Alexander Technique applied to weight management

Like many of my friends and family, with age my metabolism has slowed down. Once I could eat whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted, and my weight was stable. In my mid-thirties, I noticed a slow but steady weight gain. At one point, I was 25 pounds heavier and decided I would need to change my habits.

Losing weight proved fairly easy, and I took of 12 pounds in 12 weeks, but maintaining the weight loss was a challenge. After regaining 11 pounds, I accepted the fact that I was going to need to change my long-term habits around and relationship to food.

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AT applied to mindful eating

In an effort to reduce stress, I have stopped watching the news. I skim the homepage of the Guardian and the NY Times to keep current, but otherwise, I rarely watch news on TV or online.

Instead, I watch British films and TV, comedies and crime dramas, home improvement shows and I am a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show.

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"You teach the Alexander Technique? Oh, is that like..."

(Originally published November 2015)

mindbody buddha

When I tell people I teach the Alexander Technique, they ask questions to help them figure out which category to place it in. "Is it like yoga?" "Oh, that's about posture and breathing." "What kind of exercises do you teach?"

I tell people the Alexander Technique is truly a mind-body method.  I can show people how their minds and their thoughts impact their bodies. To begin, I help people observe the effect of the mind at the level of muscle tension, balance and mobility. I can also help people see how their thinking effects other systems, including emotions and physiology.

Without a first hand experience (and even after one) it is often difficult for people to find the language to convey what the work is and how the Alexander Technique helps them.

Here are some of F. M. Alexander's words to help us describe the realm in which the work takes place.

In August of 1934, F. M. Alexander delivered a lecture at The Bedford Training College. Among many amazing things he says during this talk, there are two quotes which I find most thought-provoking and exciting:

"We see people do certain things and without thinking or questioning we copy them. Don't. Don't do it…. Do what I recommended everybody in the world do in my first book. That is, to sit down and think over all the beliefs and ideas they have got and find out where they came from. You would not have many left.  After a week's thought, you would throw them overboard."

"You would not think that the matter of belief comes into our sphere. You have all got your ideas of what belief is. Do you know what we have found that belief is? A certain standard of muscle tension."

The Alexander Technique works with belief systems. While it may seem like "bodywork", it is really a process for (among other things) reclaiming awareness, consciousness, and the ability to be truly in the moment, experiencing novelty.  We begin with the belief systems of sensation, such as how much muscle contraction I need to perform a certain task.

 

 

Feeling Grief Fully

(Originally published October 2005)

In September of 2005, my dear friend, mentor and dance teacher, William Burdick, passed away. I was not prepared for his passing. I saw him on Thursday of the Labor Day weekend for our regular weekly class and received a call on Monday that he had passed that Sunday evening. During our class, he was fully lucid and present, and when I said goodbye, we had spoke of our class the following week.

My first sensations and emotions were shock, then numbness set in. I felt distracted and had to keep telling myself again and again that he was no longer living next door to me and I would not be seeing him again. I kept waiting to wake up from the bad dream that I was experiencing.

What was more disorienting for me was that there was to be no funeral, memorial service or gathering. I felt like I'd been dropped off a cliff and was left hanging there.

During the week that followed, I had mildly disturbed sleep and dreampt about him often.  When I woke up, I had the feeling something wasn't quite right in my world.

But I also noticed that as I was teaching and talking with people, and speaking with William's partner, Daniel, that I was present to how much I love being alive, I enjoy my work teaching and the relationships I have. There has been nothing painful about remembering.

And, I recalled a piece my friend and colleague, Vivien Schapera (www.4windsacademy.org) had written on grief. Reading her words many years ago had connected me to a resource I have in me to deal with loss. In her piece included in the book "Curiosity Recaptured", Vivien writes of her experience after her brother's death:

"As a self-employed mother of two young children, a "run and hide" reaction would have been disastrous. On the very same morning of my brother's death I had to start choosing how to be - to put everything on hold, or to continue functioning. I chose the latter and it was immediately empowering. I found that I could still think, plan, organize, eat, laugh, and socialize.  I discovered that life goes on."

I am finding my grieving process is taking on a life of its own and I am following where I am lead, with respect for whatever inner wisdom knows how to do this in a way that works for me.  I am fully engaged with my work and friends, while at the same time experiencing some anxiety in the form of a racing heart and a trembling feeling in my solar plexus. These symptoms peaked about a week after William died and after four days, I attended to myself with nutritional and hands-on support to bring the anxiety levels way down.

For the past 12 days or so, I've had lower back pain, an area that rarely if ever hurts. I realized the other day that I was feeling the pain of this loss physically, which is not unusual for me. I have been doing lots of floor work and constructive rest and getting hands-on support to help me through.

Surprisingly, I have not wept many tears, and whenever I speak about William, I feel gratitude for the depth of our relationship, and I am fully at peace with his passing. I don't find myself wishing I had said or done things that I won't have the chance to no that he's gone.  I feel complete, and an acute awareness that I miss spending time with him.

Your Spine is a Vital Organ

From the archives: 1/6/06

meerkat.jpg

Not only am I a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I am also a student.  I had my first lesson in 1983 and still have lessons and exchange work with colleagues.  I have found the Technique useful in my endeavors as a dancer, singer and exercise enthusiast; and as a valuable tool to help me heal from injuries, including 3 whiplash incidents, neck, upper and lower back spasms, a hamstring pull, severely stubbed toes and other bumps I don't recall at this moment.

Most recently, I spent 12 weeks healing a lower back event.  The symptoms started a couple of weeks after particularly stressful stretch, including the death of a dear friend and an anxiety provoking missed approach when landing at the Cincinnati airport.  It began with soreness on the sole of my left foot, moved to pain on my lower left side, and which ranged from a dull ache in my abdomen to a sharp pain on the left side of my waist.  Sitting was most painful, so I spent most of the day on my feet or laying on my back, knees bent.   Taking Alexander lessons helped greatly, as did teaching.  During the worst patch, I would awaken in pain in the middle of the night and slept poorly.  Ibuprofen helped.

I did an exchange with my colleague, Judy Stern, who is also a Physical Therapist. After I described the symptoms, we concluded that I probably had a chronic muscular spasm and she recommended a week of ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, and that I rest on the table or floor two to three times during the day.  After a week, I felt 90% better and have resumed exercise and only occasionally feel sore - which resolves itself within minutes.

Judy reminded my to think of my spine as a single organ, rather than break it into segments (neck and lower back) so that I can work with myself - my stress and pain, in a more effective and holistic way.  Sure enough, I find immediate relief when I remember that my spine is a unified structure of support.  Taking it even further, I include the awareness that my whole torso (shoulder to shoulder, sit-bone to sit-bone) is a single entity.  This immediately improves the mobility in my rib cage, and I notice my breath becomes fuller and it seems as though twenty pounds of pressure eases, as the upper half of my torso stops pressing down onto my waist. (No wonder my lower back was sore!)

Try This:

Using a mirror, look at your torso so you have a strong visual memory of how wide your shoulder girdle is and how wide your torso is.  Trace your shoulder with your fingers, so you have a sense of the structures.  Locate the bones on the bottom of your pelvis.  One easy way to do this is to sit on a firm chair, and then place your hands under your buttocks.  You will immediately feel the bones and their weight on your hands.  As you remove your hands, notice if there is a clearer sense of contact on the chair.

Here's a useful site for interactive learning to help you refine your knowledge of your body's structure.

 

When you're feeling better, a new challenge begins...

From October 2006

In my private practice, I work with people at all stages of wellness and injury.  It's not unusual for a new student to begin with me when they've healed most of the way, but now find they are at a plateau or stuck in a cycle of re-injuring themselves.  The Alexander Technique provides a valuable tool no matter where you are in the healing process, and complements most healing modalities.

One of the challenges of dealing with pain is creating accommodations in your daily life.  Still, when you're in pain, you have a constant reminder that brings you back to conscious awareness of how you are doing what you are doing.  You don't have to be reminded to avoid doing things that exacerbate your pain.  You pay more attention to what you are about to do, and make choices about what not to do.

The challenge comes when you start to feel better, and stop paying such close attention to your actions.  This crucial time is when you are at risk for a set back or re-injury.  Perhaps you've felt limited or just plain tired of having to be so careful about your movements.  As soon as you have a few good days (or even a few good hours) it's easy to let your guard down and go back to the way you did things before you had to think about it.

This is the point in the recovery process when you can truly benefit from slowing down and making choices about your activities.  Think of it as insurance, or getting some savings in the bank in terms of your healing process.
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Here's a personal example:

Last year, as I dealt with chronic pain in my low back over a period of about 4 months, I adopted the practice of avoiding sitting at all costs.  I felt best when standing, so once I got out of bed in the morning, I avoided sitting and even bending down as much as I could.  Sleeping was painful, as I can only sleep on my side.  At the worst of the pain, I slept poorly for many nights in a row.  While awake, I could be comfortable flat on my back with my knees bent and some books behind my head. (Constructive rest position).  I could sometimes be comfortable on my hands and knees.

I chose to stand on the subway, and while I did sit in a car, I had seriously considered laying down in the back seat for the duration of the trip.  I was unable to exercise; bending to put my trousers on was painful; I avoided going out to restaurants or the movies.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted from the pain.  I created all kinds of adaptations to avoid activities that caused or worsened the pain.

As soon as I began to feel better, I went though another challenging phase of healing.  I'd feel better, so I'd over do it and spend the next couple of days feeling like I was back as square one.  After a few rounds of this particular cycle, I began to use my Alexander skills of awareness and inhibition (saying no before responding to a stimulus).  I found the clarity to continue to create safer conditions in my activities.  Even as I was feeling better, I took it very slowly in adding activities back into my life.  I went a lot more slowly than I wanted to, so I kept reminding myself to notice that I wasn't in pain as motivation to "just say no".

I also gave myself the support of taking Alexander lessons to help me release the long term tension that had built up from "cringing" in pain over such a long period of time.
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If you have healed from an injury, and know that every so often, something you do causes a return of some or all of your symptoms, recall what kinds of activities you adapted or avoided during your healing process.  Reflect to see if you've been engaged in some of the movements or activities that you had to avoid completely while healing.  Consider having some lessons with an Alexander Teacher, or consulting with your PT or Massage Therapist, to develop modifications for those activities, and/or a reconditioning program.

 

Don't just do something, stand there... so you can choose and decide

(originally published 12/7/00)

The following is a quote from Walter Carrington's new book, "The Act of Living: Talks on the Alexander Technique":

"When people are asked to do something, and they go to do it, almost invariably their immediate reaction is to tense up.  That's the problem.  It is what puts people's reactions so wrong in so many cases.  It is absolutely habitual.  They tense in response to things, particularly if it's something unfamiliar or unusual or emotionally charged - particularly emotionally charged.  Now if you can make a conscious, voluntary habit of responding by inhibiting or, if you like, saying I have time - it doesn't matter how you express the thought to yourself so long as that's what you convey - you've got the time to choose and decide how you're going to carry on from there.... The essential thing about inhibition is the realization that you have the time, you have the possibility, to choose and decide."

In my lessons recently, I have noticed many of my students and I have been observing and debating the value of tension, effort, and strain in the doing of our activities.  It's not that anyone of us really advocates busting blood vessels.  Rather, it is the constant challenge of questioning what our sense of feeling may be telling us is the "proper", "necessary" amount of effort to get a thing done.  The idea suggested above - of slowing down and taking time to choose - is a tool often overlooked and underutilized because our feeling sense tells us we "must get on in with it in the way we are already going or we'll never get it done. "

To begin allowing for the possibility of taking that time, we have the Alexander lesson.  This is time we've agreed to spend practicing inhibition, and are more willing to slow down.  Then, we begin to take this tool into our lives.  At the office with ringing phones and deadlines.  At home with the hustle and bustle of family and home life.  In the heat of the moment when someone has said something that elicits a strong reaction from us...

Before we can change a thing, we have to know what the thing we want to change is.  Try this tool - saying "I have time" as breathing space to allow yourself to see more clearly what it is you are doing in order to choose what you will do.

Let me know how it goes.

 

hourglass

Just because it feels "right" doesn't mean it is...

(originally published 1/10/00)

Alexander writes in "The Use of The Self" :

"The belief is very generally held that if only we are told what to do in order to correct a wrong way of doing something, we can do it and that if we FEEL we are doing it, all is well.  All my experience, however, goes to shew that this belief is a delusion."

The first thing that occurs to me today as I read this is the idea of faulty sensory perception.  Alexander referred to this with a grand term: debauched kinesthesia.  As I come off a particularly emotionally charged 48 hours, I recall that while I was in the midst of it, I could sense that I registered a great deal more contraction in my overall musculature than I usually do.

confused

I am also left wondering about my state the rest of the time - when I don't register "more" contraction than is usual and thus don't have a sensory contrast to get my attention.  What brings me back to myself at those times? Giving an Alexander lesson or taking one is one of the things that brings me back.  And the "bringing back" is due as much to thinking and dialogue and environment as it is my kinesthetic awareness.

Alexander asserts that the belief that I'm going right if I FEEL I am is unreliable.  I have a mirror and the guidance of a teacher's hands to assist and give me another set of criteria to assess.  I have my ability to think and reason.  I am learning to use those abilities.

 

Feeling is believing - or is it?

12/27/99

In August of 1934, F. M. Alexander delivered a lecture at The Bedford Training College.  Among many amazing things he says during this talk, there are two quotes which I find most thought-provoking and exciting:

illusion

"We see people do certain things and without thinking or questioning we copy them. Don't.  Don't do it. [new paragraph] Do what I recommended everybody in the world do in my first book. That is, to sit down and think over all the beliefs and ideas they have got and find out where they came from. You would not have many left. After a week's thought, you would throw them overboard."

"You would not think that the matter of belief comes into our sphere. You have all got your ideas of what belief is.  Do you know what we have found that belief is? A certain standard of muscle tension."

The Alexander Technique works with belief systems. While it may seem like "bodywork", it is really a process for (among other things) reclaiming awareness, consciousness, and the ability to be truly in the moment, experiencing novelty.  We begin with the belief systems of sensation, such as how much muscle contraction I need to perform a certain task.

Walter Carrington on Lengthening in Stature

7/5/00

In Alexander lessons, we talk about allowing the spine to lengthen, but not doing anything muscular to make it happen.  That is why we say allow it.  

Walter Carrington writes:

"Alexander was seeking to bring about what he described in The Use of the Self as lengthening in stature.  And lengthening in stature means lengthening the whole of the body, from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head.

...So lengthening in stature means the whole lot.  When Alexander said he wanted to lengthen in stature, that was just a concept he had.  Having decided that that's what he'd like to have happen, he then had to find a way of actually making it happen.

...When thinking about lengthening in stature, it is important to remember that the postural mechanism is as much a part of the reflex apparatus as the heartbeat or the circulation or anything else.....if the mechanism is freed from interference, then of course just as the heart will beat freely, as the breathing or breath will flow unimpeded, as the digestion will work correctly, so the postural mechanism will work correctly, and the body will be poised and free and, of course, lengthening in stature.

...The basic thing is up, and up is built in."

lengthening

I learn from my students all the time

(originally published 10/05/00)

Two of my clients gave me a wonderful lesson this week.  

One, an Alexander student, is expecting her first child, and with that, she is planning to move apartments, oversee renovations on her new home and deal with the change in her energy level as her pregnancy progresses.  

The other, a coaching client, is developing her private practice in hands-on work, and balancing all the elements of her life (relationship, home environment, etc.)

taking time

As I gave each of them the same tool to use - inhibition, I saw how much it could help me in my life as well.  To my pregnant student, I suggested she observe her thoughts, see the impact they had on her energy level, and learn to choose other thoughts so she could begin to inhibit some of the exhausting thoughts.  To my coaching client, I suggested she take her life one hour at a time, and if need be, crawl one step at a time to help her to keep from anticipating the future and feeling overwhelmed or second-guessing her choices.

For myself, I observed how I look toward the weekend as a time to refresh, renew, put down the responsibilities of my business, and change gears.  What I actually do on the weekends is: go unconscious so I am not aware of how I drive myself.  This is a far cry from truly leaving the workweek and all that still is to be accomplished to wait for Monday morning.  I will start using the tool I reminded my clients about on my own behalf, too.  It may take a while to learn to really shift gears, and I'm highly motivated to master it.

Thanks again to all of you, who teach me lessons all the time.

Am I my habits?

(from the archives 3/7/01)

self image

Twice last week, I had a vivid example of how our mental processes have a physical pattern embedded in them.  Often, the way we communicate, think or project our self image to the world has a physical pattern that feel as though it matches.  However, I am finding that the physical pattern tends to have excess contraction and activity, and creates stress and tension in the body.  Giving that pattern up, we often feel that we temporarily lose our connection to the environment, those around us and even to ourselves.

I have a couple who study with me bi-weekly.  During their last lesson, I observed Greg* had a quick, energetic pattern of muscle response when I gave him verbal instructions.  I said to Greg* "You make mental connections and your mind moves very quickly, doesn't it?"  His wife vigorously nodded confirmation.   I pointed out that Greg's mental process was being mirrored in his muscles, only the physical pattern involved a lot of contraction and "grabbing on".  I worked with him to slow his body's response time down, so he could let go of the physical mirror, yet still experience his quick mind.

Mary*, during a group class, observed that she used her hands to talk, even when she was on the phone with someone.  We worked with her exploring what it was like to speak, even leaving her hands resting in her lap.  I also asked her to slow her tempo down by 10%, so she could stay more aware as she thought about what she wanted to say.  Although she felt odd, those in the class reported her speaking was much clearer, and they could comprehend the ideas she was talking about more fully.

Sometimes our habits feel like our personalities.  Levels of muscular tension are so familiar, we mistake them for our "selves".   That feeling isn't always accurate.  Perhaps when we let go, wemay come to "feel" even more like ourselves!

*Names have been changed

What is The Alexander Technique - here's how Mr. Alexander explained

When I tell people I teach the Alexander Technique, they ask questions to help them figure out which category to place it in.  "Is it like yoga?"  "Oh, that's about posture and breathing." "What kind of exercises do you teach?"

balance

I tell people the Alexander Technique is truly a mind-body method.  I can show people how their minds and their thoughts impact their bodies.  To begin, I help people observe the effect of the mind at the level of muscle tension, balance and mobility.  I can also help people see how their thinking effects them on other levels, including emotions and physiology.

Without a first hand experience (and even after one) it is often difficult for people to find the language to convey what the work is and how the Alexander Technique helps them.

Here are some of F. M. Alexander's words to help us describe the realm in which the work takes place.

In August of 1934, F. M. Alexander delivered a lecture at The Bedford Training College.  Among many amazing things he says during this talk, there are two quotes which I find most thought-provoking and exciting:

"We see people do certain things and without thinking or questioning we copy them.  Don't.  Don't do it. [new paragraph] Do what I recommended everybody in the world do in my first book.  That is, to sit down and think over all the beliefs and ideas they have got and find out where they came from.  You would not have many left.  After a week's thought, you would throw them overboard."

"You would not think that the matter of belief comes into our sphere.  You have all got your ideas of what belief is.  Do you know what we have found that belief is?  A certain standard of muscle tension."

The Alexander Technique works with belief systems.  While it may seem like "bodywork", it is really a process for (among other things) reclaiming awareness, consciousness, and the ability to be truly in the moment, experiencing novelty.  We begin with the belief systems of sensation, such as how much muscle contraction I need to perform a certain task.

 

Applied Wishful Thinking

In a talk from 1974, Walter Carrington says "... although we're thinking of moving structures, we're really not so interested in moving structures as we are in the willing and wishing behind the movement."

wish

He goes on the explain that in fairy tales, the focus is on the wishing, without concerns about how the wishing is going to carried out.

In Alexander lessons, the focus is on learning to maximize coordination and reduce excess effort and tension in muscles by thinking more clearly. You could say this skill is "applied wishful thinking".

Our voluntary actions are based on our thought process, and the decisions we are making. Our habits may include voluntary and involuntary processes. We address the voluntary component of our actions and behavior.

Alexander spent over 60 years self-experimenting and teaching his method. He taught himself and his students how to use meaningful and accurate thinking to guide action.

In lessons, I use my hands to make adjustments to my student's alignment and balance. More importantly, I teach her a methodology using thoughts, taking the form of words and concepts, to "steer" her action. I cannot take over someone's brain to change her muscle tone, but I can teach that skill. Hands-on work defines the words for my student, so that when she thinks the words outside the lesson, she can access the new, improved distribution of tone.

My father has taken lessons with me on and off for over 15 years. At one lesson I asked him to reach up for something as if he was getting a plate or glass down from a higher shelf in a cabinet. He struggled to raise his arm above his head. I saw that he had shortened the muscles at the base of his skull, effectively pulling the back of his head and his upper back in the opposite direction his hand was extending. I asking him to think of not pulling his head back and down towards the floor behind him, and he observed that his arm felt lighter and he could reach higher.

"You changed your thought and it changed your coordination" I explained.

"Are you telling me that just thinking can change me?" he challenged.

"What do you do if you are thirsty and want a glass of water? You think and you move, don't you?" I asked.

"I guess I do. I never really thought about it, but yes, I think and then I move."

"I am teaching you different thoughts that generate a different way of moving. It begins with thought, just like your habit. You don't need to micromanage every little movement when you go to get a glass of water habitually. All you need to think is 'I am thirsty' - and you don't always need to think the language or those words to know you are thirsty. Once you have decided to get a glass of water, you go through immeasurable movements, from walking to the cabinet, grasping the pull to open it, holding the glass of water, filling it with water from a faucet or a bottle, lifting, drinking, swallowing. All that happens without micromanaging each moment.

Thinking different, specific thoughts, such as those I am teaching you, helps all your actions happen with less effort and more efficiency.

The skill I am teaching you is thinking. That way of thinking is the means to change your coordination."

The idea of wishing is intended to offer a context for an easy quality in our thinking, that doesn't add performance anxiety, or a tendency to over-rely on bodily sensations.

Try this:

1. Lay down on a firm, comfortable surface with enough books under your head so that if you were standing up, your head and neck would not be leaning behind your upper back. Bend your knees so both feet are on the floor. Rest your arms at your sides palm face up or down; or bend your elbows and rest your hands, palms face down, on your lower ribs or abdomen.

2. Keeping your eyes open, look straight in front of you at the ceiling, and stay aware of your upper peripheral vision.

3. Think or say these words:

  • I am allowing my head to release away from my body, towards the wall behind the crown of my head.
  • My head continues to release off the end of my spine and my spine follows as it lengthens.
  • My knees release to the ceiling
  • My shoulders widen away from each other.

4. Think/hear the words and wish to let them happen, but do not actually "do" what the words describe with your muscles.

5. Spend five to ten minutes thinking/hearing the words in sequence. Afterwards, observe any changes in your state of being.

Visit www.alexanderlesson.com where you can donate $10 or more to download an MP3 audio file of a guided lesson.

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

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.

STUDENT

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 live when I bring my Alexander Technique tools to bear.

Sometime 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.

TEACHER

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.

TEACHER TRAINER

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.

 

 

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