Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training, hip dysplasia.

I know, I know…it’s been a long time…but lots of strange and difficult stuff has been happening in my life…and it all has been very stress inducing. And then to add to the stress…the election happened. Please see Alexander Technique teacher Mark Josefsberg’s excellent blog post on the Alexander Technique and the election here. The combination of  dealing with challenges in my personal life, and then being slammed by the election had me reeling.

Another autumn of my peripatetic Alexander Technique teacher training journey has ended. Another autumn for me these years seems to bring another fresh new medical emergency. This time I had big fight with a door frame. I lost. I dislocated and fractured my little right toe. It is so mind blowing how a fracture in such a tiny bone can wreak such havoc. This accident forced me to stop. No work nor training for awhile…then slowly I started up again…while still wearing a surgical shoe and taping my fourth and fifth toes together. My punishment: having to wear an ugly shoe. Now I’m back in some right shoes again. Phew. But still healing. I guess when I’m able to wear heels to dance some tango I’ll consider myself all better.

Let me tell you, wearing one surgical shoe and one regular shoe for ten weeks does mess you up. However I did find that I was really paying assiduous attention to my use as I was walking. So that was a plus. And now, on the advice of my podiatrist, I wear clogs in the house.

While in the middle of the broken toe recuperation something stunning happened to me in training. I have written before about being born with severe, genetic hip dysplasia. My trainer had a felicitous brainstorm: one day in class she tied a sash tightly right above the crease of my hips, making me an improvised sacroiliac belt. The backstory of this occurrence is that one of my co-trainees uses such a belt but for different reasons. My co-trainee has EDS…Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome…and this is one of the devices she uses to assist her. My trainer put two and two together, et voilà…my life changed.

With the makeshift belt on, Instantly my whole body changed. The stability of my hips allowed my neck to lengthen.  And my arms and shoulders released. I had more stability. I had more rotation in my hips when I walked. I had better balance. I had a midline. After that class I went home and ordered a real sacroiliac belt.

I wear the belt often. It provides me with a stability that I have never had ever before. And I find that when I don’t or can’t wear it, I innately mimic the use I have with it. So it is not a necessary crutch. Who would ever think that such a seemingly simple device would have such major ramifications?

Wearing the sacroiliac belt has been a great learning-about-my-body tool for me. I guess my hips have never been well in the sockets. The belt kind of mimics the big black brace I had to wear for the first two years plus of my life. It nudges my hips back in place. I’m now aware of my body in ways that I never had been. When I first started wearing it I felt that I was in proprioception overload. I wish I could describe better just how utterly important this all is for me!

So in this penultimate phase of my seemingly never-ending teacher training I experienced a great high while dealing with many lows. It’s January of 2017 and I was supposed to have certified by now. Does every trainee have a drama laden journey? Or just some of us trainees? Well…whatever…it is what it is. Here’s a quote that I came across recently: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” E.M. Forster. Great advice on every front, right? One must role with the punches. Dealing with ambiguity here…

 

Low light selfie with sacroiliac belt...

Modeling the sacroiliac belt…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

I’ve been having important lessons recently with my Alexander Technique teacher trainer Ann Rodiger, founder and director of the Balance Arts Center. The essence of the lessons: Ann is working with me so that I am able to release, lengthen and widen way up at the top of my spine. I am doing so as I have never been able to before.

You might remember that I came to the Technique because of the consequences of a genetic problem: a severe stenosis of my cervical spine. I underwent an involved neurosurgery called a laminoplasty to correct it. My spinal column is now being kept open with titanium rods and clips so that my spinal cord can never be crushed again. Danger of paralysis was averted. Cervical 3-7 had to be fused. The surgery was totally successful but of course I had a lengthy recovery period, and I was left in severe pain. Physical therapy did not relieve it. After 2 1/2 years of this pain I finally tried Alexander Technique lessons. The pain disappeared after a month or so of lessons.

And so, I wanted more and more lessons. I subsequently decided that I should train to become an Alexander Technique teacher. I am now well into my third year of training.

With the fusion comes no movement. However I do have movement above and below the fusion. In these lessons, we are working on getting me to release more consistently above cervical 3. And I am doing so like I’ve never been able to. One time, on the table, I had a visceral vision of my spine, my brain, my head. I felt like I could see inside my skull in a 3D kind of way. I found I was breathing higher up and lower down. My shoulders released along with the top of my spine. It was all so mysterious. Maybe it’s so intense for me since the rest of my cervical spine is fixed.

Recently I went to MoMA to see the exhibition Edgar Degas: A  Strange New Beauty. This title is taken from a description of Degas’ work by Mallarmé. I was remembering the “inside my head” feelings as my friend and I walked around. There was a photo taken by Degas of Mallarmé. I stood before it, transfixed. I started thinking about the hermeticism of Mallarmé’s poetry. I recently read an article in The New Yorker by Alex Ross on the difficulties of translating Mallarmé. The article is entitled Encrypted. Ross writes about reading Mallarmé: “After only one or two lines, though, you are engulfed in a fine mist, and a certain terror sets in.”

I thought…this is how I am currently feeling about my Alex Tech teacher training journey. I am engulfed in a fine mist as I undertake to make this new releasing my new habit. This all seems elusive…but it is becoming more reliable. I feel like I am accessing the encryption to my own use more and more often. Was I walking around the museum that day with much improved use of self than a few years ago? I think so. And I don’t think a certain terror has set in. That terror came in my neurosurgeon’s office when I was told my cervical spine had to be fused. And that terror is long gone.

Here’s another citation from The New Yorker article…about the difficulties of reading Mallarmé’s poetry: “…many readers have concluded that the effort is not worth it. For others, though, the difficulty of the path is justified by the unearthly beauty that hovers in the distance.” I cannot think of a better description of my Alexander Technique teacher training journey.

At the BAC, I take a pic of Bernie the skeleton's cervical spine...At the BAC, I take a pic of Bernie the skeleton’s cervical spine…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

Wow it’s almost February!

It’s really wild…but as my Alexander Technique teacher training gets smoother, and I am enjoying each and every class more and more, I have less and less desire to blog! But however…here is a post…during this mega-snowstorm weekend in NYC…such a good moment to write. And cook up a storm. And play Bach. And knit. And hang out with Doucette the cat all day long! Maybe I’m just facing another turning point in this journal.

Here’s a wonderful quote…from La femme rompue by Simone de Beauvoir. In her book she quotes the Romantic writer François René de Chateaubriand: “Le désert du passé,” a dit Chateaubriand. “The desert of the past, said Chateaubriand.” Thus…as my training processes I feel I’m moving out of the desert of my past. And I feel quite rooted in my present and I feel like I’m floating through my present. Feeling grateful and joyful. How is it that practicing the Alexander Technique engenders all that?

Big step in my training journey: the massage table I ordered arrived! And I have started to give practice lessons! Wow. It’s really happening! I’m a beginning teacher of the Alexander Technique giving practice lessons!

We have just finished reading FM Alexander’s Universal Constant in Living in training. So much to digest in this book! Here’s another great quote…FM writing about inhibition: “Inhibition is a human potentiality of the utmost value in any attempt to make changes in the human self, and my experience has convinced me that it is the potentiality most in need of development. I have found that if a pupil can inhibit his habitual reactions even moderately well when faced with unfamiliar procedures, remarkable changes in his use and functioning can be made in a very short time, changes which judged by ordinary results would seem impossible.”

I think of my own Alex Tech journey and trajectory when reading this quote, and I know I must convey this hyper-important concept to my students.

Here is Doucette the cat, demonstrating her excellent use during one of her many cat lie downs, keeping me company during the storm. I am assuming she will get to love my new table.

IMG_0001

 

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

As I walk to Alexander Technique teacher training now in this November, a soupçon of melancholy hovers around me, as I am thinking about what has transpired in my second city. Paris. Last time I was there was in January. All this awful stuff happening…in France and in our world. Of course the current situation brings me back to 9/11. And it brings me back to times when I’ve been in Paris and terrorist attacks have occurred. Alas…there is a list on Wikipedia…

But the fall foliage I see for sale on West 28th Street makes me smile…the lovely sights and smells. I must say that walking down that street to training is an aesthetic treat. Very healing and uplifting…

 

November foliage on display on West 28th Street...

 

As for what’s happening for me in training, among other things, well, it’s about “re-learning” how to walk.

I had a seminal training class recently. It started right before class with an quick observation by Ann Rodiger, my trainer. She corrected the position of my hips. And bang, all of a sudden, I understood kinesthetically my faulty habit of jutting out my hips, thereby making my head to jut out too. Finally I could feel the difference and make the correction. This after two years of previous training…wow. I was blown away! I went to the mirror to look. I kept moving from my old, faulty habit to the new, more correct position on purpose to see what I had been doing. What a change! And then we had a floor class and I managed to lengthen my spine so much that I got all teary…happy teary. Quite an emotional release for me…on all fronts.

So now when I walk I am trying to hold my hips back in the better position. It’s a start. I think about the crease above my hips, and how my hips and knees should move. I think about that my heels should hit the ground first before my toes do.That I should take smaller steps (especially if I am wearing heels omg)… I think about the top of my head going up, lengthening and widening at the very top of my spine.

I think about walking around my beloved Paris…hopefully sooner than later. Meanwhile, I’ll walk around my beloved NYC…with better use of self!

IMG_3799Practicing walking with good use, chez moi

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

You know, dear readers, that I am a die hard New York Mets fan. Even though the New York Yankees aren’t much on my radar, I am extremely fond of the old, iconic Yankee, Yogi Berra. Really, who could not love Yogi Berra? I adore his zany, philosophical sayings. His most famous one just might be “It’s dejà vu all over again.” This comment was made, as he duly noted in the little and hilarious book of his collective witticisms, The Yogi Book  “…after Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris hit back-to-back home runs for the umpteenth time.”

In a way, I find that I am in a déjà vu all over again moment, restarting this blog. I am recuperating from yet another surgery on my left leg…this one an emergency surgery…while starting training on yet a different Alexander Technique teacher training course.The same scenario has already played out: two years ago I had a surgery on my left knee and I had to take a semester off of training, and that is when I started this blog/journal about my Alexander Technique teacher training. At that time, I was obliged to take the semester off from training, and over two months off from work. When I eventually went back to training I switched to a brand new training, a very small one.

Now all that seems like ancient history. I was obliged to change teacher training courses again this past July.

I have gone from attending the smallest training in NYC, to the largest training in NYC. And as I see it, my new training is the most haimishe, empathetic and energizing training in NYC. My old training consisted of one trainer and three trainees. In the old training there was always movement…people came and went…but we were never more than three trainees at a time. I was the second year trainee and there were two first year trainees. Now I have an embarrassment of riches: plenty of company. I have many co-trainee pals at all levels of training. There is, of course, my trainer, and her staff of assistant trainers. It feels like heaven.

I did manage to attend one week of summer training before the medical emergency happened. My new training is right on the main drag of the flower district here in Manhattan, so walking to training is a sheer delight…plants, flowers, trees galore. It’s visually gorgeous. Intoxicating perfumes fill the air.

La troisième c’est la bonne. The third time is the charm, no? That’s how I’m feeling right now about my present training course. The really cool thing about this particular recovery period is that since I have two years of Alex Tech training under my belt, I’m in a much more secure place to get better really, really quickly! Well, it’s an interesting way to start my third year of Alex Tech training…but hey, that’s life. Rolling with the punches here!

Among the plants and flowers in August...

While walking down West 28th Street in August…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

I cannot stop thinking about my trip to Boston, a place I have not visited for years and years and years. I have been holding special memories of Boston for a long time. Travel, even if only a short train ride away to a different city, provides a pause that enables one to meditate on one’s life, and come back to it refreshed and deepened.  “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust. This time in Boston was a special trip for I went to my first ACGM, the Annual Conference and General Meeting for the Alexander Technique, and I wondered if I should write it up for this Alexander Technique teacher training blog of mine and I thought “why not?” It was my baptism by fire to the greater American Alexander Technique community. It was stepping out from the hothouse environment of my teacher training back in NYC. It was so intense. So much Alex Tech and hanging out crammed into four days. Boston! So much easier for me to hop over to Paris than to go to Boston! My trip started out tentatively and ended up by being totally fabulous.

First things first. I thought, if I am to go to Boston, I must visit Fenway Park. I had never been there. And so I did. So me, a fanatic New York Mets fan, well…I was a Red Sox fan for a game. Alas…the Sox lost…after blowing an 8-run lead. As a Mets fan, well I am so used to this kind of sorry thing. Sigh. I felt right at home.

Alex Tech baseball fans...

Michelle and Rena, Alex Tech baseball fans, at Fenway Park

It was so wonderful to meet up with all my Alex Tech pals! And to meet new folks…teachers and trainees alike. I enjoyed fine lessons and workshops galore. The conference allowed me to expand upon the scope of my Alex Tech experience in that I could learn from folks from different methodologies than I have been used to…from teachers who studied with Patrick Macdonald, Frank Ottiwell, at ACAT, and who were influenced by Marge Barstow. You, dear readers, know that my training has been Carrington based.  In Boston, I experienced the larger picture. My training has now been enhanced.

Hey! Shout out time! I want to do some special thank you stuff. So here’s a mille fois merci list for some folks up in Boston… To everyone I met and hung out with. To the great teachers I had lessons, small groups and workshops with. To all I talked with/texted/e-mailed to about going to the ballgame. To everyone I photographed especially to the Board who posed with such panache! To the impeccable Admin staff who made me feel at home. To my work colleagues, both in NYC and in Boston, who kept me on terra firma the whole time with texts, phone calls and in person. To the dude at Fenway who insisted on buying me a beer as it was my first trip to Fenway and because I am a Mets fan not a Yankees fan! To my trainer for especially the impromptu, revelatory touch base that was the game changer for me. The stars were aligned. A thousand thanks to everyone!

ACGM 2015

Being guided off table by Giora Pinkas, after a turn…

To the exquisiteness of the paintings at Monet and Renoir, and to the peaceful Japanese Garden at the lovely Museum of Fine Arts! To looking down at the field at Fenway, and feeling a different kind of exquisiteness and delight. Another type of dreamy green!

ACGM 2015

At Japanese Garden, Museum of Fine Arts

Meanwhile, now, back at training, I am being guided in giving ten minute turns, to my co-trainees and to my trainer. Intense, intense concentration! I feel I am bringing all that I experienced and learned to my ongoing training. I am feeling grounded and more secure in knowing how I have to proceed. I am going forward in a more sure way…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

Lulie Westfeldt is in my thoughts these days. A funny thing is happening when my trainer guides me in and out of the chair. By the way, I have to use the shortest chair of the three heights of chairs we have in Alexander Technique teacher training. When I sit down, often my heels do not touch the ground. It is harder to get up from the chair without pulling down when my heels are not touching the floor. But he wants me to continue to do this. He thinks that as I continue to inhibit and direct, and undo in this position, I will make further progress as my muscles stretch. Perhaps our reading of Lulie Westfeldt’s book has prompted him to work with me in this fashion. Remember…Lulie, who had suffered from polio as a child, and who was on FM Alexander’s first training course, found that with lessons from FM, her heel finally rested on the ground and her calf muscles developed just from FM’s working on her primary control.

Here is what Lulie wrote: “The high point in the training course for me was the change in my own individual condition . . . . I remember a cold spring morning in my rooms on Cromwell Road. My breakfast tray had just come up, and I was in my dressing gown and bedroom slippers, walking across the room to the table where the tray had been placed. Suddenly I felt a very strange sensation, not pleasant or unpleasant, but overwhelmingly strange. For a moment I did not know what had happened. Then I realized that my right heel was touching the floor. It was no longer up in the air but flat on the floor like the left one. It had not touched the floor for upwards of twenty years; shortly after the operation [at age 13] that had immobilized the right ankle, my right heel had drawn up and been unable to touch the floor. The sensation became more and more delightful. Almost at once, my balance became much more secure.” (F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work, 1998 Mouritz edition, pp. 86- 87.)

As my heel story is going on, sometimes my left heel reaches the floor but my right one does not (my pattern), and sometimes it is vice versa, but sometimes both my heels do hit the floor and then I realize that I am feeling big stretches in my calf muscles. And this is happening more and more frequently! I find that my legs are very sore indeed these days. I don’t care at all. My trainer tells me that he is finding that subtle shifts are going on in me and my balance. So I’ll take it. My primary control is getting more secure.

One night after class I was so sore that I wanted to soak in a hot bubble bath. But I was too tired…I didn’t want to fall asleep in there!

one heel off the floor

One heel coming off the floor…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

As my second year of Alexander Technique teacher training is winding down, I’ve entered a tranquil period…though I am pretty tired. I’m going through another step-up in sensory awareness appreciation, so I am exhausted and often sore…as formerly underused postural support muscles are getting a work out. I am concentrating hard. I am exhilarated! I am feeling better and better. I realize that only those who have gone through this process can fully understand the intense changes I am experiencing. It can be a solitary journey. But I hope that this journal of mine might be able to provide some insights as to what a trainee might experience along the way.

Recently one of my co-trainees decided to take ten days off. Therefore training was for only two of us…and it was so very intense. My trainer guided me through giving chair turns as I worked on my co-trainee. And…when I was working on him on the table I managed to take his head out really really well. He told me that his whole spine was lengthened. This is a big deal for me. I am so pleased with my progress. And I know I will regress at times. It doesn’t matter. It’s the end result that matters.

We are studying anatomy at the moment. One day we looked at the hips. And I was fascinated, thinking again about the fact that I was born with my hip bones totally out of the sockets. If my mother hadn’t insisted that something was wrong with me as she noticed that I was misaligned, I wouldn’t be able to walk today. Many doctors dismissed her worries but she kept insisting, and finally one doctor verified her thoughts by finding out that indeed something was very wrong with me. And so it was that I had to wear a big, black brace for the first two years of my life. I only have one photo of little me in that brace. I’ll have to go find it.

After the class my trainer asked me again about being born with my hips out of the sockets. So I told him the story again, and my co-trainee stayed to listen. You know, the body never forgets the traumas that it has undergone. I have been advised to be gentle to myself. I tend to “forget” my own story. And before I left that class my trainer said to me “well you are doing great.” Shy smile here…it’s kind of wonderful to hear something like this.

After that class I went to Trader Joe’s to stock up and happened to find some red tulips there.  I remembered how, when I was five, my mother gave one red tulip to my grandmother to bring back to me in Brooklyn. I had been staying with my grandparents while my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my youngest sister. I remember being thrilled by the beauty of that flower. Since that moment I have always loved red tulips. Needless to say I bought myself a bunch. And once again I realized that everything is intertwined and that the psycho-physical unity is an astounding one.

Red tulips...

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

“Life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think.”

Molière

Since Alexander Technique teacher training is often Sturm und Drang for me I think it best that I should really try lighten up there more often. My usual leitmotif… I do so more easily in other walks of my life. So what if Alex Tech training brings up so much stuff from one’s past…eh…whatever… I should think of training as a comedic play. Molière anyone? I think it would be great if I could make a major effort to be as light and fluffy as much as possible in training, even if I feel like being silent with seriousness. I have been accused of being too serious often enough in my life. Well, I can act the part, right? Better I should think Molière rather than Racine, right?

We finished reading FM’s Man’s Supreme Inheritance in training, and then had an impromptu discussion on the fate of the Alex Tech and if it can possibly change the world. It is so rarified…unlike yoga, for example, which is so mainstream these days. We went way over time what with talking about it all… An interesting discussion for me…as I plod along on my particular journey of this learning process. Well I am undergoing the training for me alone…I figure that I owe it to myself. Even if I were never to teach one lesson. I got to thinking…well…there are 4000-ish teachers of the AT worldwide and 200 concentrated in NYC. Will there be a market for me? I do hope that some students will find me! But…after all…as I say…I am undergoing this painstaking process because I owe it to myself to do so.

Our next up reading is Lulie Westfeldt’s F. Matthias Alexander: the Man and his Work. It’s kind of timely for my re-read of this. I have a different take on it this time around. It’s proving to be a real eye-opener. It is a very, very personal read to me. And, it does seem like she is describing the Alex Tech world of today…and not FM’s first training course. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Sad but true. As I read more of her book, I understand my training more and more.

So the latest training news is that for the rest of my second year I’m to work in giving 10-minute turns, both table and chair, to my co-trainees, while figuring out what they need from/with my hands-on. This is a nice thought. I guess it means that my sensory perception is getting more reliable.

“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

Molière

reading Molière and Lulie Westfeldt

Reading Molière and Westfeldt…

Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Teacher Training.

To balance out the challenge of reading FM Alexander’s Man’s Supreme Inheritance for Alexander Technique teacher training, I have started reading, along with it, some guilty pleasure fluffy stuff. The novel starts out with a citation, unattributed: “Un jour, j’irai vivre en théorie, parce qu’en théorie tout se passe bien…” “One day, I will live in theory, because in theory, everything goes well.” This citation really got me to thinking…that maybe one day, in theory, everything in Alexander Technique teacher training will go smoothly and well. And then I got to thinking that I can choose to decide to live in theory now.

Why is training such a roller coaster ride? Rhetorical question right? One week I feel that everything is going great, and then bang I am slammed by feeling so disheartened. A friend, who has recently certified as an Alex Tech teacher, provided me with a touchstone phrase that I believe will help me through…”you have to trust in the process.” So true! Since I do trust in the process I am deciding to live in theory immediately…not in the future. I will consider that training is always going smoothly and well…because it is working!

I just started re-reading Mallarmé as well…counterbalance to fluff? Hey, it was just the anniversary of his birth in Paris…18 March 1842. Good moment to dip in again. Will reading some symbolist poetry affect how I view my training? For sure I’m going to re-read Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard — A role of the dice will never abolish chance. 

Portrait_of_Stéphane_Mallarmé_(Manet)

Édouard Manet, Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876