Blog of the Week: Mama Mechanics (For Dads and other caretakers too!)

Originally posted by Eve Bernfeld in Hike it Baby on August 20, 2015

Getting onto the trail with baby is a wonderful thing!  It’s good for everyone to get outside. Walking, or better yet, hiking, with my littles always raises my spirits and they love being outside.  But these benefits quickly evaporate if hiking with baby is uncomfortable or even painful.

eve-alexander-technique-084A5050As a certified Alexander Technique teacher, I help people learn to use their bodies better.  I think of the work as operating instructions for the human organism that help us improve our movement and posture, prevent (or recover from) pain and injury, and manage stress better.  People often come to me and want to blame their discomfort on what they do (“I spend all day at the computer, so my shoulders are rounded.” Or “I have a really heavy toddler and lifting him makes my back hurt.”).  I always try to impress upon them that it’s not what we do but how we do it that matters.  So in this blog I’m going to attempt to address the mechanics of baby wearing and strollering in a way that will help you spend your time enjoying the outdoors with your baby, rather than wishing this parenting thing didn’t hurt.

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Blog of the Week: Seeing More and Letting Go: Widening My Experience through Alexander Technique

Originally published on July 30, 2015 by Mariel Berger at www.acatnyc.org/main/blog.

[Many thanks to my Alexander Technique teacher, Witold Fitz-Simon, and my Alexander Technique Psychologist, Jane Dorlester]

Mariel at BarbesI used to believe that intense focus and concentration were the best way of being. I would spend hours practicing music, hours focusing on just one little thing. The more the world disappeared around me, the better I was supposed to be. In undergrad music school, I would walk up and down the hallways and see people in their practice spaces, for hours upon hours, directing all of their energy and attention onto one single thing. I learned that individual mastery of one instrument was the way to be. I practiced all of the time.

When I tried to look at the larger world around me, I got easily overwhelmed, scared, sad, anxious, lost, hopeless. So to cope, I would simply zoom in and ignore all the background noise, erase any thought that didn’t pertain to this one single thing. This scale. This piece.

I have realized that my coping mechanism was also what led me into deep bouts of depression, narcissism, self-absorption, and intense crying from feeling a disconnection from the world around me. Then, to alleviate my sadness, I would dive back into music in order to escape, continuing the cycle.

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Blog of the Week: I Can’t Get No…

Originally published June 15, 2015 by Ariel Carson.

Human beings have been talkin’ about dissatisfaction for a long time. The grass is always greener on the other side. And we find ourselves thinking if we can just get to the next level where we make more money, have a bigger house, snag the perfect partner, THEN we’ll be happy and satisfied.

From the somatic viewpoint of the Alexander Technique, this wanting to be in another place and time, or wanting things to be different than how they are, has strong physical correlates. When I’m in the  Zone of Dissatisfaction, my chest gets tight, and though it’s still a great song by Duncan Sheik, I’m Barely Breathing . I lose any sense of my contact with the ground or my chair, and I often stare at one point in the distance with a furrowed brow. I feel anxious, and my attention span shortens as I flit from one busy activity to the next.

When I catch myself in these moments, what offers me the greatest relief is when I can accept myself, and my circumstances just as they are in this very moment without having to change or do anything more. Byron Katie talks of Loving What Is. It may sound trite, but stay with me here.

Blog of the Week: Monitoring vs. Mindfulness

Originally posted on July 7, 2015 by Lauren Hill

ID-100201732I can’t possibly keep monitoring myself to sit up straight all day long!

I hear this a lot from new students who come in and want help with posture related issues.

If you want to work on your Posture and your Use you have to consciously think about it some of the time. There is no way around it.

But how you approach this can make a big difference.

Attitude may not be everything but it certainly plays a large role.

Recently, a man came in for several months of twice weekly lessons. At our first meeting I asked him the same question I ask every new student: “what do you want help with?”

He wanted to improve his posture. In particular, he was concerned about the rounding in his shoulders and upper back. He didn’t have any pain or discomfort. He was about 60, a consultant, decent marathoner and serious meditator.

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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