Elizabethan Collars – from the department of wacky images

queen-62969_640And this morning, it’s all about expanding space between joints. It begins with imagining the neck surrounded by one of those big, white, pleated Elizabethan ruffle collars. Then imagine the collar un-pleating and the ruffles expanding apart like an accordion. Feel your muscles unravel around your neck and throat. Feel your head have a little space to float up away from your feet. You can place an Elizabethan ruffle around your wrists and ankles. Imagine them un-ruffling. Can you let this happen between your vertebrae? It’s not long before every joint in your body is happily un-ruffling. In my mind, this image is accompanied with a sound effect, something like “Vrrppp” but a little more melodious, like the Apple Mac chime.

Why? Images help. And it’s fun.

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient

Tip for knees

A toddler demonstrates perfect knee bending technique with a twist. This is close to Parsva Utkatasana.

A toddler demonstrates perfect knee bending technique with a twist. This is close to Parsva Utkatasana.

I wrote this tip for a student who was having difficulty with her knees in yoga. But the tip works great for sitting, climbing stairs and many other knee-bending activities.

When you begin to bend your knees in a yoga pose like Utkatasana (Chair), or Virabradasana 2 (Warrior), take a moment to change your thinking. The habit that we all have when we bend is to think about lowering ourselves down in space. We end up pressing down into our knees.

Instead, imagine your whole body moving up as you bend your knee. To avoid pushing down into the knee joint, imagine the knee swinging away from the hip and ankle joints. Thinking head and body up, and knees forward and away will leave your knees feeling more spacious.

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.


From our department of wacky images…

ganesha-161003_640During lessons, Alexander students feel the amazing sensation of letting the head float. Sometimes it’s a struggle to recapture this experience without a teacher. Images can help.

For years, I’ve been playing with directing upwards from an imaginary “head” above my head. Today at Yoga Tree, while balancing precariously in Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose), I looked up and found myself staring directly at the giant mural of Ganesha the elephant god. Suddenly, my “second head” became Ganesha’s head. Ganesha loves sweets and is so humble that he rides a tiny mouse. Best of all, he is the remover of obstacles.

As it turns out, he’s also super handy for improving coordination. When I wobbled on one leg, I instantly regained balance by directing my elephant head upwards and delicately extending my nose. My practice became light and effortless. And I was amused.

If this sounds mysterious and confusing—and you’d like to experience what it’s like to let your own head float—call your local Alexander Teacher for a lesson.

Jai Ganesha!

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.

Practice tips for better speaking voice

Many of my students have F.M. Alexander’s problem with their voice.

They prepare to speak by breathing in with a large gasping sound. The neck juts forward into a “turkey” position as the muscles of the throat and neck constrict. This habit squeezes the larynx and cuts off breath. It’s no surprise that the throat feels strained and the voice sounds weak, scratchy or even froggy. The message that’s being communicated may also be thwarted by physical tension. Listeners read body language, therefore they may “hear” tension more loudly than words.

Here are some tips to improve the sound and impact of your speech.

Practice speaking when you are in constructive rest. Observe yourself. Do you lift your chin when you prepare to speak? What happens to the muscles in your neck and throat?  It can be hard to stop these habits unless you employ F.M. Alexander’s brilliant discovery. Preparatory tension goes away when you decide not to speak!

Press pause on your decision to speak. You can tell yourself,  “No,” or, “I don’t need to speak.” Instead, focus on allowing your belly to be soft. Let your breath come and go.

Imagine the muscles in the back of the neck gathered together by a large bow tie. Imagine pulling the strings so the knot unravels and the muscles at the back of the neck lengthen.

Imagine your collarbones as the strings of a cape. The cape drapes across your back and shoulders, and includes your arms and shoulder blades. Chances are those cape strings are very tight. Imagine untying the cape strings at your collarbones. You might feel your shoulders widen, your chest expand, and your throat loosen.

Imagine a head floating above your own head. Let this head do the talking.

How does your voice sound now? How does your body feel? How is your breathing?

Be aware of your head and neck when you say, “and,” and “uh.” These are place saving words that communicate, “Don’t interrupt me. I have the floor now.” Often, these words are connected to strong tension habits. Does your voice sound better when you skip saying “uh”?

It’s fun to play around on your own, but for a more powerful improvement in your voice, book a lesson with a local Alexander Technique Teacher.

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.

May I be safe…

You can combine the thought, “Allow my neck to be free,” with the thought, “May I be safe.” If this begins a conversation with yourself about safety, look around. See things in your environment.  Feel the sensations of your feet on the floor. Remind yourself gently that, at this point in your development, muscle tension is not protective, even if it once was.

My friend, movement coach Darius Nissan Carrasquillo Sohei, said, “Remember that the nervous system craves information to know it’s safe. When you get anxious, pause and collect data in as many ways as you can: eyes, ears, fingers and toes. Even turn around a few times.”

After this brief conscious exploration of your physical and mental terrain, quietly return to the wish:  Allow my my neck to be free. Is it easier to let go of unnecessary tension in your neck?

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.

2 New Group Classes and AT + Yoga!

I’m happy to announce two group classes this summer. See below for details. I’m also  offering private yoga sessions with the Alexander Technique. Get the benefits of yoga without fear of injury!

Do you want to start yoga but fear hurting yourself? Are you an experienced practitioner, but still find nagging tension and pain in certain poses? I can support you. Experience safety and freedom all at once. Call 415-342-6255 for a free phone consultation

Upcoming Classes:

Alexander Technique and Linklater Voice with Lisa Anne Porter
Vocal Freedom and Connected Communication!
THU 7–10pm · 7/2, 7/9, 7/16, 7/23, 7/30, 8/6 · $265

Berkeley Rep School of Theatre
2025 Addison St, Berkeley CA 94704
Registration online here

This class offers an enriched experience for actors seeking vocal freedom, postural improvement, and an easy, more connected desire to communicate. Through the Alexander Technique, students learn a systematic method to relax, align, and free themselves from limiting tension habits. With a new degree of physical control and ease in place, students move more quickly and deeply into the material developed by Kristin Linklater to free the natural voice.

You’ll learn exercises that will provide a freer, deeper and fuller breath connection, and will allow you to reveal thoughts and feelings, rather than portraying them.

Do I need to be an actor to take the class?

No. Although this class is designed for actors, it will benefit all who wish to discover the keys to powerful communication and authentic voice.


Natural Movement, Voice Production, Creativity!
Alexander Technique at Studio A.C.T.
Mondays and Wednesdays · 6:30-8pm · 7/20 – 8/26 (10 sessions) · $305

Studio A.C.T.
30 Grant Avenue 7th floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
Registration online here

The Alexander Technique is among the most widely practiced performance-related techniques in the world. The technique positively affects body alignment, efficiency of movement, and redistribution of tension. This course is suitable for students of all levels of experience.

You will learn how to recognize and undo habits of muscular tension that get in the way of natural movement, voice production, and creativity.

You will learn how to become more deeply present in yourself and in the world by accessing your innate power and flexibility.

You may feel relaxed in this new state of mindfulness.

You may also find the technique useful in improving posture, freeing voice and deepening your understanding of the human body.

Alexander Technique is the perfect companion to any other Studio A.C.T. course and to your life. Contact me with any questions: elyse@bodyproject.us

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.