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

WHAT IS THE BEST POSTURE FOR BREATHING?

 

 

Good posture is really important, but…is it more important than breathing? We think not! Breathing trumps all for us humans – it’s more important than water and food, even.

We’ll be looking at breathing, movement, and balance April 6 in my class at Balance Arts in NYC. Go here for more information and to register (keep scrolling to the bottom of the page :-).

I have alot of students who come because they know something is wrong with their breathing, and/or something is not right with their posture – but often they haven’t put those two things together.

The two biggest postural challenges to easy breathing are:

1) OVERLY SLACK/RELAXED POSTURE
This is where you don’t have enough muscle tone in your back, you slump, and your belly is pushed out. Since the primary muscle of respiration, your diaphragm, runs the circumference of the bottom of your rib cage, if your ribcage is squashed down into your belly you will have difficulty breathing. The front of your neck will be pulled down into your ribs, and it will be hard for the air to get through.

2) OVERLY RIGID STIFF POSTURE
If you are trying to lift and widen your back and shoulders to make space for breathing, you may find that this “lift” is a bit disconnected from the rest of your body and is actually really really hard to maintain; furthermore, you may be stiffening your shoulder blades which will mean your ribs can’t move at the top end of their structure and that will also impair your breathing. Your jaw will be pulled in as you lift your chest up, and this will close the airway as well.

SO WHAT’S THE RIGHT POSTURE FOR BREATHING?
The way into breathing, in my Mobilignment system, might surprise you. It starts with spatial awareness & head balance, which contribute to healthy but adaptable postural tone. Postural tone, it turns out, is much more complex and adaptable than “position” because it’s job is to manage your support in the gravitational field, which is a “whole body” activity.

Curious? Watch the video to find out more. It’s about the joy of spatial awareness, specifically regarding the presence of the hyoid bone, a small horseshoe shaped bone that is suspended in tissue in front of your trachea and behind your jaw. It’s a microcosm of your posture – too much tone relative to gravitational necessity in this area, and you can’t breath; not enough tone, and you can’t breath either.

You can have a positive influence on breathing and balance through waking up the spatial awareness of this little bone. Some of you may know more about the muscular anatomy surrounding it than I do – but knowing all that anatomy doesn’t provide the joy and ease that spatial awareness can give you :-).

I’m right in the middle of a fascinating webinar on the Alexander Technique and Science, and am beginning to understand the whole issue of “posture” in a new way. We don’t know for sure, but it’s starting to look like posture and movement may be two different, parallel systems that influence each other but are also independent of one another. The science is super complicated, so until I understand it better I won’t go into detail.

What I wonder is how does spatial awareness contribute to stable posture? And how does the Mobilignment material tap into that system, creating a harmonious, fluid relationship between support, stability, and movement?

All my life I’ve been a dancer interested in movement phenomena – and that puts me in the company of many many dance innovators who are out riding the wave of movement, a little bit ahead of science. Sometimes we are totally off in left field, but sometimes…..we are on to something, and what we know can contribute to the larger conversations around human functioning and well being.

I can only pray that this is the case with me. But if not, it’s pretty fun out here in left field. Come join me.

MOBILIGNMENT LIVE IN NYC: FIRST SATURDAY OF EACH MONTH
Next class: Saturday, April 6, 3:00 – 5:00, at Balance Arts, 151 West 30th Street, 3rd floor, $45
Register here.

ONLINE WORLDWIDE: LAST SUNDAY OF EACH MONTH
Next class: Sunday, April 28, 11 – 12:30 EST, $35
Register here.

Go here to watch the growing number of videos on Mobilignment™.

I also give private sessions in person and online. Private lessons available in single, 5, and 10 lesson packages. Go here for prices and more information.

April 3rd, 2019 • No Comments

WHERE CONFIDENCE REALLY COMES FROM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative self image is not just a cognitive or emotional issue. The physical aspects of negative self image are just starting to be recognized, but not enough, in my opinion! Nothing could be more important since it’s impossible to “get out of your body”.

You can use your body to tap into confidence instantly. Use your body, with all of it’s senses, to pay attention to your environment instead of yourself. It does help if you are on the beach! But it works even when you are not. You are instantly “allowed to take up space” that you may have been depriving yourself of.

This external focusing of attention has an interesting side effect that I’m beginning to understand better: it quiets down physicalized self-judging thoughts. The hidden part of your mind that is always trying so hard to manage your body. The minute I first bring a person’s attention to their body, I can see the tightening and confusion on a physical level.

These are the kinds of things people say when I ask them why they have come to study with me:

“My belly sticks out so I’m sucking it in.”

“I have terrible posture.”

“My back is really rounded, so I’m trying to lift it up, but I can’t breath when I do that.”

The more physical skill a person has in any particular field, these kinds of thoughts get more complex and multi-layered, and the confidence killing nature of them gets masked behind that skill. Often these things are why people come to study with me – because they are confused, anxious, and not feeling confident that they are on the right track.

Normally no one would say that they don’t have confidence in their body, but it’s implied that somehow, their body is not quite right, not as it should be. That it needs improvement. And most movement practice starts from this assumption! So the very thing that we need the most – movement – fills our nervous system with even more self-critical energy.

I think that people open up when they are allowed to move. This opening, or expansiveness, is the hallmark of confidence.

Unfortunately, most folks are unknowingly stiffening somewhere, for whatever reason. It could be conscious or unconscious. Yet, the exact moment that stiffening is perceived, I see over and over again that the person already knows how to ease up on themselves, and that in that exact moment movement occurs.

In that moment, the movement that arises is easy, confident, and freeing. The only problem is, this kind of movement can feel a bit unfamiliar, and it doesn’t match what you’ve been told you should be doing with your posture.

Without skilled guidance, you are likely to shut it down. You might experience negative self judging kind of thoughts like – “OMG my belly is sticking out” or “my shoulders are totally hunching forward now!” Even thought the movement feels good, it doesn’t match the self-image you have acquired.

Some people even feel that they are going to fall down without the familiar posture. And all of this might be happening so fast inside you that you don’t even recognize it. In my classes and lessons, you will receive skilled guidance. I will structure a space where these thoughts, and your internal physical response to them, simply are not happening. Together we create a space where you are free, yet supported, to take calculated risks in movement.

Once you have experienced this peaceful and dynamic state of being, I know you will be able to learn how to do it for yourself.

The Alexander Technique practice of awareness without judgement can be pretty radical, if this is where you come from. Honestly, I think hidden negative physicalized self-talk plays a huge role in the loss of confidence in ourselves, which then gets overly pathologized.

Then we diagnosis: I need to improve my confidence! and we start doing a million things to address that without ever getting down to the most basic level: how we experience and relate to our bodies.

Some suggestions I found on the inter-webs this morning for how to deal with negative self image and “lack of confidence”:

– fake it (basically pretend you don’t feel the way you feel)

– get off social media (implying that you should simply ignore the culture in which you live that tells you your body is ugly for whatever reason, including all the systems of oppression that consider your existence problematic like racism, agism, fat hating, fear of ability differences etc)

– talk about your butt positively, as if you liked it (I kind of like this one!)

– say affirmations in the mirror

– volunteer for a charity so you will feel good about yourself

– pretend you feel confident by smiling, sitting up straight, and looking people in the eye

None of which are going to address the root problem! Last, but not least…whew:

– Exercise/move

Well, yes. Move! But it’s your attitude towards your movement that is doing to heal you.

You can change how you move yourself. That will change everything else.

March 4th, 2019 • No Comments

THE REAL REASON THAT YOUR NECK & SHOULDERS ARE SO TIGHT

VIDEO: FREEING THE MOBILIGNMENT™ POINTS BETWEEN HEAD AND ARMS

We brace our head and arms against each other in almost every gesture we make, like brushing our teeth, striking the keys on our computer, tying our shoes. If you don’t believe me, try doing one of those things now and see what you find out.

Because our neck and shoulders are basically all of the territory between head and arms, that’s where the bracing is happening, and that’s where we get tight. Even if we have some idea of the anatomy involved, when we do pay “attention” to it, it just tends to make the tension worse. It’s a horrible cycle really. It should be called At-tension!!!!

Mobilignment™ refreshes your innate ability to pay attention to yourself with ease. It’s based on my work as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and influenced by my many years ofexperience as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher.

It’s amazing to me that many people go through 75% of their day not really paying attention to themselves at all – because they can! Our movement system carries us down the street and around the corner, up and down stairs, preventing us from running into to each other or getting run over by a car, horse, or bus, even if we are looking at our cell phone the whole time.

If this is you…please don’t jump to a negative judgement of yourself too quickly. It’s actually good news! If your movement system can take such good care of you even when you aren’t paying “at-tension,” surely there must be greater heights it can carry you to.

Mobilignment™ is a system for investigating movement that makes the best use of this intelligence. It uses spatial attention (where we are in space as a whole, and where one part of us is in relation to another) – and kinesthesia – the sense of movement internally and in space.

In my view, our neck and shoulders include all the territory between:
1) our head
and
2) our arms.

How can you make a change in the bracing between them?

It’s much easier for me to show you than to write about it. Watch the 7 minute video above to free the relationship between Mobilignment™ points for your skull and your lower arm. It feels so good, and your neck and shoulders will have no choice but to come along for the ride.

This is one example of the kind of investigations we make in Mobilignment classes. I believe that through returning to an open minded investigation of movement – larger, more basic movements like walking, running, rolling, and just moving for the pleasure of it – your movement system will return to sanity in all the small things of life, the more refined movements like those done in a yoga class, in your kitchen, at your desk.

If you are hungry for more, you can

1) Attend the worldwide class online or the live class in NYC. Classes are once a month, online the last Sunday of every month 11 – 12:30 EST; or live in NYC on the first Saturday of every month from 3 – 5 pm, and you can register here on the workshops page for the next class.

2) Go here to view more videos on Mobilignment™.

3) Try a private lesson.

Enjoy!

February 4th, 2019 • No Comments