The Singing Body

Want to sing with more freedom?
Move with less effort?
Join us for

The Singing Body
a workshop series in
Embodied Voice & the Alexander Technique
with Francesca Genco & Elyse Shafarman
Sundays, 10am-1pm
November 6, December 4 & January 15
Jeffery Bihr Studio in Rockridge (a few minutes’ walk from BART)

  • Learn to support your voice from a place of ease, power & relaxation.
  • Enjoy skilled hands-on guidance.
  • Learn songs & how to sing them from an embodied state.
  • Discover how the Alexander Technique engages choice over habit.
Topics will include:
November 6 ~ Respiratory diaphragm & breathing
December 4 ~ Organs as resonators & supporters
January 15 ~ Muscles of the pelvis, abdomen & vocal folds
Click on the image to hear Francesca practicing the principles in recording her latest voice library, Autumn Lullaby.
Cost is $75 for single workshop, $200 for the series (save $25).
PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Respond to this email to register.
Feel free to share this invite with a friend!
Francesca Genco, MA is a singer and sound healer, yoga instructor, bodyworker and interdisciplinary arts teacher. Her singing was featured in Ryan Amon’s score for Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s science fiction film starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster released in August 2013. She is the founder of Song of the Body, which offers classes, workshops and retreats in embodied voice, sound healing, yoga and creative expression. Her classes and private sessions are based in creating an intimate relationship with the body as we learn to listen and respond to its natural intelligence and resonance.
Elyse Shafarman holds a Master’s Degree in Physiological Psychology and Alexander Technique Teacher Certification from Frank Ottiwell (2003). Elyse is on the faculty of American Conservatory Theater’s MFA program and Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. She maintains a private practice in San Francisco and Berkeley. Her background as a modern dancer and professional training in psychology, yoga, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction influence her work.

Mindful Eating

I had a pack of almonds. The next moment, empty pack and no almonds. I was the only one at the scene of the crime, so all evidence pointed to me as the eater. But if you’d asked me, I would have denied it. Presumably, those 18 grams of fat were lurking somewhere in my digestive tract.

This experience inspired me to take a Mindful-Eating workshop with my friend Augusta Hopkins.

The principals of Mindful Eating are very simple. Look at your food. Smell your food. Taste your food.  Appreciate the colors, flavors, textures, shape, and weight. Contemplate how it got to you. Who grew it? Who prepared it? Be thankful. Be amazed. Enjoy!

More practically, rest your hands between bites. Are you loading up your fork before you’ve finished a mouthful? What is the hurry?

Notice your body. Are you hunched over your plate? Are you breathing? Can you relax your neck and eat?

The result? I am much less likely to overeat if I am consciously present for the act of eating. But, I admit that I like to read The New Yorker and listen to NPR while eating. Which is why I like to combine Mindful Eating with Brian Wansink’s ingenious techniques for effective Mindless Eating.

Here’s a link to Augusta’s instructional video on Mindful eating. Never has a humble Mission Style Burrito been eaten with such loving care.



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

Alexander Technique Workshop for Teachers


Elyse Shafarman

Tommy Thompson taught a 2-day workshop for Alexander Technique Teachers.  Here are a few highlights – paraphrased  – I did my best to capture Tommy’s poetic flavor, but these are not exact quotes.

  • If we look for what’s right, if we assume the primary control is always working, then teaching becomes a much more peaceful process.
  • Put your hands on the potential of the person not the habit. Then Alexander Technique becomes a non-critical, non-judgmental, compassionate way of letting go of patterns of behavior that are not essential.
  • You have to be very careful walking through your life thinking you are wrong. Faulty sensory appreciation is useful, but you have to use it to help you.
  • When students ask what to do without your teacher’s hands to help them: “You can’t do it for yourself (yet), but you can learn how to notice what you are doing.”
  • Frank Pierce Jones maxim – Once you become aware of what you don’t want to do, you are already on your way to doing less of it.

A colleague commented, “I know that writing is only the tip of the experience, but what you write about the workshop makes me think of the Buddhist idea that our Buddha nature is always there, like the clear blue sky, but we don’t see it for the clouds (habits). Universal truths are just that, universal…”

  • Primary Control – The dynamic relationship between the head, neck and torso that organizes our movement and our alertness.
  • “Being Wrong” is common language in the Alexander Technique lexicon. It refers to the ways that our body sensations, which feels so true, can be inaccurate due to habit. For example if we have the habit of leaning backwards, being upright can feel like we are pitched forward.
  • Frank Pierce Jones pioneered scientific research in the Alexander Technique at Tufts University between 1949 and 1975.