Blog of the Week: Creating Space Between You and Your Device

Originally posted on June 23, 2015 by Imogen Ragone at imogenragone.com/blog.

Creating Space Between You and Your Device by Imogen Ragone

I was at the annual conference of the American Society for the Alexander Technique last week and a colleague* caught me texting. I was happy to see I was practicing what I preach in this instance!

I admit it. I love my devices – my iPhone, my iPad, and my computer! And I like to think my habits around using them are pretty good. I’m not permanently attached to my phone, and, from an Alexander “postural” point of view, I like to think I do pretty well most of the time.

Two things recently got me thinking, in different ways, about the space between me and my device – literally when I’m using them, and with regard to my attachment to them.

First, I was inspired by a lovely blog post by Alan Bowers, Touch and the Alexander Technique. Alan describes fingers touching the keys of a piano as they prepare to play – “There is a spatial response, an enlarged space between me and the piano, a lengthening and widening in my back.” This reminded me of a very different sort of keyboard I often have my fingers on (and in fact is the one I’m using to type this blog). Would this idea work at the computer too? I became aware of my finger tips touching the key pads and the space between the keyboard – in fact the whole computer – and me, just as Alan did at the piano. I also got a sense of an “enlarged space” and an expansiveness within me – a release from a slight contraction inward and toward the computer. While a musician has a different, and no doubt more intimate, relationship with his or her instrument than we do with our computers, the idea of being aware of the space between you and your computer is very useful, and seems to help mitigate our tendency to get “sucked into” it both mentally and physically.

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* Photograph by Lindsay Newitter.

Blog of the Week: Gokhale Method vs. Alexander Technique

Originally posted by Ariel Carson on June 15, 2015 at www.redefiningposture.com/alexander-technique-blog.

Photo by Eliot Elisofon via Tumblr

Since its publication, this story, entitled “Lost Posture: Why Some Indigenous Cultures May Not Have Back Pain”, was sent to me so many times by members of my community, a thoughtful response from my perspective as an Alexander Technique teacher seems appropriate and hopefully useful.

Ms. Gokhale’s method aims to relieve back pain by using exercises and anatomical education to restore the shape of our spines to what is widely observed in some indigenous cultures, and ancient artistic representations of the human body. From an anatomical perspective, much of her information is useful, and it’s wonderful that she’s helping and getting her message across to so many people.

The method pays attention to things like optimizing the position of your pelvis in order to avoid sitting on your tailbone. It offers tips on how to utilize your major hinge joints for easier bending. There are exercises designed to stretch the muscles of your back while sitting and sleeping, which help to decompress your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebral discs.

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Blog of the Week: My Fear of Being a Soloist, Fear of Playing from Memory

Orignially posted by Jennifer Roig-Francoli on at artoffreedom.me

I mentioned in my last post that Life keeps giving us new challenges to grow from.  My current challenge has to do with performing and memorization.

Alexander Technique Cincinnati musiciansI haven’t done much playing from memory since my early 20’s, when I was used to performing solo repertoire from memory on a regular basis. One of the reasons is the following. When I was about 22, I had a negative experience while playing a very challenging solo piece with orchestra, the Chausson Poeme, which instilled a lot of fear in me about playing from memory in public.  So it wasn’t until decades later that I began daring to play new pieces in public again. I still do it very rarely.

You might wonder what the negative experience was, so I’ll tell you:

I was performing as the soloist with the orchestra, with perhaps hundreds of people in the audience, when all of a sudden I realized that I had been playing the entire first page mindlessly, completely on automatic pilot! It was almost as if I had been unconscious and was suddenly waking up from a coma! My shock in coming back to myself was tremendous. Thankfully, I was able to keep on playing without making any mistakes, and nobody noticed. But I was so shaken and disconcerted that I could have performed such a difficult piece in such a public situation without any awareness of it at all. My mind was NOT there, and I had no idea know where it/I was!

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Blog of the Week: Alexander Technique, Stress, Posture, and Change

Originally posted by Mark Josefsberg on May 26, 2015 at markjosefsberg.com.

Human beings have the (unfortunate) ability to experience stress, with all its physical manifestations, even before a stressful event has taken place. And, just by thinking, we can re-experience the stress response months or years after a past event.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Perhaps because it’s oddly comfortable. It’s how we know who we are. It’s an addictive mind/body habit. Our bi-directional neural connections strengthen and deepen. Even our hormones get in on the act to reinforce the stress habit.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net.

Blog of the Week: A Pain in the Neck

 Originally posted May 17, 2015 by Eve Bernfeld.

9a8441_0d829afaacc2463392e159b79bb7ab74.jpg_srb_p_640_492_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srbParenting can be a challenge.  Do I win “understatement of the year” for that statement?  Is the prize chocolate?

I have a little game I have been playing with myself lately when I feel the steam about to pour out of my ears, because of a poop-covered baby writhing on the changing table, refusing to let me change him, or a child waking up yet again in the night, when I was just starting to doze, or a house so jammed with houseguests it’s hard to get from room to room:  I tell myself “I can be as frustrated (or anxious or angry or whatever) as I want, but I can’t tighten my neck.”  So I free my neck, and I no longer allow my shoulders and ears to kiss (i.e. I let my shoulders release down and my head release up) and I attempt to carry on in this fashion.  Of course the trick of the game is that it is impossible to experience that level of frustration, anxiety or anger without tightening the neck.  Free the neck and the rest will follow.

 

Blog of the Week: The Grip

Originally posted by Patrick Smith on May 11, 2015 at ajourneymanswayhome.blogspot.com.

the gripWorking with David Jernigan in an Alexander Technique session years ago, he first mentioned The Grip which is a characteristic of my right hand.  I have noticed The Grip manifest in other activities, but on the guitar this not only impedes my ability to execute but also stresses and strains muscular activity through my elbow and most likely further.  This morning I was practicing a section on the high register of the guitar, where my left hand fingers have to move about and land in a confined space.  As I breathed out and began to play this part I noticed The Grip had manifested.

Why?  How could tightening the hold on my right hand possibly improve the use of my left hand?

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Blog of the Week – Alexander Technique Exercise: Semi-supine

Originally published May 4, 2015 by Adrian Farrell

Whilst researching keywords to help my website rank well in search engines, I discovered that one of the most searched for phrases is “Alexander Technique exercises”.  This must be very frustrating for those who are doing the searching, as any Alexander Teacher will tell you, there’s no such thing as an Alexander Technique exercise! The word exercise implies something you do, and the problem is that you’ll filter any instruction through your current filter of the way you habitually move. To do something new, you effectively have to stop doing! The Alexander Technique applies to any activity, whether it’s sitting, standing, running, doing yoga, playing a musical instrument, you name it and Alexander can be applied to it. It’s more about the way that you do it, the quality you bring to it, rather than the activity itself. That said, if we swap the word “exercise” for “exploration” then we’re on the right path and I can let my professional pedantry remain intact.

Lying in semi-supine, or constructive rest.
Picture by Aron Cserveny and used with permission by Tim Soar MSTAT

So, the most common Alexander “exercise” is known as semi-supine, or constructive rest (I prefer the latter name) and essentially consists of lying down, pretty easy, eh?! The specifics are that you lie on your back with your knees raised pointing upwards (as this takes pressure off the lower back), feet flat on the floor and your head raised/supported by something firm, typically a book. If you were to stand with your back to a wall you’ll notice that your head does not actually touch the wall, and this is normal. That is why your head needs to be supported when lying down on your back as gravity naturally pulls the head back towards the floor and this puts an undue strain on your neck. We’re all different shapes and sizes which is why it’s common to use a book (or several books, but yoga blocks work nicely too) as it’s easier to find the right height of support for you with a little trial and error.  If in doubt, it’s better for the support to be a little high than too low. The reason that a cushion isn’t suitable is that it’s harder for your neck muscles to fully release as your head never feels fully supported by a soft base. Another thing to be aware of is that your head is rotated forward in relation to the neck, just as in standing and described in greater detail here.

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Blog of the Week: Good Posture Means Connecting, Not Correcting

Originally posted by Dan Cayer on April 23, 2015 at dancayerfluidmovement.com/blog.

Good Posture Means Connecting, Not CorrectingI’m not against correcting our posture or body on principle. I wish all it took to rid ourselves of chronic pain and tension was figuring the right angle or position, and tapping our body into place. It’s such a seductive offer; that we need only arrange our body and then get on with the rest of our day.

I object to correcting our posture on practical grounds; it doesn’t work. From my perspective as an Alexander Technique teacher and a person dealing with chronic pain for several years, ‘correcting’ posture tends to tie us further into a tense knot, decreasing our ability to actually enjoy our body. In this article, I’ll offer a short but powerful exercise for connecting with a natural posture.

What Correcting Usually Means

The instinctual response to pain is to fix it or push it away. As discomfort crowds our consciousness, our brain reaches for a solution: “good” posture! Or, at least our idea of it. Usually, this means we push our shoulders back and stick our chest up. On a more subtle level, we may tighten our jaw and squeeze our throat against the discomfort and fear that’s bubbling up in relation to feeling pain. When posture carries the promise of not feeling pain or uncomfortable emotions, it’s easy to try too hard and stiffen ourselves.

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Blog of the Week: Shine…

Originally posted at thebodywonderful.blogspot.co.uk by Annie Turner on April 10, 2015

You come in pain.
There’s a rigidity in your body –
A holding –
A guarding –
A suppressed panic –
Your body seems to say, “What if…?”

What if what?
“What if I’m wrong?
What if nothing will change –
And I feel like this for ever –
Or worse, it worsens…?”

“I’ve been told….”
“I’ve got to….”
“I must…”

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Blog of the Week – Stop the Busy-ness and Be More Productive Part 1: Multi-tasking versus Single-tasking

Stop the Busy-ness and Be More Productive - Multi-tasking versus Single-taskingOriginally posted March 22, 2015 by Imogen Ragone.

Most people these days are busy – VERY busy. For women in business we’re not only dealing with the many and various jobs necessary to do our work; more often than not home and family, children and parents are competing for our attention too.

The most prevalent response to this busy-ness is multitasking, which is the perfect subject for the first in a series of posts I have lined up on busy-ness and productivity.

We’ve become a multitasking society. The constant calls for our attention, not least of which come from our devices beeping and alerting us to every email, text, and message notification that comes our way, exacerbate this and further distract us from the task (or tasks!) at hand.

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Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.