Walking backwards in high heels

Elyse Shafarman

Reflections on Tommy Thompson’s Alexander Technique Workshop for Teachers, Oakland, CA April 14, 2013

I put on my Tango shoes and walked backwards in high heels.

I wobbled without a partner’s support. My low back arched. I was conscious of the crowd of Alexander Technique teachers watching…judging.

A teacher colleague began working with me. She did exactly what I would do with my own students, what I do with myself. She talked about releasing the hip joints and finding length in my legs. Her hands softened my lumber spine as she instructed me on how to distribute weight over my supporting foot…until Tommy Thompson stopped all the busy helpfulness.

He put his hands on my head.

Not much happened.


He asked me to repeat my tango walk.

There were no wobbles.

There was no doubt.

I was smooth and fluid through my whole body.

I heard the room gasp.

This sudden grace was achieved by touching on one of the key principals of the Alexander Technique: If we free the neck and allow the head to balance without tension, breath, body and being coordinate.

This was a strong reminder of the simplicity and power of the Alexander Technique.


Who is the self that is meeting myself right now?*

Elyse Shafarman

As I go about my life, I catch myself in habitual thoughts and postures, I take out an imaginary mirror and look at myself.

Who am I right now?

Is the reflection in the mirror kind or harsh?

What if I trust that my own attention can create the same space and fluidity that flows from an Alexander Teacher’s hands? What happens if I extend a hand towards myself?

Can I be a better friend to myself?

*Inspired by working with Tommy Thompson. Alexander Technique Workshop for Teachers, Oakland, CA April 14, 2013