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

September and October were two rough months for me in Alexander Technique teacher training. I experienced enormous emotional and physical upheavals. I’ve been truly exhausted. Is this second year of the three a turning point?

Quite suddenly, the storm abated. I feel a quiet descending. I feel calm, peaceful, and kind. I am obtaining a poise that has always alluded me. My thinking is in the process of changing. I feel it! It’s palpable! I am so lucky that I have discovered the Alexander Technique and/or it has discovered me, that I have started training to become a teacher of the Technique, and that, indeed, I am well ensconced on this extraordinary journey of self-discovery and awareness.

My lucky horse shoe hangs in my kitchen. I’ve had it for years. I think it was purchased for me, and engraved with my name, in Coney Island when I was a little girl. But I cannot be sure. Well no matter where it came from…looking at it makes me smile, and makes me believe that I have true luck!

my lucky horse shoe

my lucky horse shoe

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

Will I ever get used to this particular roller coaster ride?Yesterday in Alexander Technique teacher training I took the right leg of a co-trainee and placed it down on the table. Then I lifted it up and bent her knee to place the leg back on the table. I did it well. I did it smoothly. And right after, I promptly burst into tears. Tom, my trainer asked what the matter was, if anything was wrong. I shook my head no.

Why the tears? Moving a leg is something that for sure will become prosaic and automatic. Why was this time such an emotional release for me? Maybe because I was so thrilled that, petite me, I managed to lift so well a large leg? I cannot do so without being well set up. I just do not have the strength. I would hurt myself pretty quickly if I made an attempt with poor use of self.  So it was a real victory for me. I went to the other side and did the same thing with her left leg. It didn’t go as well as this is my weaker side. But it was okay.

I have just started reading Not to ‘Do’ — the account by Fiona Robb of her lessons with Margaret Goldie, taken while the author was in training herself, to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique. This book resonates greatly with me. Here is something Ms. Robb noted that blew me away as I am experiencing exactly this: “When she was speaking about getting out of the chair, she said that I was not to think about it–I was not to think about what the teacher was asking me to do–the key was to let it happen. I realised that I could not do this. I was anxious about it, not believing that anything would happen unless I made it happen, and disturbed on seeing how much effort I was making.”

I read this last passage out to Tom (who had lent me the book) before the class. So we had an impromptu, serious discussion about all this. Now he has said the same thing to me many, many times with different words. I have read similar statements by Walter Carrington and by Patrick Macdonald. A big click happened when I read this particular passage.  Yesterday, during my chair turns, I tried to just let it happen. I tried not to think about it. I tried to put my anxiety aside. I was pretty successful.

So all in all I had a pretty amazing class. Tom kept congratulating me. I shrugged it off (“whatever…”) as I was trying to hide how thrilled I was. So I gave him a little smile.  And then I went off to go shopping…an attempt to regularize my day. While I did my stuff, I was very conscious of trying to go up with every step I took.

after class...what I really needed for this post was a photo of me lifting a leg...sigh...

after class…what I really needed for this post was a photo of me lifting a leg…sigh…

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Our recent activity in Alexander Technique teacher training has been walking. Walking…very challenging and sobering for me…as I walk with bad use. I’ve been walking the wrong way all my life. And I’m a big walker…by nature…and in living in NYC…we New Yorkers tend to walk lots. My habitual habits: pulling down of course, a tendency to lean forward to get where I’m going…etcetera. My balance is off. When Tom my trainer walks me around the room and I manage to walk with better use (according to him…I don’t feel this yet) I am de-stabilized as I am walking in a way I am not used to. So my balance feels really off.

I was born with congenital, complete hip dysplasia: the balls of my thigh bones were completely out of the sockets. I had to wear a big black brace for two years or so to correct this. So I walked late. I didn’t crawl. Well, according to my cousins, I sort of crawled…pulled myself along with the brace, and apparently I was hilarious: tiny me, with a shock of bright red hair, messing about with the big, black brace.

I have no remembrance of this. I have only one, faded photo of me in the brace. When I do walking activities (so poorly) in training, and I try to think up, not pull down, as my knees are bending and my feet are rolling on the floor, and I am concentrating on making contact with the floor, and I am finding a balance, and I am trying not to grip, I think about all this stuff that happened to me that I don’t remember. I know that practicing walking with good use in the Alexander way will benefit me greatly in every aspect of my life, including teaching of course. But right now, ooh this is all so painful on a psychological level. Hopefully the next time walking activities come around, I will have made some progress.

pensive...thinking about finding balance...

pensive…thinking about finding balance…

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

I have been told, by Tom my trainer, about various famous teachers of the Alexander Technique who were short in stature like me. None of them were as slight as me…just to set the record straight. Well anyway I think about them as Tom and I  explore together what I need to do to successfully lift a long, heavy leg. I call these esteemed teachers up, as it were, for some moral support.

The evening of the flute playing activity for my hands-on I extended, then lifted, my co-trainee Elizabeth’s leg a few times; and then Tom’s leg a few times. My two co-trainees and my trainer are way bigger than me. So what else is new? And Tom is the most dense/hardest to move…whatever. You get the drift. So there I was…at the last try on lifting Tom’s leg…thinking forward and up, neck free, going into monkey, redirecting, hand on the ball of the foot to be lifted, other hand under the knee, redirecting, putting pressure with the hands but no gripping no gripping no gripping in the arms, redirecting, putting more pressure more pressure more pressure really pressing, redirecting, hands had to come out of the back, redirecting, hands had to be connected to each other, redirecting, hands had be be connected to my feet, redirecting, neck had to be free, redirecting, staying forward and up…when…as I was putting more and more pressure on Tom’s foot, and up into the back of his knee, all of a sudden I felt his foot sort of shift backward as I got him to stretch his leg out…ahhhh…and he said right after that “yes!!!” And so, with both of my hands continuing the pressure, I came up from monkey and lifted! I brought his leg up and got his knee bent, and placed it on the table. Smoothly. And I managed to do so because I was using myself well! My little hands were coming from my back. I was not gripping in my arms! Yay me! Okay, so that right leg of his wasn’t placed in the same way his left leg was. Who is quibbling? These details will be sorted out. How I need to take a step? Eh…no problem. That I need to start lifting as I am coming out of monkey? Eh…no problem.

So what happened that night was that I discovered a missing piece for me in this leg lifting business. I felt with my hand when his leg was stretching. That needs to happen to be successful in this manoeuvre. But of course for me to do so is to be set up well. That night I sort of was.

But in the next training session after that one I felt I hit a brick wall in the leg lifting department. So humbling! But then in the next class, it went a whole lot smoother.

And then…hiatus…my hands-on now is hands under neck, hands under head…so…I didn’t get a photo of me working on a leg! Here is a non-sequitor photo…of a hot dog cart where I walk on the way to TCAT-NYC…near to where the infamous Attack of the Skateboarder happened!

Hot dog anyone?

On the way to TCAT-NYC

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The other day I brought in a flute to play for an activity in Alexander Technique teacher training. Each day that week, my co-trainees and I, we brought in activities. Some of our collective choices of activities were: typing on a computer, bending down to pick up books, shoulder stand (not me hahaha), putting on and taking off shoes, bending down to get a drink of water from the cooler, playing violin… My activities included typing at my co-trainee’s laptop, walking around with my usual bags…my heavy carryall which at times contains my computer, and my purse. And flute playing. I decided to bring in a flute and to start playing the Bach b minor flute sonata, which I had just started to revisit. I’m playing it differently than I used to.

As my training continues, my playing improves, as I am playing with better use of self. I don’t pull down as much as I used to. But this particular activity in the training class was revelatory for me. I think because my understanding of the whole process is improving, and of course, my sensory perception is getting more reliable. I hadn’t realized that I grip in my arms when I pick up a flute. So I must think…hands on back of chair…hands connected to feet…no gripping in the arms…when I pick up a flute and start to play. I tend to shorten my spine as I tend to bring my head toward the music I’m reading as I’m playing. Meh.

I hadn’t played in a training class and it was a long time since I played in an Alexander Technique lesson. So I was a tad uncomfortable as my trainer had his hands on me as I was playing. I felt he was impeding my neck, and indeed my whole body from moving, when in fact I was pulling down and I was feeling him counterbalancing that.

What should I play for the training activity??? Why the Bach b minor of course!

What should I play for the training activity??? Why the Bach b minor of course!

This time around he had nothing to say about my breathing. He used to tell me that I gasped for air.

So…as I was playing in French Baroque inégal style, thinking in couplets, making sure my tongue was pointing downwards so that the high notes would come out well, figuring out tonguing…tu ru tu ru tu ru…diddledy diddledy for triplets, breathing well and seamlessly through my nose with my mouth opened, playing musically of course that goes without saying, phrasing nicely, stopping and re-starting when I was not happy with what was coming out, listening to the acoustics in the studio…my trainer was assisting me to stay up, widen, have my neck free. So much was happening all at the same time as I was playing. Mega-multitasking!

Kinda cool, huh? I cannot wait to play again in Alexander Technique teacher training! 🙂

And…a funny thing…when I was typing…with some hands-on by my trainer…oh…I always type out or hand write out the Ronsard Ode XVII “Mignonne, allons voir si la rose, qui ce matin avoit desclose…” when I am trying out a new fountain pen or computer keyboard…it’s my go-to text…I forgot part of the poem and was weirded out by this. But…my trainer told me something fascinating. He told me that I typed in phrases, with rhythm, as if I were thinking musically. Well I guess I was punctuating out the lines of the poem with my fingers. I guess I always do this when I type out stuff.

 

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Something completely unexpected and wild happened one evening last week in my Alexander Technique teacher training. I had a total meltdown. I could not stop crying. All of a sudden I was drowning in tears. I mean really crying, whimpering, sobbing, tears pouring down my face… Throughout our guided lie down when I took my socks off so I could wipe my eyes with a sock as I felt too paralyzed to get up to get the box of tissues; throughout my table turn, when I felt I was a crying zombie, looking up at my trainer and he looked like an impressionistic painting as the tears blurred my vision and I wanted to curl up and disappear and in fact I was curled up and all crooked on the table; throughout my chair turn when I felt I could at last inhibit and direct well despite the tears. This losing control, this undoing, was a phenomenal occurrence. I understood this, despite the despair and embarrassment I felt at completely falling apart. After the chair turn I went over to the other trainee present and apologized, while still sobbing, telling her I just could not help it. She just hugged me and comforted me. I ran out of the room to really sob and came back in and my trainer just held me and my co-trainee also had her arm around my back…this went on for awhile as I continued sobbing. I cannot know what my co-trainee was feeling as she witnessed my pain. I cannot know what it was for my trainer to work with me as I was continually crying.

And then it all abated. The angst and torment went away. Calmness. We continued on with the class by looking at some anatomy illustrations, doing an activity, reading some of Walter Carrington’s Explaining the Alexander Technique, and some hands-on work. We continued on as if nothing had happened yet everything had happened.

At a moment, after my storm had passed, I took a photo in the mirror to commemorate this profound event. I wanted to be obscured by my phone. Being shy. Hiding. But I wanted to celebrate the washing out. Look! No sign of tears:

I took this photo that evening to commemorate my undoing...I am happy to be obscured by my phone...

I took this photo that evening to commemorate my undoing…I am happy to be obscured by my phone…

I am astounded that this happened to me. How I feel about it all: well I am bone tired…but…bravissima to me! I do understand that only someone who has been through the training can understand what I am experiencing. I do understand that what I am going through might be more acute than what others undergo. I feel like I made a total breakthrough in the ongoing untangling of my dysfunctional psycho-physical self. It takes great courage to want to engender such change. One has to commit to spending mega-time and mega-energy. Of course it is all so very worth it, throughout the highs and lows, and that, dear reader, is a total but total understatement.

In the next training class I felt sheepish but happy-ish. I was tranquil. And hey, I managed to lift and extend my trainer’s (heavy for me) leg pretty well! And I managed to giggle while lifting et al. Putting it back up…well not so hot. Oh that working against gravity! Eh…whatever. I learn as much from my mistakes as from my triumphs. My trainer gave me a thumbs up at the end of the class. As we walked out together, my co-trainee told me that I my crying jag was well-timed. This made me smile so much!

As of tonight, now a week later…well…I am feeling that indeed, everything had happened!

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

I’ve been writing this blog for a year now. Pretty wild stuff. Who would have thought? Hmmm…I guess I’ll continue…

As September is coming to an end I am thinking that it has been such a weird month for me. Now that the Attack by the Skateboarder is receding from immediate memory, and as my body is mostly healing up from the surprise encounter, I can get on with the business of Alexander Technique teacher training. And work. And playing flute. With my life in general as I am living it in this moment.

I had a chance meeting with an acquaintance who is an Alex Tech teacher. She told me that, as one goes through the training, one becomes more authentic, and one feels better. This scaled down description of what happens during the three-year training really resounds with me. So very true! I’ll take it!

A (non Alex Tech) friend of mine wrote this about what he is currently meditating on: “It’s never too late to become the person you were always meant to be.” I’m adopting this as my training mantra.

The news in my hands-on learning: I am continuing exploring on how to lift up legs. Figuring how to go about it for myself…with good use of self of course…how I need to move…etcetera. My trainer (so rightly so) decided that a table should be lowered for my petite self so that I can have better leverage for such lifting. Yay! I’m thrilled! Ahhh…the small pleasures of life that seem to have such impact!

Table has my name on it!

This table has been lowered for my use!

 

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While crossing 39th Street on the way to Alexander Technique teacher training yesterday I got slammed into by a skateboarder, who, judging from the huge impact to my ankle, was traveling at great speed, and of course, against the light. Before this happened I remember glancing around, as I always do, to make sure that nobody was jumping the light. The next thing I knew was that something was hitting me with force, and I was falling toward the pavement, and two guys were stopping me from falling. The skateboarder was highly apologetic. You know, I never saw him coming. At first I couldn’t walk and had to be helped to the curb by the skateboarder dude and another guy. I couldn’t move for awhile. Then I made it over to training, where I stayed just a half an hour. My trainer dug out an ice pack and an ace bandage so I hung out on a table with that stuff glommed to my ankle while he did a directed lie down. He worked on me for a bit. And then I left. I knew I could not continue with the class and had to make it home as soon as possible.

So now I am resting and recuperating. It feels like I was slammed by a mack truck the impact was so strong. Everything hurts. Of course I am wondering how my use of self was at the time of the impact, and if my training somehow mitigated and minimized the side effects. Better balance perhaps? Of course I am worried about my poor knee, the one with the repaired meniscus. It is hurting big time.

A friend of mine let me know that he, too, experienced such a run-in and he told me that lots of rest and icing my ankle will do the trick. I am adding heat for my sore muscles. It kind of fascinates me that I am so sore all over. I must have been all twisted up in the arrested fall. Well, meanwhile, nurse Doucette the cat, purr machine extraordinaire, will be taking care of me. She’ll be so happy that I’ll be spending lots and lots of time with her.

Nurse Doucette taking a break...

Nurse Doucette taking a break…

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“The best results are gained when a pupil can disassociate himself from what is happening, as if he were standing on one side watching someone else being taught. If he can do this for a time he will find himself taking his proper part in the process, with an awareness that is quite different and greatly enhanced.” As I See It, Patrick Macdonald

Well in my case he is a she…and she is not a pupil but a teacher-trainee. And I came to this conclusion myself recently, before reading the Macdonald citation. This is how I decided to view my training going forward…as a dispassionate observer of what I am going through.

Here it is, la rentrée, the beginning of a new year of Alexander Technique teacher training. Now that I’m in my second year of the three, I am a teacher-trainee. New season, new chemical mix. My one other co-trainee, my pal, has gone. He is taking a hiatus. He will be back to visit from time to time. There are two brand new trainees. One visited us for a month; the other for a day. So, they are not strangers. It is fascinating for me to watch their first steps…their grappling essays at position of mechanical advantage aka monkey.

Now that I am in my second year, I am putting hands on, not just as an exercise, but for more “teacher-y” stuff, as my trainer says.  And as for myself, I must remember about movement–I have to take a step when guiding a person in and out of a chair, and this while not losing the connection, and while keeping myself forward and up. I must conquer my tendency to sway back when lifting my hands to place on a tall person, because when I sway back I both shorten my spine and grip in my legs. Not cool! 🙂

Monkey at TCAT from last spring...au revoir mon ami et à la prochaine...

Monkey at TCAT from last spring…au revoir mon ami et à la prochaine…

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We have now finished up the summer part of our Alexander Technique teacher training. Now…off for a few weeks…

For over a week of this summertime study I had my trainer to myself. Classes for one. Intense! Huge progress made! Great work accomplished! On the last day, along with the multiple turns and many rounds of hands-on, my trainer took me for walks around the studio, exhorting me to stay up stay up stay up, back lengthening and widening. He asked me over and over to have elasticity in my legs, not to grip, to feel the floor with my feet, etcetera, etcetera, when I was walking. My head felt like it was starting to tingle, and I got very light headed, for I was walking in a way that I had never experienced. I felt vulnerable. I felt unprotected. Exposed…yet freed up. Because…I was not hunching in my shoulders to “protect” myself. I was not crunching down my spine to look down at the ground.

So round and round the studio I went, at times assisted “up” by my trainer, at times alone. And afterwards, I found that the walking helped tremendously with my hands-on work. I guess because I brought along that newly found sense of up with me. I found I was able to direct better, that I had way better use of self. Ergo my hands-on improved big time. Just like that.

I tried to get a video clip for this post of Doucette the cat walking…she whose smooth movement I admire…but she would not cooperate. 😀