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

Aging, active range of motion, and strength

 

Exploring different kinds of mini-squats with a range of ages and bodies

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Apologies – last weeks newsletter had a bad link! If anyone wants to check it out, here is the article about proprioception and how they have located a gene that is responsible for conveying proprioceptive information from the body to the brain. This information about internal movement and pressure is not only important for motor control and movement, but also for other autonomic functions like blood pressure regulation! Amazing. So what that means is if you can’t feel internal pressure in your body it contributes to high blood pressure, which is related to heart disease and other stress related conditions.

“Just appreciating all the things we can feel can invoke a sense of awe. If one of us snuck up behind you and moved a single hair, you would immediately know it,” Chesler says. “This is one of the most amazing biological machines.”

The sensory experience of mobility is a big focus of all the work that I do. I want to restore that sense to your body in all its glorious detail. The feeling is gliding and smooth, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes soothing. When it comes to aging, however it can begin to be scary because your balance is more tenuous! You may find yourself bracing and stiffening, narrowing your range of movement. This in turn can start to make you feel weak because your muscles are not moving within their full range. Research has shown that range of motion and strength are in fact intimately related.

The solution: If you get dizzy, just pause in your movement until you feel stable again. This works great if you are dancing (yes, stillness is allowed in dance class!), or walking, or doing any other kind of movement that stimulates your sense of balance.

Pausing is really different than bracing or stiffening. And if tipping off your vertical balance causes dizziness, you can find more upright ways of exploring mobility, which is going to keep you strong as well! Experimenting with mini-squats, for instance, is a great way to keep your legs strong and challenge your habitual range of motion. Can you slowly go up and down, as if you were going to sit on a chair, without ever landing your butt on it? Do it slowly – not fast, as in some fitness regimens – so that you can challenge your own habitual range of motion. You should feel a burn in your muscles, and that’s good! But you should not feel pain in your joints.

When we squat, for most of us there is a point at which our knees just…stop moving. Usually it’s a bit too early, not activating all the muscles of the legs and back as fully as possible. And then we fall into the chair. How can we counter this habit?

Here is an image of one of Mobile Body Alignment Points in your knee. Each one of these landmarks, though strongly bound by ligaments, is designed to have a little or a lot of movement potential. Not bracing one of these points against another (for instance, your tibia or lower leg against your femur, or upper leg) will keep your muscles toned, alert, working eccentrically. It actually feels great! This image is looking at a person’s right leg from the front:

 

Explore each one of these landmarks in the movement of mini-squat and standing. Explore them separately, and together. If you do, you will have woken up every muscle in your legs and many important muscles in your back. You will keep your legs strong and supple.

Enjoy!

 

 

April 24th, 2021 • No Comments

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