Alexander Technique

The Finger That Points at the Moon

The Finger That Points at the Moon

Part 3

The Alexander process addresses not what we do but how we do it, and what I discovered initially was that not only did I not have awareness of how I was doing things, I literally did not know what I was doing as I did it.

It began to dawn on me that I treated myself rather harshly. They way I toweled off after a shower, brushed my teeth, styled my hair, held a glass, stirred a pot, walked down the street – I performed these routine daily tasks with a great deal of roughness. I used too much energy. I was hard on me.

There is No Try

There is No Try

When there is something I don't understand, if I remember to notice the tension that arises around "not knowing," I can release it before it begins to cloud my brain with panic-based messages. I feel this tension in my neck and behind my eyes; other people get upset stomachs or jaw pain or sharp headaches. I observe myself striving to understand a new way of doing something, using different controls, and in the striving, I tighten. So I let go of trying at the same time I let go of the tension in my neck. I think everyone gets anxious when they have to learn something new, even if it is something they are excited about learning.

Includes a Bodymind experiment for you to “do or do not.” But no try.

Sweetness Within the Sorrow

Sweetness Within the Sorrow

Like so many of you, people I knew and cared about died or were permanently disabled on September 11. Yet we also came to life that day. I met neighbors I had never known, connected with other Alexander teachers, birth doulas, ministers and healers to help the first responders, supported the local businesses on 7th Avenue in Park Slope where we lived, and found so many sweet, authentic connections. I saw in action what we talk about when we talk about community.

The Finger That Points at the Moon

The Finger That Points at the Moon

Part 2

The motivation to begin Alexander lessons came primarily from my curiosity about this method I had heard about for years. The actors and dancers I knew swore by it, saying it kept them injury-free or was a huge help in recovering from the physical demands on people who use their bodies for a living. On a less intellectual level, I felt a nagging pull toward anything body-based, because I suspected that my relationship with my physical self was not what it should be or could be.

The truth is, I had almost no awareness of my body, my senses, or the way I moved through life. I was senseless.

The Finger That Points at the Moon

The Finger That Points at the Moon

Part 1

I had my first Alexander Technique lesson 30 years ago. I arrived with a belly full of butterflies and a head full of curiosity. Even then, I was aware enough to recognize the feeling of being on the verge of something significant, the sensation of being carried along by a flow not of my own making.

First in a series of reflections on 30 years of Alexander practice.

Taking Refuge in the Body

Taking Refuge in the Body

The Alexander Technique is a place of refuge. “Refuge” is a Buddhist term that can mean different things to different people, but essentially it points to how the practice of present moment awareness provides a resting place, an unhooking from our conditioned way of being, a return to center, a renewal of wholeness. It’s akin to the notion of “sanctuary,” in the sense of abiding in a sacred space and being protected there. As a practitioner of Vipassana meditation, I am still at the beginning of my understanding of Refuge. As an Alexander teacher and lifelong student, I have daily experiences of what I can legitimately call “taking refuge,” and for that I feel boundlessly grateful.

Awareness = Choice

Awareness = Choice

Awareness = Choice. It’s an equation I have experienced many times under a variety of conditions. Until we’re aware of something, we cannot make authentic and fresh responses, but remain reactive in our fixed ideas. If I want to change a habit, I must first know it thoroughly, catch it as it arises. One of the most common habits is known as endgaining. Endgaining is an Alexander term for getting ahead of ourselves, pushing forward no matter what else might be happening in the present. Endgaining causes dysregulation in the body, is in fact dysfunctional thinking. There are many examples of endgaining in our culture: No pain, no gain. Lean in. Just do it. We are rewarded for reaching the goal, not for the way we get there.

What To Do When You Feel Lost

What To Do When You Feel Lost

Do you ever feel lost in your own life? In spite of the privilege, the accomplishments, the satisfaction in certain key relationships, people often tell me that they feel disoriented or confused about how they got to where they are or how to move forward, and what steps they should take to do so.  Although specific situations sometimes prompt this feeling, it has less to do with external circumstances and is typically more about how one relates to those circumstances.

The Generosity of Attention

The Generosity of Attention

Generosity is a wonderful thing to keep in mind, because it instantly transforms the attitude and energy of any given situation. Although we typically think of financial giving when we hear this word, there are many ways to be generous. One of the most powerful ways is to give full attention to something or someone.

3 Ways to Breathe Free

3 Ways to Breathe Free

You possess a power that gives you ease, resilience, emotional and mental clarity, postural and spiritual alignment, and improved health and wellness. You are doing it right now. Or rather, it is "doing" you. Breathing.

The Dance of Dynamic Balance

The Dance of Dynamic Balance

People who come for Alexander lessons anticipate that their balance will improve, and that's almost always a predictable result. Yet most people are surprised to learn that balance is dynamic, not static. One doesn't maintain balance by holding on, but by letting go. Or, to be more precise, by letting flow.

Awake and Aligned the Alexander Way

Awake and Aligned the Alexander Way

If you study and practice the Alexander Technique, it will change your life for the better.

This is a statement I can make with complete confidence and zero doubt. I can say this to absolutely everyone, no matter their condition or circumstances. There is no one who can't benefit from the principles and the process created by F. M. Alexander and developed over the past century by those who have followed his path.

That’s quite a claim. Read on.

Nothing Doing

Nothing Doing

When was the last time you did absolutely nothing? Is there a difference between “non-doing” in Alexander terms, and “undoing” in other traditions? What about the Buddhist concept of “non-striving”?

Don't Do Something, Sit There

Don't Do Something, Sit There

Are you sitting right now? Chances are good that you are, and if so, let me ask you something: Did you choose the way you are sitting, the arrangement of all the body parts? For most of us, the answer is no. Sitting is so common, and we have been doing it for so long, that we really pay almost no attention to it until something hurts, or until someone asks us to notice. (Did you change your position when you read the question about choice just now? Bet you did.)

Four Ways to Alexander Awareness

Four Ways to Alexander Awareness

I sometimes wonder about the description of the Alexander Technique as  "a skill set that can be applied in every situation" — how might that sound to someone unfamiliar with the work? It's a pretty big claim. Every situation? Really?

Yes, really, because Alexander work teaches a way of being, in the same way that practicing meditation creates new ways to be in relationship with reality.

Upright but not Uptight

Upright but not Uptight

Most people practice sitting meditation, either in the classic crossed-leg lotus position, or in a chair. A majority of meditators complain about pain or discomfort while sitting in meditation, at least after more than 20 or 30 minutes, and/or over a long period of practice, such as on retreat. While the practice encourages the acceptance of discomfort as it arises, and there are mindful ways to respond to pain during meditation, it makes sense to establish a balanced, easy pose in the first place. What does Alexander Technique offer in support of this?

Five Limbs

Five Limbs

Whenever I notice my jaw clenching, I let it go. It's a simple solution that works every time. There's nothing subtle or complex about it. Releasing the jaw is easy to do, when you know what it is you want to release. Here are some facts that are important to understand if you want to ease your jaw tension

At A Time Like This

Be softer with you. You are a breathing thing, a memory to someone, a home to a life. -- Nayyirah Waheed This is a good week to know the Alexander Technique. Reeling from the worst mass shooting in our history (not counting incidents of sanctioned genocide) and the attack on our LGTBQ brothers and sisters, we are presented with an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness, to cultivate awareness of life just as it is, without fixing or changing it, without needing it to be different in any way than exactly how it is.

This is important, because when violence and injustice thrust their way into our collective lives -- and this seems to be happening with alarming regularity now -- we want to lash out or shut down or tighten up or collapse in a heap. Sometimes all at once. But the Alexander Technique teaches how to pause; to stop whatever impulse wants to be acted upon and just notice, simply be with whatever is arising. Perhaps the impulse will be acted upon anyway, maybe it's the right course of action, whatever it is. The stopping and noticing is what matters, however. Stop resisting, stop managing, stop being pushed around by your reactivity.

Now, I'm not saying that we passively accept the horrors that surround us as in any way inevitable. We can unlearn our violent ways, just as we can unlearn poor postural habits. But change happens most effectively from a clear place, a place of power with rather than power over, from groups of individuals who can act in the present moment, together in unity. An intention to meet life on life's terms, moment to moment, is a prerequisite for that power and clarity.

This is radical self-care: pausing to ask, "How is it with me right now? Empty CupWhat do I need? What will help me replenish?" At a times like this, many people rush into trying to rescue others, wanting to comfort and care for the wounded and hurting. This is usually well-intentioned, and the body-mind will tolerate it temporarily, but day after day, unless self-care is primary, depletion and burnout are the result. 

Luckily, pausing to do a self check-in takes virtually no time, and the ways to care for the self can be simple and easy:

  • slowly sip a cup of your favorite coffee or tea while doing absolutely nothing else;
  • lie down in constructive rest for 5 or 10 minutes;
  • walk and/or sit in nature while doing absolutely nothing else;
  • call a trusted friend and share one true thing you are feeling;
  • take a break from social media and other technology-based activities;
  • sit comfortably and just breathe;
  • rub your palms together vigorously until you feel some heat, then place your palms over your eyes, let the heat melt away the tension;
  • turn toward your feelings of vulnerability and honor them.

Self-care is primary. That means it comes first, always. It's not indulgent or selfish, it's not "extra" or a luxury, it is not something to get around to eventually, when you get those other people and tasks taken care of. It is the difference between serving a community with love and strength and becoming a burden to someone yourself.

oxygen-mask-227x300Put your own oxygen mask on first, people.

Alexander lessons offer a way to learn and practice the pause and the awareness, to unlearn the reactivity. There is also therapeutic value. When you come for a lesson all twisted up with grief, sorrow, anger, fear, confusion, and all that jazz, you find relief. It's a relief to drop that for a little while and just be present for what is, as it is.

Sometimes (un)learning is too much and all you want is the tender loving care. That's what Somatic Release is all about. Less participation and more pure letting go and being cared for. 

You certainly deserve it, and as odd as it may sound, the world needs it. We need us well.

Primary Engagement

Primary Engagement

Ever had a movement experience that was so unified, so much in the flow, that it felt like the running/walking/biking/swimming was doing itself? Your primary control was fully operational. A healthy relationship between your head, neck, and back was possible, and it triggered this organizing reflex, which then in turn clarified the relationship of all the parts to the whole.