One of the most shocking parts of a first Alexander lesson…
… is realizing that you don’t know where you are. Let me explain:
You’re in my teaching studio, standing in front of a chair, looking out the window, with me beside you. My hands are gently touching the back of your head, as my words encourage you to release your neck.
I ask you to move to sitting, continuing with gentle cues with my hands and words. It feels a little lighter and smoother than before.
We continue working, sometimes moving between sitting and standing, guided by my light hands and suggestions of what to think.
It doesn’t really seem like we’ve done very much; but as we continue, you start to feel like you are leaning forward – like really far forward, maybe even collapsing your chest.
You think this has to be wrong; but when you start to straighten yourself up, I stop you.
You want to confirm the horrible posture you are now in, so you look in the mirror on the wall beside you and are shocked at what you see.
You are standing up straighter than you thought you could. And it looks so natural, not stiff, like you imagined.
How could something that feels so wrong… look so right?
This typical experience shows us just how much we have gotten out of touch with ourselves – with the subtle details of where we are in space, in standing, and in movement.
Our back is arched when we think it is straight. We collapse our spine when we try to relax.
Our head moves forward toward our computer screen as if it could detach itself, leaving our back behind us in the chair.
Our shoulders raise up toward our ears no matter how much we try to pull them down.
Our hands grab our bag with more effort than is necessary – and we don’t even feel it.
All day, we are moving body parts further than is natural for them, compressing our spine and other joints, and using an exhausting amount of tension and effort to do simple things.
Over time, this has become so normal to us that we don’t even feel it.
We can get it back…
That is, we can make our kinesthetic experience more accurate.
In Alexander Technique lessons, you’ll get the tools needed to move with ease, to find a natural alignment, and to bring attention to the things that will best help you be successful – whether that’s lifting a box without pain, doing a yoga position you’ve been avoiding, or excelling in ways you thought were unattainable.
Your first Alexander lesson continues with more guidance in sitting and standing and some gentle movements of your legs and arms while lying on your back on a table, all paired with simple suggestions of how to think about how to use your head, back, and limbs ever more clearly. The end of the lesson might involve bringing the changes in your posture, movement, and thinking into an activity you are involved in, like walking, breathing, doing a simple gym exercise, or playing guitar.
By the end of your lesson, the changes are starting to feel more normal. And they definitely feel nice: there is a lightness in your body and a freedom in your joints; you feel taller, but without the tension you thought was necessary.
With regular lessons and practice on your own, you start to realize that you don’t have to rely on how your body feels – and fall prey to the errors in how we perceive ourselves. You learn conscious tools that you can apply to any position and any movement – to use yourself with freedom, poise, and a high level of coordination between all the parts of your body.
My path to the Alexander Technique…
My life has always been filled with activities I love: playing music, dancing, swimming, and outdoor activities of all sorts. I love to move. I love anything related to music. And I love working hard and seeing progress in things that take skill. I always felt like nothing could stand in my way.
But in college, that all changed. My knees started to hurt when I biked more than 40 miles. Then they hurt whenever I rode. I played guitar and sang in a couple bands, but then my wrists started hurting. Hurting bad. I couldn’t open jars or knead bread. I had no idea how to make things better. I felt as though I might have to give up doing everything in life that brought me joy and kept me active.
But I was lucky to have some great teachers looking out for me. Inspired by the Alexander Technique, my voice teacher asked me to think of freeing my neck and stop tensing my jaw when I sang. My voice was clearer, and, amazingly, the jaw pain that had started to bother me a few months before totally disappeared. Just gone!
For the first time, I had hope that things could change. Even more, it became clear that there wasn’t any treatment that was going to make things better. I had to change.
Professional training and education…
I entered a training course for Alexander Technique instructors and completed three years of intensive teacher training. I learned to move with ease, to use my hands without tension, and to stand taller than my ballet training had ever taught me to do.
I came out pain-free and thrilled to live my life to its fullest, knowing that I could tackle any activity with the Alexander Technique skills I had learned. I also developed the ability to convey what I learned to other people, guiding them to do everything they wanted to do with ease… and without pain.
In addition to my certification to teach the Alexander Technique by the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT), I am approved as a Training Director for Austin’s only Alexander Technique training course. I am also certified by Steven Shaw to teach the Shaw Method, an Alexander Technique-based approach to swimming and therapeutic aquatics.
I have a B.A. in Biochemistry from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I received a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University to study low back pain and occupational health. I’ve been a part of the Kinesiology faculty at Southwestern University and the University of the Incarnate Word, where I teach Motor Control, Motor Learning, and courses on current research topics in sport, physical education, and exercise. I also perform drowning prevention research at Dell Children’s Medical Center as a Research Scientist for the Trauma and Injury Research Center and in collaboration with the Injury Prevention team.
More about me out of the office…
I still love music and play guitar, mandolin, and banjo in an old-time and bluegrass band.
I still do modern dance and ballet. You can also find me Cajun and swing dancing with my husband around Austin.
I swim, canoe, and hike.
Oh… and I open jars and knead bread without thinking twice about hurting myself!
Are you ready?
Are you ready to move with freedom, stand with alignment, feel energized, yet relaxed, and have the ability to tackle any activity or skill you want?
I can show you how to regain a sense of where you are and of how to do the things you love with ease and focus.
Schedule a free online consultation to learn how.