On Savoring

Every once in a while, I listen to a podcast that hits me at the right moment with important knowledge. Usually, it’s stuff that I already know, but it’s phrased in a way that feels fresh, important and relatable. I can effortlessly take it in and put it to practice. This two-part series on Savoring, on Hidden Brain, was one of those.

Everyone knows that the mind is a sticky magnet for troubles and silky Teflon to pleasures. There are clear survival benefits to paying attention to what might go wrong, but the tax on daily happiness is high when that is all you know to do.

This is relevant to the study of Alexander Technique. A student commented, “Pain is the great motivator. I would never practice if pain did not prompt me.” But sometimes, all we focus on is the pain. We forget to notice the threads and thrums of not-wrong. Finding effortlessness might be as much a matter of tapping into existing currents of ease as banishing the effort.

Banishing any part of the self often does no good. Buddha invited the demon Mara to tea. In Richard Schwartz’, “No Bad Parts,” which is a lay person’s primer on Internal Family Systems Therapy, we are guided to open a dialogue with all the parts of ourselves that we revile and exile.

Using “No Bad Parts” as a writing prompt, I’ve met my Sad Sack personae. This part fears satisfaction, because the status quo might, in fact be complacency. But always seeking more – while in theory admirable, has led to an inner whine of complaining anxiety – which sometimes seeps out in ways I’m not proud off. But after dialoging with Sad Sack, I see that internal mauve voice is not a vice but a very young part, hoping against all hope, that I might grow up to be an artist, or at least an interesting person.

Seeing all this, has led to an urgent but easy practice of extracting pleasure from the dailies. The art in life does not always come from dissatisfaction, but who can forget Martha Graham’s queer divine dissatisfaction? That’s also here all the time in true and powerful urgency. Gratitude gets more of a bite when we consider impermanence, and how wrong things can go. That can be enough to spur deep appreciation for everything that is not wrong.

My beautiful cats are so silky and healthy, but just 9 months ago, Suki was recovering from emergency surgery and might have died. I rejoice in their soft furry selves. Oh kitties, how I love you.

The days when the air quality is perfect and I can breathe deep fresh lungful’s with no fear. It’s all so good.

That my body lets me dance, rather marvelously often…so good.

The authors of the podcast write:
“Sorrows have a way of finding us, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Joys, on the other hand, are often harder to notice and appreciate. This week, we continue our conversation with psychologist Fred Bryant about the science of savoring, and how to make the most of the good things in our lives.”

I encourage you to take a listen.

Beating Anxiety With Self-Talk: A Cheat-Sheet, Guest Blog by Caitlin Margaret

Think back to the last time you were anxious.

Do you remember the conversation you were having with yourself before the anxiety hit?

Probably not. Most likely, you can only remember how you felt. The fear. The panic. The worry.

And that’s normal. We can get so overwhelmed by the feelings that anxiety brings on that we don’t pay any attention to what we’re saying to ourselves in the moment.

In an earlier post, we talked about the importance of tackling anxiety from every angle. And how we talk to ourselves is a big factor in that equation.

In this post, I want to help you identify your negative self-talk patterns and offer a proven way to help you flip that internal script around and lower your anxiety as a result. When you’re done reading, download your self-talk cheat sheet to beat anxiety and write your own personalized script.

Dealing with Anxiety: What were you thinking?

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of my clients is identifying the negative thoughts that race through their minds when they’re anxious.

Many of them are so used to their own self-abusive chatter—“What’s wrong with you?” “How are you going to screw this one up?”—that they’re not even aware of it or how it’s fueling their anxiety, making it next to impossible to manage.

Ask yourself this: In most situations, but especially stressful ones, do you tend to turn on yourself? Do you find yourself saying things like, “Ugh, What’s my problem?” or start making a mental list of  all the ways that you could fail?

That, my friends, is negative self-talk.

It’s the damaging thoughts to ourselves about ourselves. And these anti-pep talks feed anxiety.

But there are proven practices for overcoming these thought patterns, most notably, those derived from cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology

The primary principle of these practices is that our thoughts lead to our feelings. And those feelings lead to our behaviors.

Try this … close your eyes and say to yourself “I am stupid and ugly.”

How do you feel physically? Do you feel tightness in your chest? Or sick to your stomach? Do you feel small? Drained?

How about emotionally?

Do you feel a little beat up? Hopeless? Depressed?

What actions would you take if you were faced with a stressful situation right now? Would how you feel make you more likely to retreat or react defensively?

Now, close your eyes, and this time tell yourself, “I am beautiful on the inside and outside.”

Now how do you feel? Does your body feel lighter and more energized? Are you happier and less anxious? How would you handle that stressful situation now?

Thoughts drive feelings and actions … and anxiety

With the exception of some basic reflexes, our thoughts precede our feelings and actions, and influence both.

The thoughts we have are based on how we’re taught perceive our world. In any given situation, what we’re thinking about what’s happening is determined by the conclusions we’ve drawn from our experiences over the years.

These conclusions have been drawn mostly in our subconscious mind, so many times we’re not even aware of them. As a matter of fact, throughout the day our brain is acting on hundreds of unconscious thoughts before our conscious mind even catches on.

For example, an abused or neglected child will have significantly different thoughts about family life from a child raised with love and respect.

And his negative thoughts about his family—that he’s not loved or valued—will likely lead to feelings of anxiety or depression when he thinks about starting a family of his own.

But the person raised in a loving home will probably feel connected and appreciated when thoughts about family come up.

Constructive Self-talk Decreases Anxiety

So how do you fight back against your own negative thoughts when they’re often so deeply ingrained? Well, here’s the good news: Negative self-talk is just a habit. All thinking patterns are, really. And all habits can be broken.

You can start training your mind to overcome these thoughts by identifying each one and transforming it into a constructive, uplifting statement. This constructive self-talk becomes your new habit, replacing that old, broken record of your damaging inner dialog.

Now, keep in mind we’re using the word “constructive” here, and not “positive.” It can be hard to truly buy into “positivity” when you’re feeling down. This should be an authentic experience that rings true to you. You can’t fool yourself, after all.

Constructive self-talk isn’t about being constantly cheerful and ignoring reality. It just means that you actively choose to quiet that inner critic and replace it with empowering thoughts that are more based in reality.

So, how does it work? It’s all about neuroplasticity.

Each time you have a repeated experience, like your daily drive to work, you deepen the neural grooves in your brain that help you remember it. Eventually, you don’t even think about the ride anymore, you just automatically know how to get there.

Let’s say one day you start taking a new route. Now you’re creating new neural pathways to embed those directions in your brain. And the more those neurons fire and communicate, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Pretty soon, driving that route is second nature.

Breaking negative thought patterns works the same way. If, instead of telling yourself you’re going to bomb before a presentation, you remind yourself that you’re qualified to speak on the topic and providing value to your audience, you’ll soon be more inclined to approach the podium with more confidence.

This neuroplasticity allows for the reprogramming of our brains  to naturally gravitate to more compassionate self-talk over time.

And research shows constructive self-talk can boost your confidence and greatly reduce your stress levels and anxiety.

And the benefits don’t end there. Change your negative thought patterns and you’ll also see:

  • A longer, healthier life
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Less colds
  • Increased psychological and physical well-being
  • Improved cardiovascular health

It takes three to four weeks of daily practice to form a new habit to get your brain to make the switch over to more constructive thought patterns. I want to help you take the first step.

The cheat sheet I’ve shared here takes you through the exact process that has helped hundreds of my clients turn their negative thoughts on their head to create loving and constructive self-talk and overcoming their anxiety once and for all.

Once you’ve created your personalized script, habit-ize it baby! Ingrain that sucker. Keep it with you throughout the day. Put a copy in your wallet. Write it on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Record it on your phone.

Then read it at least three times a day. Listen to it on your way to work. Let it be your support when you’re faced with a stressful situation.

The more you repeat it, the more you’ll deepen those shiny new neural grooves in your brain. Until one day your brain is teaming with constructive statements, and there’s no room left for anxiety—which will lead to a big boost in confidence.

Download your cheatsheet now!

About the author:
Caitlin Margaret is a Holistic Life Coach, empowering men and women around the world to naturally heal their anxiety, turn their professional dreams into reality, and design vibrant and meaningful lives

relax your face, elevate your mood

Allow my forehead to smooth down towards my brows
Allow my temples to relax and widen
Allow my eyes to soften and float
Allow my cheek bones to widen
Allow my nose to relax
Allow my inner ears to soften inward
Allow my lips to be easy
Allow my tongue to be easy
Allow my teeth and gums to relax
Allow my jaw to float (mentally see the jaw as a limb, distinct from the head, and imagine you have taken yours off)
Imagine a smile

These phrases help release facial tension. Sometimes, I just say to myself,

All of me

If you like, you might try recording this for yourself and listening to it from time to time. If you do tape it, pause a bit between each line so you have a chance to think about what each line means. Send the messages for peace and ease, but don’t feel you need to make anything happen. In Alexander Technique lessons you learn how to hone the mind body connection, but anyone can get a start by the simple and powerful act of thinking into the body.

We know from studies of psychophysiology that tension in the face is correlated with mental/emotional stress, and a relaxed face correlates with a state of ease and happiness. In fact, there’s even evidence that there is a causal relationship between putting on a smile and a boost in mood. I’m certainly not suggesting that you fake your way through the holiday season (there’s also evidence that repressing emotions may result in lowered memory retention), but I offer these phrases as a way to systematically gain more control over chronic facial tension.

Happy Holidays!

Body Project Blog ~ Where thought is the active ingredient, by Elyse Shafarman


Building resilience with loving kindness meditation


Body Project Blog, Where Thought is the Active Ingredient, by Elyse Shafarman

The Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving Kindness) can nourish, strengthen and energize you during difficult times.

In the Alexander technique we use directional thoughts to expand and open the body (Neck to be free, to allow my head to move forward and up, to allow my back to lengthen and widen…etc). These directions can be viewed as a physical embodiment of the energy of Metta. I’ve written more about this here:


To practice Metta let your mind descend into your heart. Repeat the following four phrases to your self. Imagine radiating the messages from your heart through your whole body. Observe the physical manifestations of these thoughts. Allow the phrases to become personal. If an image or sense memory comes up go with that.

  • May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm (neck to be free)
  • May I be peaceful and happy (head floating up)
  • May I be healthy and strong (back lengthening and widening)
  • May I navigate the world with skill. May I take care of myself with skill. (Arms and Legs release away from torso)

Note that these phrases are wishes not affirmations. Insisting that you are safe in a dangerous world might bring up disbelief. If negative feelings are triggered, that’s also normal. You can either note the emotions and return to the phrases, or apply R.A.I.N. That is (R = recognize what is going on and name it. A = allow the emotions to be without amplifying or suppressing. I = investigate the story lines around the emotions. N = nurture your self and non-identify.)

It’s very beneficial to spend a long time practicing loving kindness directed towards your self – something our culture does not encourage. Self compassion is often confused with narcissism. You may also send the loving kindness energy to a mentor, a friend, an acquaintance and a difficult person (don’t start with your biggest enemy, choose someone who is mildly annoying at first), and then expand the loving kindness to all beings everywhere.

If you enjoyed the practices, some other names to look for are Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodrun and Tara Brach among many many others. Or, find an Alexander Technique teacher in your area, and experience what it’s like to move in the world with more energy, resilience and strength.

“Releasing tensions is like swatting flies, there are always more.” – Barbara Conable


Body Project Blog – Where thought is the Active Ingredient – by Elyse Shafarman

What do you do when you notice that you have tense shoulders? “I try to relax,” would be a respectable answer. Too bad that works so poorly. First, relaxation is a skilled activity. Trying to relax for all but the practiced yogi, usually invokes more tension. Second, muscles can’t let go until the body is supported. This applies to both mechanical and emotional situations.

If you lean very far backwards, you won’t be able to let go of the muscles in the front of your body until you choose to fall backwards. Try it. With skill, you might be able to release accessory muscles in the jaw and face that are working overtime. You might be able to lean riskily off center – imagine a dance or acrobatic move – with a certain degree of grace, but this will require all kinds of skilled muscle engagements. What if leaning backwards (or forwards) is your daily postural habit? You might try every strategy in the book to let go of the muscles that are secretly preventing falling, but nothing will work until you bring your bones back into mechanical balance. Then you might have the surprising sensation of effortless movement that so many Alexander students experience.

FM Alexander called this balance “mechanical advantage”. Mechanical advantage is not a position. It’s better understood as a series of counterbalances between all the parts of the body. The head goes a little forward and up, as the neck and spine go a little back and up, and so on, as our bits balance in perpetual motion around our vertical axis.

How do you get into mechanical advantage, especially if you notice you are crunching forward at your desk?

First, stop what you are doing and make observations. Where is your head in relationship to your shoulders, back, neck, pelvis, the ceiling and the floor? Where would you like it to be? Make a gesture with your hand showing where you’d like your different parts to go. Was it in an up-and-out sort of gesture? Before moving out of the crunch, use the Alexander Technique Directions: Let your neck be free, direct your head forward and up. Direct your back to lengthen and widen. Direct your shoulders apart and your knees away.

If those Directions didn’t make sense, you would not be alone. Unfortunately, the Directions don’t specify the oppositions necessary to come into mechanical balance. It may be a good idea to change the wording of Alexander’s canonical Directions, but that’s a subject for a different essay. For here, it’s important to say that most people need an Alexander Technique teacher’s touch to give meaning to the Directions. Trickily, Directional movement comes from non-doing versus doing. This reverse perspective takes practice and objective feedback, and is usually learned intuitively in response to the gentle guidance of an Alexander teacher’s hands.

But what if your tension is not just a problem of mechanical balance? What if you hold because you are frustrated or anxious? It might be futile to physically balance your body without addressing the causal conditions. Or, it might work! There is a bi-directional link between emotions and body state. Sometimes students experience a lightening of mood after lessons even though emotions were never discussed. Still, if our goal is a higher level of conscious choice and control, working only through the body is not enough.

Many of my M.F.A. acting students ask, “How do I play anger without tensing my throat?” Is the emotion of anger physiologically hard wired to a tight throat in the way that happiness, upturned lips and sparkling eyes are linked? Or is the tight throat a strategy to hold back expressing anger? I think the latter. What’s it like to feel anger without blocking the feelings with muscle tension? Does the anger pass more freely, or as we fear, does it escalate into behaviors that we later regret? Learning to feel freely, but still make choices about behavior can broaden your inner emotional palette and guide you into emotionally intelligent behavior. For actors, this gives rise to richer performances that don’t break the physical body.

Here’s a short activity to help you correlate the connection between muscle tension and emotion.

If your shoulders (or jaw and neck, etc.) are always tight, observe which situations trigger even more tension. Then, spend one minute tracking sensations throughout your whole body. What other parts are working overtime? How’s your breath and heart rate? Then spend a minute tracking emotions. Can you simply name the emotion you feel, (e.g. “I’m anxious and frustrated…”) without going into a story about why you feel that emotion? Or, is the emotion muffled by physical tension? Spend some time sorting yourself out. Finally, spend a minute listening to the stories that go along with the emotions. Don’t change the thoughts, but notice them. Are they always true? Then take a minute to look around, (e.g. “I’m gazing at the wall in front of me, the light from the window reflects against the yellow wall in a dappled pattern, I notice a dust bunny caught in the corner…”) Does seeing with detail and alertness take you out of routine thoughts, feelings and reactions?

Usually this mindfulness activity will bring muscle and mind into harmony and cause spontaneous release. But it may not. At that point, a little rational thinking can go a long way. You might ask yourself, “Will clenching my shoulders really speed up my commute time? Who is benefiting from my tense jaw? But don’t try to relax the jaw muscles. Remember, it doesn’t usually work. Do think about doing less of what you are doing. Here, giving Alexander Directions to restore mechanical balance comes into good use. And, maybe next time you’ll choose public transportation and read a book.

Don’t waste time trying to relax tight muscles. Consider the conditions that cause tension. Make changes at the source.


Sleuthing Medieval manuscripts with Alexander Technique

Guest blog bost by Maura Nolan, UC Berkeley

I have been studying the Alexander technique with Elyse for about three months and it has changed my life in many happy ways. Most of the changes have to do with my physical experience of the world – how I stand, sit, and use my neck and back – but I have also found myself becoming much more alert to the meaning of human posture in the people I see and in images I encounter. I notice how people hold themselves when they talk to me and when I see them on television or in print media. Indeed, I have found myself fulfilling a prediction about the feelings of new students that I’ve read in various books about the Alexander technique: I have wanted to sidle up to egregious head-hangers and shoulder-slumpers and tell them all about Alexander and how it can change their lives. However, I have so far heeded the warning from Alexander teachers and kept my thoughts to myself.

One exception to this rule arose in relation to my academic work. I am a medievalist; I study Middle English literature and culture, which includes medieval manuscripts and the images that appear in them. Something I have been focusing on in my research is the human face as it is represented in the visual arts and literature during the medieval period. I recently gave a paper at a conference in New York on the drawings of faces in the margins of medieval manuscripts. I first collected quite a number of these drawings, prepared a PowerPoint presentation, and then sat down to write my paper. One of the first images I was planning to show was, I thought, a fairly simple illustration of how scribes drew faces to illustrate the content of a manuscript page: the manuscript contained the Rule of St. Benet, a rule for the religious and spiritual life of nuns, and the particular page I showed concerned praying in the chapel. The rule stated that nuns should engage in contemplative prayer, an intense form of meditation on Christian teaching, including Christ’s Passion, which would necessarily involve weeping. But because the nuns would be meditating together in the chapel, the rule instructed them to be as silent as possible, so as not to disturb their sisters and disrupt their meditations.

At the top of the manuscript page, the scribe had drawn an image of two women in profile, one in front of the other, both facing left, as if they were sitting in a chapel facing the altar. Both were weeping. When I first saw the image, I quickly looked at it and diagnosed it as a straightforward depiction of what was on the manuscript page – nuns in the chapel at contemplative prayer, weeping silently and respecting each others’ spiritual space. But that was before I had started to work with Elyse on the Alexander technique. By the time I was writing my paper, I had had several sessions and had become acutely aware of the head and the neck and how people use and misuse them. When I looked again at the image of the two women, I could see that the woman on the left was holding her head and neck in a ramrod-straight and stiff position, perhaps even slightly tilted back, while the woman behind her (on the right) was inclining her head forward. This discrepancy struck me very strongly. Why were these women presented so differently? I noticed further discrepancies. Because they were depicted in profile, only the left eye of each woman was visible. The eye of the woman on the left, in front, was drawn in such a way that she appeared to be looking backward at the woman on the right. In contrast the woman behind her, on the right, was staring vacantly into space. The woman in front was frowning; the woman behind her had her mouth open.

What did these details add up to? Going back to the posture of the two women, though the woman in back did not demonstrate good use in an Alexander sense– she was inclining her head forward and hanging its weight from her neck – she was demonstrating the proper position for reverent prayer. Her unfocused eyes showed that she was meditating deeply. And, most importantly, her open mouth showed that she was vocalizing – violating the rule as stated on the manuscript page, which enjoined the nuns to pray silently. The noise she was making explained the posture of the woman in front. She wasn’t bending her neck reverently; she was distracted by the noise of her sister, which led her to lift up her head, look back at her, and frown disapprovingly. Far from being an image of nuns following the rule, the portrait of the two women was instead an image of distraction, a picture of two people unable to share the same space.

I do not think that I would have noticed the difference between these two images had I not been studying the Alexander technique and thinking every day about how I hold my neck and head. I simply wouldn’t have been able to see what the medieval scribe was trying to show me. The Alexander technique is first and foremost a practice of the body, of course. But it is also a powerful interpretive method that helps us to look at images of the past in a new way.

**Due to copyright issues the images that relate to this post cannot be reproduced.










See Three Things

When we worry about getting things right, we tend to stop breathing, grip up and try harder. The harder we try, the tighter we get.

Here’s a practice (adapted from Peter Levine’s Somatic Experience Work) that will help you stop worrying and relax into presence and a broader perspective.

Let your eyes dance around the environment until they land on something pleasant. This might take some imagination, but usually there’s something interesting to look at: the sky; the glint of light on a glass; or a crack in the sidewalk. Then, as if you were writing an essay, describe the object. Briefly observe your body. Do this three times. Then return to the original issue. Has the problem lessened in some way? Is your breath easier? Is your neck freer? Are you still worrying? Can you now approach the original problem with less effort?

For example:

Caught in the repetitive loop of worry, my chest is tight, my breathing is shallow and my hands are cold. Wrenching my attention away from my inner story, I look at the folds of my white curtain. The curtain hangs gracefully. The light flows through softly. My chest feels cool. I see the moldings on the ceiling. The light plays over the smooth ridges turning the white stripe shades of beige and cream. My forehead feels smooth. The pencil in the jar glints pink, silver and orange. The pop of color pleases me. My facial muscles relax. I feel less fearful.

Looking around and actively perceiving ones relationship to the external world is one of the quickest ways to gain perspective. Seeing helps us leap outside the box of negativity.

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient!


Hands on direction from Betsy Polatin

Entrainment Chain via Alexander Technique hands. Photo by Jordana del Feld

Students often wonder how the light touch of an Alexander Technique teacher can communicate so much. Simultaneously, you might experience a wave of relaxation, an emotional sense of being seen and accepted for exactly who you are. Suddenly your breath becomes easy and your spine seems to grow tall. When you move to walk around the room, you feel inflated with helium.

You might ask the teacher what they are doing with their hands. They might say something like, “I’m having a conversation with your nervous system,” or, “I’m seeing your potential, and I’m projecting that,” or as Marj Barstow famously proclaimed, “Just a little bit of nothing.” It’s true that Alexander Teachers spend three years learning to communicate through a form of touch that is empty, yet energetically directed. But perhaps the reason students experience so much through so little lies in the way that we, as a species, entrain with each other.

Physical entrainment, on the extreme edge of the spectrum, can show up as a neurological disorder called mirror touch. In mirror touch a person feels the detailed body sensations of other people. For example, as a friend chews food, you might feel unwelcome sensations in your own mouth. However, a lesser degree of entrainment is quite normal, and is probably related to species survival and social intelligence. When people gather together, breath rate, heart rate and movement pace all synchronize. As we converse, our faces automatically match expressions, and our emotions follow. One is left wondering if a feeling stems from within or is absorbed via emotional contagion.

Physical entrainment might explain how the light non-manipulative Alexander touch can do so much. For a more detailed exploration of this phenomenon, listen to the new podcast Invisibilia – Entanglement To experience effortless improvements in movement and posture, contact an Alexander Technique teacher.


Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.


Inverted pendulum

We lean back as a culture. To compensate, we stick our necks out and push our hips forward. The stance is both physical and metaphorical. This posture reads as cool and relaxed, but the cost is low back pain (including sciatica), and irksome neck and shoulder tension.

I wrote these exercises down for a student who leans back. I thought you might also find them useful. They are inspired by Feldenkrais (who was also was inspired by Alexander).

These experiments will help you feel what your habitual movement patterns are. They will also help you move with better coordination and balance. You can do the whole series, or incorporate a little bit into your gym routine, or other daily activities.

1. Stand on both feet and sway side to side. Pay attention to the shifting contact across the feet, then the movements in the hips, and then the chest. Notice which parts of your body move easily, and which parts take effort. Maybe the hips are moving like a hula dancer. That’s OK for loosening up and breathing, but to enhance coordination and balance, you want to move from the top of the head. To do this, bring attention to the top of your head. Imagine moving your whole body from your crown, swaying at the ankle joints, like an inverted pendulum.

2. Try the same exercise forward and backwards.

3. Circle in both directions.

4. Do the same exercise but stand on one leg, using the other one as a “kickstand” to help keep balance.

5. Then practice walking leading the movement from the top of the head. To aid this sensation, you can pull a little bit on the hair on top of your head. The crown should project upwards as though you had eyes on the top of your head and were looking at the ceiling. Notice that if you typically hold your chin up, projecting the top of your head upwards might feel like you are looking down.

You can try the same sequence getting out of a chair.

1. Rock forward and back from the hip joints. Notice where you feel some effort. Like a lever, the farther away from the base that you generate movement, the easier the movement will feel. You might find that it feels hard to move the torso forward and backwards near the hip joint, but feels effortless if you move from the top of the head.

2. Rock side to side.

3. Circle in both directions

4. Try standing up leading from the top of the head. You will know you are on the right track if you can stand without pushing hard with your legs. It might feel effortless.

Here’s a caveat: never hold your body into a position (even one that seems like a good idea). Holding just causes more discomfort. Even the helpful idea of leading from the crown of the head should not be “done.”  It’s just a thought. It’s just a wish — a whisper of an intention to go somewhere in space.

In general, as you go about your life activities, you will move more efficiently if the top of the head is projecting upwards. This should correct the tendency to lean back and push the hips forward when walking and standing. If the head is balanced, the torso and legs will be inclined to hang like a plumb line. Your might feel like one big inverted pendulum.

Here a final note: I promised myself I would never write this sort of “how to” post. The Alexander Technique is not a series of exercises. But after doing the work to write this out for a student, I thought I might as well post it in my blog. Credit to FM Alexander for the theory and Moshe Feldenkrais for the practice.

Postscript: Six months after writing this, I came across a 2002, NY times article, Improving the Way Humans Walk the Walk that supports the inverted pendulum metaphor.


Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.


The Angry Rant

Quick protocol for stopping “The Angry Rant”.

You know what I’m talking around. You walk around rehearsing the most brilliant ways to take down your enemy. One hundred times a day, you demolish their stance with a few cutting words that reveal just how bogus and unjust they really are!!! Your body is energized as though you are preparing to attack, and indeed, you are!

Do you really want to pump all that cortisol into your blood stream? Do you really need to keep reworking the same material? Is the situation even happening in present time? Have the last hundred times you’ve replayed the argument helped resolve anything?

I’m guessing the answer is no.

I worked with an Alexander Technique student to develop a quick protocol to curtail the ranting habit.

  1. When you notice yourself ranting, ask yourself what you feel in your body.
    Alexander Technique Student: “I’m tensing my jaw and shoulders a lot.”
    The moment you notice you have the chance to make a difference.
  2. Give yourself the wish, “Let me neck relax.”
    Student: “I wish my neck to be quiet. I wish my neck to relax.”
    Neck muscles are the first muscles to tense in response to stress. Reversing the stress reaction starts with relaxing the neck.
  3. See something in the room and describe it to your self.
    Student: “I am looking at the square pattern in the curtain and the way the light moves through the fabric.”
    Focusing on something external is an effective way to bring your mind back into the room and real time.
  4. Ask yourself whether you want to be ranting.
    Student: “Do I need to be thinking about this right now? This situation isn’t happening right now.”

The more you practice, the easier you will find it to stop obsessive angry thoughts. Of course, you are always free to indulge in a rant. But now, that is your choice.

In summary:

1. When you notice yourself ranting, ask yourself what you feel in your body.
2. Give yourself the wish, “Let me neck relax.”
3. See something in the room and describe it to your self.
4. Ask yourself whether you want to be ranting.

Several years ago I went on a silent meditation retreat on the heels of a messy breakup. Spending 14 hours a day constructing arguments with my ex-was far more compelling than following my breath. I explained my predicament to one of the teachers. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, he looked straight in my eyes as he passed his hand through the air and said, “This isn’t happening right now.” With that one gesture, I understood that the only place in the entire world that the situation existed was in my mind. And, more importantly, I did not need to keep the situation alive by thinking about it.