Perfect Furniture

“Boy! I wish I had met you before I bought all my furniture,” said my new student, a high powered trial attorney suffering from back pain. “I thought I was buying really good sofas and chairs, but I realize that the headrests push my neck forward, and that the seats are too deep. They are probably perfect for really big men, my son loves them.

Also I bought a really expensive chair for my office. I could have saved a lot of money…”

“In just three Alexander Technique lessons,” she continued, “I’ve learned how to sit on my sit-bones. That takes away so much pain because I’m not collapsing backwards on my spine. I notice all the time now when I am crunching my body into unusual shapes, and I understand how to use myself better.

“Use” is a term in the Alexander Technique that refers to our choices, conscious or unconscious, about how we arrange our bodies in life. Most of us, by the time we are adults, have spent years squishing our bodies into painful positions. We seek the relief of perfect furniture, but find that even the most expensive items do not properly support our spines. Nor are they portable in our everyday lives.

The good news is that you already have a perfect and priceless piece of furniture, one that always travels with you, and can always make you feel comfortable — your skeleton. All you need is a mind that has learned how to balance your bones. The results is much less pain, and possibly big savings on furniture.

After Alexander Technique lessons, my students often prefer a $25 wooden chair from Ikea to a $1,181 Aeron chair.

Or, they learn to work standing.

Or I teach them how to lie down and work.

Try the Alexander Technique and learn how to depend on your skeleton for support, not your furniture.

 

 

 

 

 

the eleven benefits of loving kindness meditation

  1. You will sleep easily
  2. You will wake easily
  3. You will have pleasant dreams
  4. People will love you
  5. Devas (gods or angels) and animals will love you
  6. Devas will protect you
  7. External dangers, such as poisons, weapons, and fire, will not harm you
  8. Your face will be radiant
  9. Your mind will be serene
  10. You will die unconfused
  11. You will be re-born in happy realms

This is big stuff, regardless of whether you believe in angels or reincarnation.

Having good sleep, pleasant dreams, a radiant face and a serene mind, all sound pretty great to me.

Scientific research into the benefits of loving kindness (Metta) practice shore up at least a few of these claims. Researchers have found that regular loving kindness meditation can:

    • Lower stress — self perceived, behavioral and physiological.
    • Enhance immunity
    • Increase behaviors that enhance social connectedness.
    • Increase happiness

Here’s a decent popular science article with links to studies: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kripalu/loving-kindness-meditation_b_3961300.html

I’d be curious to know about the effects of loving kindness practices on sleep.

Maybe someday I’ll get back into the lab and study the effects of Metta practice on neck tension, breath, and posture.

 

Metta Meditation & Alexander Technique

Invariably, at some point during the semester, one of my MFA acting students shows up in an Alexander Technique tutorial and says, “I need to learn to meditate.”

I can’t argue with them.

It wasn’t until I learned Metta (Loving kindness)Meditation  that I developed sufficient self-compassion to look at my habits without falling into an unproductive state of shame.

It wasn’t until I began watching my thoughts in Vipassana (Insight) meditation that I gained an inkling into what it might mean to, “not do, not try, not care.”

Meditation gives me the skill to work with my thoughts. Alexander Technique takes these processes to the next step, and looks at the embodiment of thought – but that’s another essay.

For now, I want to talk about how Metta meditation can help you free your neck and expand your body.

Here’s the Metta practice:

May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm
May I be peaceful and happy
May I be healthy and strong
May I be at ease with the conditions of my life

Traditionally you direct these thoughts to yourself, then a mentor or benefactor, then a dear friend, then a neutral person, then a difficult person, and then the circle can be expanded out to all beings everywhere.

Metta creates the inner climate that allows the neck muscles to release – although please note this is my idea, and has nothing to do with traditional Alexander Technique teachings.

The Metta phrases and the Alexander Technique directions can reinforce each other when thought one after the other. For example:

Metta (M): May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm
Alexander Technique (AT): Allow my neck to be free

Isn’t neck tension the first thing that happens when we feel threatened? A free neck is almost synonymous with safety.

(M): May I be peaceful and happy
(AT): Allow my head to balance forward and up

Isn’t a poised head the physical expression of peace? I’m imagining a Buddha statue.

(M): May I be healthy and strong
(AT): Allow my back to lengthen and widen

Isn’t an open back that allows the free movement of breath and the decompression of organ systems the expression of “health?”

(M): May I be at ease with the conditions in my life
(AT): Allow my legs to release away from my hip joints, and my shoulders to expand to the sides

Isn’t physical expansion the gesture of ease?

You don’t need to say all the words in the Metta phrases. You can generate the feeling of Metta and project the Alexander Technique directions simultaneously. I encourage you to experiment.

There’s a bi-directional loop between body positions and emotions. We can create the feeling tone of safety, peace, health and ease, from the mind down and from the body up.

 

 

hone the mind body connection and discover the power of thought

Recently, someone asked me to come up with a few, “one-liners” that describe my work as an Alexander Technique Teacher.

Here’s the one that is true for me, and connects to my passion in the work:

“I help people hone the mind body connection and discover the power of thought to instantly free the body.”

However, if I’m lazy, I’ll say:

“I’m a movement coach for actors.”

Or, if I’m feeling really lazy, I say:

“I help people learn how to relax their necks.”

The latter two usually start a conversation.  Most people are secretly interested in the lives of actors, and almost everyone has neck tension!

I don’t worry about being too accurate. If we have a real conversation, I might go on to talk a bit about habit and choice, and try and tie these concepts in to who they are and what they do. For example, if I’m talking to a tango dancer who works as a computer programmer, I might discuss what it’s like to carry the habits of sitting crouched at a computer into a tango embrace. I might show them how I can help them out.

Often people will say to me, “You have such good posture, are you a Pilates teacher?”

That also gets a discussion going.

Yes We Can Sit – Comfortably on hard marble floors

Alexander Technique on the Left, Feldenkrais on the Right, yoga all around

Alexander Technique on the Left, Feldenkrais on the Right, yoga all around

Last Thursday I ventured out the the Asian Art Museum in SF to meet some friends. I didn’t know that I was going to spend an hour sitting on cold marble floors chanting, “Om Namah Shivaya.”

Luckily, I have the Alexander Technique up my sleeve. In other words, I have the secret power to make myself comfortable in any situation. My friend to my left is a Feldenkrais practitioner. He’s also sitting easily. Somatic disciplines, like the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais give you the skills to be aligned and relaxed whenever you want. All you have to do is think about it.

And yes, despite the cold, the Asian Art Museum – housed in a gorgeous Beaux Arts style building that was once the SF Main Library – is one of the best places to practice Alexander Technique in the City.

For added fun, try imitating/embodying the statues

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