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

 

 

 

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

We just had a March week-long break in Alexander Technique teacher training. And I had a few days off from work. Phew. Me, personally, I was zonked and I needed this break big-time. The weather was still pretty bad…really, really cold…snowy, icy and slushy. Tiring weather.

Well anyway, some important stuff has been transpiring in training…

Tom, my trainer, is having me to put hands-on my two other co-trainees for awhile now, in both table turns and now chair turns. They started the training together in September. Me, I’m more than half-way through my training. I work on them. They are not at the level yet to work on me. But me working on them…well this could possibly forge bonds among us. We are a tiny group…so…I don’t have many options for putting hands-on. I am so grateful for this opportunity to work on them, in other words, to work on myself, concentrate on my use of self… For me it is an exercise in concentration. I am delighted when they feel benefits from my hands-on.

From time to time, Tom is also having me put hands-on the others as he works on them, so I can get a feel what is happening with them as their turns are progressing. This is fabulous for me!

The other important thing is that I am now starting to lengthen spines by taking heads out. I practice both on my co-trainees and on Tom. You Alex Tech teachers know the drill for this: link hands under occiput, moving the hands incrementally, the hands need to come from “the outside” of the arms, from the back, from the feet, I have to concentrate on my own use of self…staying up up up, no tension in the inner arms, my back has to be back and away from my hands…while I am keeping contact with my hands on the other person’s occiput. I have to be vigilant of my own use. That is the most important thing, especially for this, well especially always! I must put hands-on with great sensitivity and care for this very important aspect of table work.

During the week off I had one of my semester lessons with Tom…and it turned out to be a two-hour session. It hit me the next day that this lesson was just wonderful…a lesson like all my other lessons yet a distinctive lesson…a lesson apart. A stellar lesson. It was a validation…a yardstick measuring the continuing reliability of my sensory perception. We worked hard. I had my lesson proper. Then I put hands-on him. For the hands-on Tom, I took his head to lengthen his spine. I do have moments when things are really going well in doing this. I have my moments of really get it, and Tom says that these moments are coming more and more often. To hear this…well…it is beyond gratifying. Then, while he was sitting in the chair, I worked on his shoulders…just like “hands on back of chair.” And then we just wound up having an impromptu talk about training, the Alex Tech, et al.

Afterwards I went a bit uptown to the Museum of Modern Art, had a wonderfully long lunch with a dear friend, and saw Rodin’s Balzac in the snow! I have always loved this statue in this space, the sculpture garden of MoMA. It seems that I have been visiting him all my life. He is such a dear friend to me! I thought that the snow became him!

Balzac in the snow

And now we are back in training…and I am on to new stuff. And it is warmer! Heat wave! Yay! Just the other day, while walking to training, well, I was pretty tired, but I did realize: “hey! it isn’t cold. What a relief!” And there was light! Daylight Savings Time had arrived. When I entered the big studio the light pouring in was exquisite.

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

It’s been freezing lately in NYC. I hear that this February is one of the coldest Februaries on record. It makes the top ten most awful list. I feel that we New Yorkers have been recently lucky in our winters…well that is…up until last winter and now. Eh. We had gotten a little spoiled. But real NYC winter stuff is back with a vengeance.

Here is what my frozen and barren little fire escape garden looked like recently:

frozen and barren garden

In the cold, I used to scurry around with my shoulders hunched and rounded over, to try to protect myself from the cold. My faulty habit. Somehow I thought that if I made myself smaller in this way I would stay warmer. Not so. Here I am, smack in the middle of my Alexander Technique teacher training, and said training has straightened me out, both literally and figuratively, in this regard. Now when I walk in the frigidness, I do not round my shoulders in. I find that if I widen my back and my shoulders, and lengthen my spine, I’m not any colder than when I’m hunching in. And, I feel a whole lot better to boot. I’m walking with more elasticity, with less pulling down of course, with more fluidity, with more up. This is all revolutionary for me.

I brought this stuff up in training, and Tom my trainer said that when we hunch in, we try to stop ourselves from feeling…either the cold…or whatever…hmmm…this statement sure is thought provoking!

You know, widening like this across the shoulders was almost scary for me, as I felt vulnerable not “protecting” my chest et al. Now, not so scary. Now this new and better habit is feeling normal-ish while my old faulty, habitual habits are feeling uncomfortable, even in the extreme cold. Too uncomfortable to do anymore. And remember, moi, je suis frileuse…me, I’m susceptible to the cold. So, I just rely on bundling up. Wearing layers: warm undershirt, thermal long shirt, long wool sweater, down vest with hood, long (hey but pretty) underwear under my jeans, wool socks, toasty boots, long down coat with hood, wool hat under the two hoods, wool gloves, wool long scarf wrapped around me. If you see this bundle of clothes, in other words, me, walking down the street, you might not be able to see it, but rest assured…I am not hunching in…well…to the best of my ability at this moment!  🙂

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

It seems to me that I am creating space in and around my heart. As I continue in my Alexander Technique teacher training, I find that my heart is opening up…

As I lengthen my spine, and as I widen and undo in my back and it gets softer, and as I undo in my chest, and my shoulders un-grip, it feels like there is more room for my heart. Wild stuff…this opening up is happening metaphorically and emotionally…as well as physically. My heart is finding more room to expand.

I find that it is easier to create heart, to be empathetic, to assume positive intent… It is easier to smile, laugh, like, love… I’m less on my guard. I’m more open. I’m easily delighted. And this is how I want to be in my life right now, and going forward, forever and forever.

I’m imagining that I’m beaming out my heartbeat to the world…

Here I am, writing this post, on this frigid winter NYC day, staying warm inside. I’m wearing shabby, comfy clothes. But I’m also wearing my grandmother’s heart charm for the first time in a long, long time. It’s a lucky charm!

with Grandma's heart charm...

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

Whenever a crawling activity comes around in Alexander Technique teacher training, I become perturbed. I cannot crawl. My knees are too damaged, and in fact, my surgically repaired knee has been tentative these days…so much so that often enough I have to prop a pillow under it when I do a lie down…I cannot get that leg into semi-supine. Hey…I guess this first blog post written for, and appearing on, this new website of mine is a look back to the torn meniscus surgery that provided me with the impetus to start writing about my training in the first place. Cool and fitting timing…this latest crawling activity and the need to examine my feelings around it…are making for a recapitulation to the very beginning of this blog.

So my co-trainees crawl. I observe them crawl. Then I do “the same” walking…

 

crawling makes me nervous...

 

Walter Carrington talks about crawling, or creeping as he calls it, in his book Personally Speaking. You can read all about how crawling in the Alexander Technique developed on pages 37-39 in the book. Here’s a passage: “Common sense indicates that people who did not learn to creep at the appropriate time can still benefit enormously by learning it properly as adults, and thus improve their co-ordination. I might add that it’s also a tremendously powerful tool in opening up the hands and shoulders.”

Well I am such a person. I never learned how to crawl. I was born with my hips out of the hip sockets, so I had to wear a big black brace for the first two years of my life to correct this congenital condition. My older cousins tell me that I would pull myself and the brace around, and that I was quite the sight…little me, with my shock of bright red hair, pulling myself around with this big, black brace. Crawling it was not. How I wish I had a photo of this! I only have one photo of me in the brace, and in it I am sitting. And now I am such a person who cannot learn to crawl, due to my wonky knees.

Do the subconscious memories of my first two years (in Brooklyn hey hey!!!) make for the agitation I feel when I watch the crawling of my co-trainees? I don’t know. I do know that I have to put this all in perspective. I know that crawling is not crucial for my personal Alexander Technique teacher development. Me, I’ll continue my explorations of all permutations of hands on back of chair…and everything else that I am able to do! 🙂

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

Recently, one evening in Alexander Technique teacher training, as I was putting hands on one of my co-trainees, who was lying semi-supine on a table, I looked through the window and saw the most beautiful crescent moon.

At this moment in my training, when I put hands on my co-trainees, I am really working on myself. I do so slowly, I take my time…I put hands on, I re-organize myself…over and over again…every step of the way. As I was going through this, I exclaimed to my co-trainee that the moon was so beguiling, and she agreed, “yes!” We were so joyous with its loveliness; it kept us company. After working on her I made sure to take a quick photo. Good thing too, for shortly thereafter, the moon disappeared behind the buildings.

The transitory apparition of the moon kind of reminded me of the how ephemeral good use is, and how we can tighten up just by having the thought of doing something. I go to lift an arm or a leg and the mere thought of doing so makes me stiffen and pull down. And so I have to take a moment to reset. I take a moment and I think up, my back going back, I undo my legs and arms, feel the floor under my feet, widen my back, have my hands come from my feet and back, without tension, especially in my upper arms, etcetera, etcetera, and then I proceed. Over and over again. Intermittent moments of tension and pulling down alternating with moments of good use. Happily, the moments of good use are coming more frequently and and with more ease…

Looking out the window at TCAT-NYC...at the crescent moon...

Looking out the window at TCAT-NYC…at the crescent moon…

 

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

My present training course, TCAT-NYC, is now officially a year old. Our second year is underway. I’m in the middle of the second year of my Alexander Technique teacher training. At this particular moment, I have found that my priorities have shifted. I am trying to have my training be a real priority in my life. I kind of feel at times that I have gone from merely training just for myself to training so that I can teach the Technique, as well as training just for myself. The fact that I will be teaching feels more concrete.

Up until now, I feel that this second year of my training has been a rocky one. My difficulties have in large part vanished. For now, at least. Now I really look forward to going to class. I am feeling a lightness of spirit as well as a lightness of body.

How did this change come to pass? I don’t know. I spent the winter break in France.

A few days before the barbarous acts took place, I stood, in the Musée du Luxembourg, in front of a a painting by Renoir, Les Filles de Paul Durand-Ruel, Marie Thérèse et Jeanne, and tears started to fall. I couldn’t stop them. For some reason my tears reminded me of the times I well up in tears in training. In training this happens from undoing; in front of the Renoir, well, I was overwhelmed by exquisite beauty and I wondered how such a thing could have been created. It seemed like an ethereal distillation of French aesthetic elegance.

I came back to NYC exhausted both mentally and physically, glad to be safe and soundly home, yet very sad and constantly teary. Traumatized. Every morning as I am sifting through the news from France, I cry. However, it would seem that I went back to training with a sense of renewal, feeling kind of centered. Go figure. Now, training has become my personal haven. I am so grateful to be able to go about this business of my life.

Je suis Charlie: it’s a refrain with many overtones, isn’t it? This slogan has nothing to do with Alexander Technique teacher training, does it? Well perhaps it does for my own, personal training…

View from the big studio at TCAT-NYC...

View from the big studio at TCAT-NYC…