The Power of How: A journal about The Alexander Technique and Movement

Spatial Body Awareness: Do You Really Need That Much Control?

 

 

 

Many people who have had an Alexander Technique experience remember the shock of realizing that they didn’t need to work so hard at controlling their body. I’ve had the honor of holding space for quite a few students in tears during this moment over the years.

The dancer who started to cry when her neck freed on the table and it could turn freely again.

The TV announcer with a stiff and painful neck whose anxiety disappeared when he realized that the box frame of the TV screen wasn’t actually a part of his body.

The wellness professional with complex regional pain syndrome who realized that spatial awareness of a place on her femur bone could mobilize areas of her legs and hips that were held for years because of pain.

The Alexander Technique has long proposed that we can benefit from shifting our consciousness to our “sixth sense” – proprioception. Recent discoveries about proprioception reveal just how important it is. The characteristic sense of ease and coordination that one gets in an Alexander lesson, I strongly believe, comes from connecting our felt sense of our bodies (interoception) with proprioception so that we know where we are in space as a whole and where specific parts of us are in space and in relationship to each other.

For all you dancers at heart, this is a big part of the supreme pleasure of dance. I want everyone, not just dancers, to have access to this pleasure cause it makes your day so much more fun and energizing.  Mobilignment™ is designed to be easily integrated into your life in just this way.

This month’s Mobilignment exploration has to do with simply being aware of the tips of all 10 fingers and all ten toes.  There are already 17 points in my Mobilignment™ Point system (you can watch videos about all of them here). Now I’m going for broke and adding all 10 fingers and toes to this list! The tip of each finger and each toe exists as a separate spatial and sensory source of information for us. 

Try this exploration and tell me how it goes for you. Does it bring more ease in your musculature and coordination? Does it change your breathing? Get curious. Here we go.

 

1) Rest your hands on any object without picking it up. Take the time to enjoy each separate finger in contact with this object, one finger at a time. Shift your entire hand, all at once, all then fingers, and place it in a different position on or around the object. Again, take a moment to enjoy the contact of each separate finger. After you’ve done at least 3 different positions, try picking the object up, moving it, or carrying it.

What if you could use your hands like this all day? Hint: you can. I find that when I’m doing the “all 10 fingers dance” I use my arms a lot more efficiently, my shoulders are easier, and my breathing is freer

 

2) Try the same thing with your toes in relationship to the floor. Stand in one place and take the time to notice each separate one, one at a time. I was shocked to find when I did this the first time that the middle ones just didn’t come into focus at all. I had to look at them, touch the tips, etc. But it’s gotten easier over time. After you have gone through all 10 toes, go for a walk and see what it’s like to spend walking time aware of all 10 at once, or just one at a time, or pairs.

 

What you should know is that if you have touched the tip of each finger, and each toe, with your awareness, you have touched almost every nerve in your spine! I find it makes my balance and breathing easier and my movement smoother and more pleasurable, and that I can do this quick reset in a short amount of time through out my day when needed. Please register HERE for the upcoming Mobilignment 3-hour intensive coming up on Sunday, May 23 from 1 – 4 pm Eastern. We will be exploring the roots of Mobilignment in the dermatome mapping process. Only 12 registrants allowed so register soon!

April 18th, 2021 • No Comments

Bending Your Knees Safely

 

 

 

Everybody wants you to strengthen your legs, butt, and back by squatting and lunging (including me! Here is an old video exhorting everyone to squat more) but no one seems to have any answers if you have tricky knees.

You may know what I mean. Your knees still “work”, but they hurt alot when you do too much. The problem is that you never know until afterwards that it was too much so what good does that do you? 

What can you do before it gets bad, or even after it gets bad and you’ve had a couple of surgeries but you still want to squat and lunge?

To me, knees are not tricky. They are fun. You can look at them from so many different angles! If you look at yourself from a different angle, you can see possibilities that you missed in the past. For most folks, Mobilignment™ Points are not the places they have been taught to concentrate on.

There are three Mobilignment™ Points in your knees:

1) Inside bottom of the femur

2) Top of the tibia

3) Top of the fibula

They are “knee neighbors” and awareness of them can make movement much more fluid, well balanced, and safe for your knees. The simple idea is to allow them to move in their full range without locking them in place, ever. We tend to lock our knees at the beginning or end of our movement. We may brace in frear at the bottom or lowest point in a squat or lunge. When coming back up into full extension of the leg, we tend to either stop the movement before we have fully extended our legs, kind of sagging into our knees and never really straightening them, or we straighten them and lock at the end of the extension motion.

Here are some images that you can use to learn more about your own idea of “knee” – I show one of them in the video but have added more for you to explore. Enjoy!

April 10th, 2021 • No Comments

Stopping is the new starting

illustration by Margaret Coote is done in pencil and shows a two-sprigged plant on the right side of the frame, with little stars in the sky behind it and a woman on the left hand side with her eyes squeezed shut and her teeth gritted, both hands pulling on one sprig of the plant shouting GROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy spring, Easter, and Passover past for all who celebrate. I personally am on a retreat this weekend titled “When life hits like a tsunami.”

This retreat is reminding me how many tsunamis I have survived. Probably you too. Some are from childhood, some are from yesterday, and some are from last year. Right now I’m thinking of my long time student Stephen Chinlund who passed away in 2020, and of the much loved wife of another student who also passed away suddenly just a few months ago.

I’m thinking of how many of us are still stumbling about, disoriented, knowing that another workshop or class is not going to change our state. So to be honest, I had a kind of empty feeling going into retreat. Which was perfect, because its Zen. Ha!

And yet, my students keep showing up for our work together. We are walking together and learning together, and growing. Maybe just a little more slowly than before, and that’s good.

It’s reminding me what it is that may have helped me survive, other than luck, that is. My love of movement, and my love of stopping, and of the relationship between the two. It’s something essential about the work I ended up “teaching”, honestly because it’s the only thing that helped me get through the eye of the needle, over and over again….

Stop, and listen with your inner ear into your heart and body, and into the world where you find yourself. Even if you have physical pain, emotional pain, brain pain from trying to analyze causes and conditions. Brain cramps! If I’m lucky enough just to be able to hold still, I can watch the cramp undo itself like a cat uncurling in the sun. I can tap into the wisdom of my body which has no words.

When you are really truly between a rock and a hard place, truly clueless after looking high and low for a solution to a problem that is screaming in your brain, heart, and body, stop. Whatever you are doing, stop. Even just for a moment.

Stopping is so confusing. It’s hard to say what it is, easier to say what it’s not… It’s not moving. It’s not trying to fix or solve. It’s not holding your breath in anticipation. It’s not getting creative… It’s not urgent, but your life may depend on it. You can’t make yourself stop, but you can get curious about what it might be.

In the Alexander Technique world, this word has special and sometimes esoteric meaning. It’s often been most clear, when I am working with another teacher, that just by their presence they help me notice something that I’m doing is not necessary. Sometimes I can stop doing it – it’s the most wonderful discovery when you find out it’s possible – and a miraculous energy starts to flow that bypasses any sense of effort.

The effort is in stopping yourself, so that something else can go through you. Even if it’s just water, blood, and air. It may carry you much further than you imagine.

April 4th, 2021 • No Comments