Manhattan’s elite private schools to the projects in the Bronx. I owe this opportunity to the visionary coach, Macky Bergman, who saw that the Alexander Technique would reinforce his coaching, but from a completely different angle.

About two years ago, Macky and I sat down for coffee, and I explained to him why I wanted to work with his players, and how the Alexander Technique would help them. Two hours later, after popping up and down to demonstrate for each other monkey, defensive stance, and proper shooting form, we were both brimming with excitement. Macky is a tough-talking coach, but he’s open minded and interested in alternative techniques to help his players focus and be present. He brought in a Tai Chi teacher one year. Macky intuitively understood inhibition: in order to get the ball through the hoop, you need to let go of the desire to get the ball through the hoop. Additionally, he was frustrated that he couldn’t get the kids to shoot with a straight spine or stand upright when defending. As a dancer and an Alexander teacher, it was pretty clear to me that the kids needed to use their hip joints. It was a perfect marriage: For Macky, what could be better than someone who would enable his players to improve their form? For me, what could be better than an unlimited supply of kids to whom I could teach the Alexander technique and see proof positive that the AT can change lives and games?

Exhibit B: poor shooting form, power of jump lessened by backwards pulls, arms not working together.

After working with Steady Buckets for two years, I’ve made many observations. Although the Alexander Principles are always the same, the bodies that come to me vary wildly. Some kids are slack; some kids are tense; some kids try too hard; some don’t try at all. I usually teach one on one, and give about ten kids, a 5-10 minute lesson each. Certain kids absorb the technique like a sponge and instantly see what it can do for them. They start making their shots and finding themselves “in the zone.” “I feel loose. I feel light. I couldn’t miss.” Kids who are in pain often see the value immediately. Some kids don’t see the value, and I let them go. It’s not for everyone. The principles are the same, but the challenge each kid faces is unique.

We do a lot of monkey because it is the base for shooting, dribbling, defending, everything actually. I incorporate a lot of Dart practices, like spirals and curves, and the innate springiness of the body. Depending upon the age of the kid, I use analogies like a river running up through the body, or that the floor bounces us up like a ball from our feet through the rest of the body. I show them that their arms can move independently of their torsos by folding at the gleno-humoral joint, and this starts to help them to see that when they shoot, their torsos can remain full and upright even as their arms move. For someone who doesn’t play any sports, I have an impressive theoretical knowledge of shooting form. My goal is to consistently hit foul shots, and be one of those rare experts who gained mastery from a completely different angle. But even with the Alexander Technique, it takes a tremendous amount of practice, and I haven’t devoted nearly enough time.

I came into this thinking that shooting would be the most obvious application of the Alexander Technique because it is a pure Alexander situation: it involves monkey and inhibition. But now I see that shooting is the most emotionally charged, habitually ingrained skill they learn, and very difficult to change. Proper shooting form involves sending the ball up in the air in a large arc by holding the body vertical, straightening the arms up over the head and slightly forward, and using the power of the jump to propel the ball. See Macky’s lines of force, Exhibit A: up through the whole body, forward through the hands and arms. For the younger kids, it is counterintuitive to do this. They want to fling the ball forward with their elbows counteracted by throwing their upper backs backward because they don’t believe that straightening the arms coupled with a jump up will be enough. See my version of this, Exhibit B. Older kids are deeply attached to whatever form of shooting has been working for them, even if it hasn’t been working well. When they change their technique, they will probably lower their shooting percentage before they raise it. And until the kids are really mature and philosophical about basketball, they don’t shoot a high enough arc because they’re aiming for the basket as opposed to aiming for the center of the hoop above the basket. Teaching someone to prioritize the means whereby in the act of shooting a basket is like asking a hungry person to look at their food for ten minutes before beginning to eat. It takes A LOT of inhibition. They need to truly let go of the goal of making the basket.

Officially, I am the movement coach; a dancer who came to teach the players better posture and better movement patterns. Then I thought perhaps I would call myself the biomechanics coach because it sounded substantial and technical. I’ve come to realize, however, that the main thing I have to offer them is inhibition. The other coaches can teach them form and biomechanics (although they don’t usually understand how to access the hip joints), but nobody else can teach inhibition. I am their Zen coach. I teach them to let the ball shoot itself, to let the game play itself. And as much as they need to learn how to inhibit in order to change their form, I need to inhibit my desire to see them improve. As with any other activity, change can happen both instantaneously and glacially. They fold into a smooth, balanced monkey, and suddenly they’re moving around their opponents a beat ahead of everyone else. When it comes to shooting, they slowly start to trust a different form. One of my favorite students who falls deeply into the category of “tense and trying too hard” improved dramatically when I said, “remember that you shoot better when you’re relaxed.” That phrase allowed him to inhibit.

The Steady Buckets’ motto is “Outwork ‘Em.” The pursuit of excellence requires limitless hours of practice and dedication, and there is no way around that, but to be truly excellent, you must be able to let go of the thing you desire while you work towards it. What a balancing act!

In a more general way, is has been wonderful to share the ability to change. The Alexander Technique shows us that change is possible, and there is a path towards that change. I imagine the kids I work with absorb the idea that they can choose their actions. If they can go from slumping to standing up tall and balanced in less then a minute, maybe some of them will decide to study for a test instead of not study, go to college instead of not going. Maybe some slumped over little kid who considers himself un-athletic will feel “the zone” and decide that he can be good at sports. The Alexander Technique gives us choice and a means whereby!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/e.faulkner.png[/author_image] [author_info]EMILY FAULKNER graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York City in 1999, and has been an AmSat certified teacher ever since. Faulkner is also a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer.She is on the faculty of Movement Research, a world renowned institution for experimental dance, and has presented her choreography nationally and internationally. Her most current project is a dance film using Steady Buckets players. Emily teaches privately in New York City, and can be found at emilyfaulkner.com. Email her at emily.a.faulkner@gmail.com.  [/author_info] [/author]


Stretching with Ease

stretching-with-easeby Brooke Lieb Linda Minarik is a pianist, dancer, singer, and fitness professional. Her new book is entitled Stretching with Ease. Linda has been familiar with the Alexander Technique for nearly 40 years. Her first private lessons were with ACAT alumna Linda Babits in connection with practicing piano with ease. Linda’s life-long love of movement inspired her to train in ballet, and to become a certified group fitness instructor, including teaching qualifications in Gyrokinesis® and the MELT Method®.


Tell us about the inspiration for your book Stretching With Ease.


For a number of years I have been teaching the art of flexibility at a corporate gym facility called Equitable Athletic & Swim Club in mid-town Manhattan. The membership is largely made up of left-brainy people with corporate positions, often high in their chosen professions. Attorneys, doctors, financial wizards, administrative assistants to corporate CEOs—highly articulate people, capable of understanding subtle concepts. They come to class to learn about their bodies; yet fitness is not their field.

I set out to create a worthwhile stretching experience for this fitness audience: teaching them stretching basics while respecting their intelligence. Over the years, I formulated a teaching language that seemed to work. I started explaining as much as I could about why pursuing flexibility might be helpful in their lives, how to allow their bodies to release gently into a stretch, how to align their positions correctly to avoid stressing other body areas, and—a crucial point—exactly where they should be feeling the muscular pull.

Stretching as I teach it emphasizes giving the body adequate time to settle into a position—without rushing into or out of it. Most important is partnering mind with body to increase calmness and minimize fear. Recruit your mind to address your body’s tight spots.

The more I taught, the clearer my instructions became, and my classes began to grow in size. My goal: to clear up the mist of incomprehensibility around flexibility. I wanted to share all the hard-won knowledge I had unearthed over more than two decades of searching. Everyone has his own journey, but I wanted to help people shorten their stretching one.


How can stretching contribute to health and well-being, and what are some of the conditions or fitness goals that stretching can help manage or improve?


In some detail, I develop the following benefits of stretching for health, well-being, and fitness improvement in Stretching with Ease:

  • Reduces and heals stress
  • Prevents injury
  • Relieves pain
  • Relieves muscular soreness
  • Improves posture and body symmetry
  • Advances physical and athletic skills


You include the Alexander Technique in the “Further Resources” section of your book. When did you first encounter the Alexander Technique, and how has it contributed to your own performing and teaching?


My experience with the Alexander Technique began back in the’70s, when I was beginning to seek better alignment for my body in general, and also physical ease over the many hours I was practicing piano daily for my degree recitals. My study of the Technique long predates my involvement in fitness teaching. Along with other body-work methods, I am sure it was instrumental in making it really easy to start an athletic fitness teaching career in my ‘40s. After taking an introductory group class at a long-forgotten (by me!) studio in the Lincoln Center area, Linda Babits became my first private teacher. A pianist herself, she spent many hours helping me apply the Technique for a pianist’s unique needs. After training with Linda, I also worked extensively with Caren Bayer and Jane Kosminsky.


Linda currently teaches group fitness at the New York Health & Racquet Clubs and the Equitable Athletic and Swim Club, both in Manhattan. She pursues classical dance and bodybuilding, and has recently branched out into the study of rhythmic gymnastics, working privately with a former member of the Russian team. Linda is a classically trained pianist, operatic mezzo soprano, and aromatherapist. She lives in New York City. Contact her and/or purchase her book through her website at www.lindasarts.com.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]