The Power of How: A journal about The Alexander Technique and Movement

No such thing as excellence

 

 

I am writing this post for both teachers and learners. Both of us have been on one side or the other of that equation at some point in our lives, even if it’s only with our children.

In my experience, emphasizing excellence does not bring the desired result. It only causes over-efforting and disappointment, because it assumes that excellence is definable in some kind of standard way. It also implies, in English anyway, that there is something at the top of a hierarchy called “excellence” that everything else will be judged by. It is very linear and does not reflect the reality of learning at all.

Learning happens in for me more in starbursts, or side trips, or waterslides into giant pools of muck.

Many of us have traumas around learning, especially in trying to understand words or verbal requests. Zoom has exacerbated this because words are all we have! Many teachers also have traumas around it actually.

Have I understood what the teacher said? How do I know? Have I communicated clearly with the student? When it comes an individual’s experience of their own moving body and the words a teacher uses, there are so many possible interpretations that happen between a teacher expressing a verbal instruction, the student receiving it, and the non-verbal experience of one’s own movement, it’s kind of mind boggling.

I’m really interested in defusing that situation.

So my favorite new teaching word is, drum roll,

ORDINARY

That’s not a word you hear in dance classes right? Actually, I can’t say I’ve ever heard it in a movement class of any kind.

If you find yourself in a learning environment, try adding this word to whatever instruction you get:

– ordinary jump
– ordinary run
– ordinary stretch

If you are a teacher, try giving this word as a possible way in which your students can explore a question or activity.

I find it so refreshing. Right now, can you move your hands and arms in an ordinary way, just to see how they work? Try simple actions:

– swing

– fold joints

– unfold joints

– some bones can turn in their sockets, and some can’t. Which ones?

Notice the sensations you have as you move in ordinary ways. Don’t dance!

For me, it makes clear that there is no such thing as ordinary, which means there must be no such thing as excellent.

This is the kind of exploration I’ll be using in my upcoming class on legs. Yes, we cover alot of anatomical information, and we detail very specific locations and connections within the body. Step by step, we bring alive parts of the body that may have slipped out of your awareness long ago, or other parts that may have never consciously been combined with other parts. Yet, the capacity to do that is quite ordinary and doable, nothing special…and yet so so satisfying. I hope you will join us!

You can find out more about the workshop HERE.

WAYS TO CONNECT:

1) Want an individual course of study?
I teach classical Alexander Technique, Alexander through the lens of developmental movement, and Mobile Body Alignment™. If you would just like to meet and talk, you can book a free 15 minute consultation.

Book a single private session ONLINE or IN PERSON. In person lessons are only on Wednesdays, at Balance Arts, 151 West 30th Street and slots are limited.

Mobile Body Alignment™ addresses each specific body part and segment of our nervous system, wrapping distinct and articulate parts back into a sense of your embodied wholeness. You can use it to target specific issues in surprising ways. It’s a super fun problem solving system! We can design a course of study based on your specific issues and needs.

2) Facilitated Mastermind for online embodiment educators:
Only 2 spots left in the upcoming double value 6 month facilitated Mastermind! It’s open all varieties of embodiment educators who want to thrive physically and financially in the online space. The next group starts May 12 so book your interview soon.

3) Need to re-juvinate but still struggling financially during this dreadful pandema-recession? Check out my YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

May 9th, 2021 • No Comments

Aging, active range of motion, and strength

 

Exploring different kinds of mini-squats with a range of ages and bodies

CLICK HERE TO FOR INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER FOR THE NEXT MOBILE BODY ALIGNMENT INTENSIVE ON LEGS. ONLY 12 SPOTS AVAILABLE SO GET YOURS SOON!

Apologies – last weeks newsletter had a bad link! If anyone wants to check it out, here is the article about proprioception and how they have located a gene that is responsible for conveying proprioceptive information from the body to the brain. This information about internal movement and pressure is not only important for motor control and movement, but also for other autonomic functions like blood pressure regulation! Amazing. So what that means is if you can’t feel internal pressure in your body it contributes to high blood pressure, which is related to heart disease and other stress related conditions.

“Just appreciating all the things we can feel can invoke a sense of awe. If one of us snuck up behind you and moved a single hair, you would immediately know it,” Chesler says. “This is one of the most amazing biological machines.”

The sensory experience of mobility is a big focus of all the work that I do. I want to restore that sense to your body in all its glorious detail. The feeling is gliding and smooth, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes soothing. When it comes to aging, however it can begin to be scary because your balance is more tenuous! You may find yourself bracing and stiffening, narrowing your range of movement. This in turn can start to make you feel weak because your muscles are not moving within their full range. Research has shown that range of motion and strength are in fact intimately related.

The solution: If you get dizzy, just pause in your movement until you feel stable again. This works great if you are dancing (yes, stillness is allowed in dance class!), or walking, or doing any other kind of movement that stimulates your sense of balance.

Pausing is really different than bracing or stiffening. And if tipping off your vertical balance causes dizziness, you can find more upright ways of exploring mobility, which is going to keep you strong as well! Experimenting with mini-squats, for instance, is a great way to keep your legs strong and challenge your habitual range of motion. Can you slowly go up and down, as if you were going to sit on a chair, without ever landing your butt on it? Do it slowly – not fast, as in some fitness regimens – so that you can challenge your own habitual range of motion. You should feel a burn in your muscles, and that’s good! But you should not feel pain in your joints.

When we squat, for most of us there is a point at which our knees just…stop moving. Usually it’s a bit too early, not activating all the muscles of the legs and back as fully as possible. And then we fall into the chair. How can we counter this habit?

Here is an image of one of Mobile Body Alignment Points in your knee. Each one of these landmarks, though strongly bound by ligaments, is designed to have a little or a lot of movement potential. Not bracing one of these points against another (for instance, your tibia or lower leg against your femur, or upper leg) will keep your muscles toned, alert, working eccentrically. It actually feels great! This image is looking at a person’s right leg from the front:

 

Explore each one of these landmarks in the movement of mini-squat and standing. Explore them separately, and together. If you do, you will have woken up every muscle in your legs and many important muscles in your back. You will keep your legs strong and supple.

Enjoy!

 

 

April 24th, 2021 • No Comments

Spatial Body Awareness: Do You Really Need That Much Control?

 

 

 

Many people who have had an Alexander Technique experience remember the shock of realizing that they didn’t need to work so hard at controlling their body. I’ve had the honor of holding space for quite a few students in tears during this moment over the years.

The dancer who started to cry when her neck freed on the table and it could turn freely again.

The TV announcer with a stiff and painful neck whose anxiety disappeared when he realized that the box frame of the TV screen wasn’t actually a part of his body.

The wellness professional with complex regional pain syndrome who realized that spatial awareness of a place on her femur bone could mobilize areas of her legs and hips that were held for years because of pain.

The Alexander Technique has long proposed that we can benefit from shifting our consciousness to our “sixth sense” – proprioception. Recent discoveries about proprioception reveal just how important it is. The characteristic sense of ease and coordination that one gets in an Alexander lesson, I strongly believe, comes from connecting our felt sense of our bodies (interoception) with proprioception so that we know where we are in space as a whole and where specific parts of us are in space and in relationship to each other.

For all you dancers at heart, this is a big part of the supreme pleasure of dance. I want everyone, not just dancers, to have access to this pleasure cause it makes your day so much more fun and energizing.  Mobilignment™ is designed to be easily integrated into your life in just this way.

This month’s Mobilignment exploration has to do with simply being aware of the tips of all 10 fingers and all ten toes.  There are already 17 points in my Mobilignment™ Point system (you can watch videos about all of them here). Now I’m going for broke and adding all 10 fingers and toes to this list! The tip of each finger and each toe exists as a separate spatial and sensory source of information for us. 

Try this exploration and tell me how it goes for you. Does it bring more ease in your musculature and coordination? Does it change your breathing? Get curious. Here we go.

 

1) Rest your hands on any object without picking it up. Take the time to enjoy each separate finger in contact with this object, one finger at a time. Shift your entire hand, all at once, all then fingers, and place it in a different position on or around the object. Again, take a moment to enjoy the contact of each separate finger. After you’ve done at least 3 different positions, try picking the object up, moving it, or carrying it.

What if you could use your hands like this all day? Hint: you can. I find that when I’m doing the “all 10 fingers dance” I use my arms a lot more efficiently, my shoulders are easier, and my breathing is freer

 

2) Try the same thing with your toes in relationship to the floor. Stand in one place and take the time to notice each separate one, one at a time. I was shocked to find when I did this the first time that the middle ones just didn’t come into focus at all. I had to look at them, touch the tips, etc. But it’s gotten easier over time. After you have gone through all 10 toes, go for a walk and see what it’s like to spend walking time aware of all 10 at once, or just one at a time, or pairs.

 

What you should know is that if you have touched the tip of each finger, and each toe, with your awareness, you have touched almost every nerve in your spine! I find it makes my balance and breathing easier and my movement smoother and more pleasurable, and that I can do this quick reset in a short amount of time through out my day when needed. Please register HERE for the upcoming Mobilignment 3-hour intensive coming up on Sunday, May 23 from 1 – 4 pm Eastern. We will be exploring the roots of Mobilignment in the dermatome mapping process. Only 12 registrants allowed so register soon!

April 18th, 2021 • 3 Comments