The second best piece of advice from a movement teacher also came from the world of yoga (Modern Western Postural Yoga). I was nearing the end of my teacher training and many of the newly hatched yoga teachers were wondering how to design a class sequence, and even really, how to practice on their own. My teacher Stephanie Snyder said, “Get on the mat and start moving.” It took me nine years to follow that advice, but it is currently the one thing that I am doing that I am most sure about.
A yoga teacher once told me, “All the yoga poses already live inside you.” I don’t know if she said this to every student, or she said it just to me, but I took it personally, and it made me feel totally empowered to practice yoga. Yoga already belonged to me, it was already alive inside of me, and learning yoga would be a practice of unlocking these secrets versus adopting something alien.
I think this was the most helpful thing a movement teacher has ever said to me.
I think about all the times when Alexander Technique teachers, in their efforts to be helpful, pointed out that I had very tight legs, or I must be a dancer because my back was so arched, or my lumbar lordosis was my “bête noire,” and I’m sure they were trying to be helpful, but all I felt was shame.
And I think about all the times that I as an Alexander Technique teacher have said, your upper back is very tight, or your ankle is rolling inward, thinking that in some way my clever diagnosis was providing the student with helpful information, but was probably causing the same shame that I felt for all my flaws that I didn’t know how to change (and maybe didn’t need to change).
I think about how I have learned to receive feedback as data and not take it personally, and how that is a big growth curve, and that being able to see things clearly without spin is so useful – but it has taken years to get there.
But still, the most helpful thing was to be told the truth: All of this goodness is already alive inside of you.
P.S. In case you are curious that yoga teacher was Dina Amsterdam and she still teaches in the SF Bay Area.
P.P.S. And, If you are student of the Alexander Technique, trust that all that freedom and ease that you taste in lessons already lives inside of you.
I whipped this out for my SFSU students. Perhaps you will find it useful.
Sometimes in Somatic study, we can feel destabilized by too much internal awareness – especially if it is negative. If you are feeling this, you are not alone. It is something that happens to everyone at one point or another. We focus too much on the feeling inside and lose sight of the whole of our being in relationship to the world.
Somatic study is relational. Our bodies, our emotions and our neurological mapping of ourself includes the space around us and other people. Scientifically this is called “peripersonal space” and “interpersonal neurobiology”. You can look it up. It’s fascinating.
But what can I do on a practical level if this is happening to me?
Expand your field of vision. Allow yourself to see off into the distance and far to the sides as if you were standing on the top of a mountain or at the beach. Letting your sight be far, free and wide will have a relaxing effect on your mood and breathing.
Look around and orient to pleasant things in your environment. Looking up at the sky is a good quick tip.
Practice sensing the space above you, behind you, to either side, below you and in front of you – kind of the way you can sense the edges of a swimming pool when you are standing in it. Do you have a favorite direction, that feels especially good to you? Indulge in that. Try sensing the space at 3 feet distance, and then expand it to the edge of the room. See how far it feels good to go. Some people go out to the edges of their perceived Universe. All of this can help take the focus off too much inner sensation.
Expanding spatial awareness will also expand your body physically – alleviating some of that unpleasant too-much sensation. Our body expression follows our attention. If we focus inward, we contract; outward we expand. In the future, if you are sensing inwards, keep some part of your awareness outward as a tether. See if you can do inner and outer at the same time, for a 50/50 awareness split.
p.s. you can also try this with hearing
p.p.s.Photo of Sky Dragon/ Sea Horse. Magical messengers are everywhere if we look. Photo by Elyse Shafarman
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British Medical Journal report on the benefits of Alexander Technique