As an actor, I use the Alexander Technique to help get in to my body, enhance voice production and help define characters. The Technique allows me to connect with and open my chest and heart center, which causes me to be more open and vulnerable and improves my ability to communicate. In lessons, Elyse's non-intrusive style allows me to take the steps I want to take. I don't feel forced to end gain. When I leave the session I feel that I have intrinsically understood the work because I was an integral part in the work.
Prior to working with Elyse Shafarman to begin learning the Alexander Technique of postural retraining, I was severely disabled by low back pain and neck pain. I could walk only short distances without pain, and needed pain medications on a regular basis. I had been on anti-inflammatory meds, had multiple steroid injections in my back and neck, and tried physical therapy, orthotics, back braces, Pilates, and Yoga. Though I, a physician, was skeptical that at 64 years old I could change how I sit, stand, walk, and sleep enough to relieve my back and neck symptoms; with Ms. Shafarman's help I am in much less pain, and have improved greatly in stamina, exercise tolerance, and outlook. This I attribute to Ms Shafarman's acute assessment of my posture and her expert application of FM Alexander's methods to my particular problems. I am also a singer, and have noted great improvement in my technique and comfort while singing. I cant recommend Elyse Shafarman and Alexander training highly enough to anyone with chronic back and neck problems. This is clearly something that should be considered before invasive procedures like injections and surgery, and I have recommended it to my own physicians and physical therapists as well.
I am over the moon with Elyse Shafarman’s Alexander Technique lessons. Alexander lessons have helped me unravel the habitual movements that were causing pain. I’ve done a lot of bodywork, Rolfing, yoga, massage, acupuncture. All of these are helpful, but Alexander has been the best route for me, because even though I’d feel great after a massage or whatever, the pain would return because of my habitual movements.
Elyse and I worked on getting my neck out of pain to walking with heels. We also worked on my sitting posture, and I was about to buy an expensive chair, but she showed me how to adapt to a regular chair and now I sit comfortably, without straining my neck. This is super important, because I am on the computer for 8-15 hours a day. And, I can now wear high heels for 3-4 hours at a time, whereas before, I could only be on them for 5-10 min at a time. Alexander helped me deal with lots of body issues, because it is not about stopping the things you do, but rather working with them. For example, I carry 2-3 bags every day, so Elyse worked with me to be able to carry them easily. Before Alexander, they seemed VERY heavy. She didn't say "stop carrying the bags," she knew I needed to carry heavy bags and worked with me so I wouldn’t be hampered by them.I couldn't be happier. I've tried many things and find that Alexander is the best solution and Elyse is a top-notch teacher. Go see Elyse
Elyse is magical—with her calming presence, rich vocabulary of images, and extensive knowledge of the body and how it works, she has helped me to transform my relationship with my body, making me a better actor and, frankly, a saner person. Practicing Alexander technique allows me to be more relaxed, more alive, and more present both onstage and off.
I came to the Alexander Technique tied up in knots with chronic neck pain and shoulder problems. I was cautiously attracted to the technique because it is learned rather than consumed. Elyse immediately disarmed me of my skepticism. I went home feeling more hopeful and encouraged about my ability to overcome some of my physical problems than I had in years of pursuing conventional treatment and pain relief. I liked Elyse right away; she’s brainy, analytical, original and extraordinarily communicative through the clarity of both her verbal instructions and her touch. It remains something of a mystery to me how it is that her hands make my body feel better. But after a year of lessons, I have developed all kinds of insight into the origins of the way I hold my body. What’s more, I am pain free. The principles of inhibition and direction are thoroughly transferable to all aspects of living, including how we conduct our interpersonal relationships. As a trial lawyer, Alexander Technique practice is improving my physical bearing and the quality of my voice. I am so grateful for Alexander Technique and Elyse. She’s a gifted teacher and I recommend her even to the most cynical of you out there considering this study.
I was exposed to Elyse and Alexander Technique in a workshop that combines Alexander and Linklater Voice, another profoundly useful technique taught by Lisa Anne Porter. I work as a Regulatory Affairs professional in the Biotech industry and am an actor in my spare time and am exposed to a multitude of stresses in my life (commuting, challenging projects with deadlines, sitting hunched over a computer for long periods, and auditioning to name a few . . .) I have worked with Elyse for over a year now mostly on a weekly basis and can say that Alexander Technique has greatly improved my posture and feeling of ease with movement. My hunched shoulders have relaxed down, I am no longer limping on an osteoarthritic knee, and I have a deeper understanding of how to release the layers of tension that are habitually held in muscles through mental focus on positive directions that can be done anywhere and at any time. I strongly encourage others to adopt this practice to gain greater freedom and enjoyment in their life and artistic expression.
Kristina S., Research Administrator, UC Berkeley
My husband and I started taking lessons with Elyse Shafarman at the point in our lives when we were both in a lot of pain. We invested a lot of time and money in seeing a chiropractor two or three times a week for about 2 years. We were both seeing him for episodes of back pain. The result for me was chronic neck pain that would wake me up at night and for my husband chronic back pain accompanied by a completely scrunched neck and the chiropractor's prognosis that in a few years he would not be able to turn his head. We invested in a new mattress, but didn't get the relief that we had hoped for. When we would travel I had to take my pillow and a roll-up camping pad, just in case the mattress was not a good fit and I had to sleep on the floor.
Then our tango teacher suggested that we look into Alexander Technique. Boy, are we happy that we did that!
Within about ten sessions with Elyse, we both had dramatic results. First of all, I am happy to report that I am completely pain free! My shoulders are not bunched up and more and I have discovered that I have a long neck! I now know right from wrong in the way my body works - I understand how I should sit, stand and walk correctly. My husband looks dramatically different too. He is almost pain free and now has a neck! He is moving in leaps and bounds towards moving in the Alexander way.
The difference between going to the chiropractor and to an Alexander Technique teacher is that the former 'fixes' you for a few hours/days and the latter teaches YOU what is it that you are doing to contribute to your pain. Elyse has a very sweet demeanor and a calming presence and every time we leave her place we are moving towards the 'new' us. I give Elyse my highest possible recommendation.
I started studying with Elyse after I saw a demonstration she gave in an East Bay pharmacy years ago. The woman who volunteered to be "worked with" was notably changed in appearance in maybe 10 minutes; someone in the audience muttered, "She looks 20 years younger," and she certainly did. We could see her pain fall away, and I felt I was seeing her young-self reappear. I had pain in my neck, which I'd had for a year, and after two or three lessons with Elyse the pain had gone. I decided to stay on as a student, because there was something mysterious about the experience of doing the work.
Now, several years later, I have gained something precious. Alexander Technique is an experience of loosening the grip I've put on my body/consciousness for decades; doing the work loosens my muscles and skeleton and releases the holding in/holding on thing. How can I explain it: During a lesson, I always feel my body becoming aware of itself on the inside, becoming alert to its own sense; some new energy, like child energy, emerges and carries a sense of what it would like to do with itself, which results in a new kind of motion, as if propelled from somewhere long forgotten. I feel tall and light and most amazingly, I feel a shift in consciousness, as if consciousness is a largely physical matter and starts to do what it feels like doing. The body and the world appear freshly through what I can only describe as a desire toward pleasure or play.
Alexander Technique makes me look extremely comfortable and playfully curious and open. It's a kind of sweet physical curious mischief, and it's had a great effect on my writing.
Thank you, Elyse!
I can honestly say that the Alexander Technique has changed my life. I used to suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain and could find only temporary relief with massages or acupuncture. Since I have been taking Alexander Technique lessons from Elyse, the pain in my neck and shoulders is gone. On the rare occasion that it does reoccur, through giving the directions and 'not-doing', the pain goes away.
Elyse is exceptionally intuitive and perceptive. She can tell when you are successfully giving the directions through the subtlest of movements. You can't fake it! After I had foot surgery, Elyse tailored our lessons so that I could practice movements that were appropriate for my abilities. It turned out to be a great opportunity to relearn how to walk, this time incorporating the
directions and improving my movement tremendously.
I can't recommend Elyse enough. I feel better and people even tell me that I look more open and relaxed. I only wish I had discovered the Alexander Technique sooner.
Elyse Shafarman’s gentle approach to teaching the Alexander Technique creates the perfect environment for developing better body awareness and a more conscious way of moving through life. She is always optimistic, offering the most appropriate suggestions, anatomy descriptions and wonderful metaphors to help me visualize a more relaxed and healthy body. Working with her has been a very positive, life-changing experience for me.
Having worked with Elyse for only a short period of time so far, my constant neck pain has been relieved. I have also struggled with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) for many years, but traditional psychotherapy methods of treatment were not effective until I learned to give myself Alexander Technique directions first. I believe that the Alexander Technique can help manage the effects of trauma. Therapists and those who have suffered from trauma need to know about this.
As a stage performer, I am now more present and less pulled away from the moment into some sense memory triggered by a compressed and contracted body. I am blessed to have been helped so much by Elyse and her gentle but clear approach to the Alexander Technique.
I have had a wonderful experience with the Alexander Technique as practiced and taught by Elyse Shafarman... it has been a blessing on many levels. The Alexander Technique has helped me become more aware, not only of my body movements and postures, but more conscious and aware in my life experience overall. As a practitioner of the modern Japanese martial art of Aikido, the Technique has been invaluable: the lessons learned through practice of Alexander Technique continue to assist me every time I step onto the mat, with an enhanced awareness and practice of proper body positioning, alignment, balance, economy and grace of movement, and developing a greater sense of my connection with heaven and earth.
It is no exaggeration to say that Elyse changed my life. A year and a half ago a hip injury caused me to be in pain while walking almost all the time--unacceptable for an active 24 year-old woman! After having seen many different practitioners and body workers for my injury, I decided to try the Alexander Technique as a last resort. After only 10 sessions I am walking more lightly, more naturally, and most significantly, without pain. I cannot thank Elyse enough for helping me to move in a lighter and more efficient way, and for helping me to better understand how tension manifests in my body. I believe anyone can benefit from studying the Alexander Technique, especially with a teacher as truly exceptional as Elyse.
I started taking Alexander Technique lessons from Elyse with the aim of improving my posture. Her lessons did improve my posture, but they also helped in an unexpected area: they improved my golf game. One of the important elements of Alexander Technique is the ability to be aware of how your body is positioned and moves. In turn, this self-awareness vastly improved my ability to understand and implement the body positions and movements, crucial to an efficient and consistent golf swing, proposed by my golf instructor.
It is difficult to describe The Alexander Technique, while being a critical thinking-minded person. You end up sounding new age-y and cult y. "It changed my life." "People respond to me differently." "I feel freer and happier." "It has made my yoga practice more fulfilling." But, after eight months of study with Elyse Shafarman, all those things are true. It's really interesting to walk into a coffee shop straight from an Alexander lesson. People smile and want to interact with you. You look like a fun, comfortable person to talk to. You are a more comfortable person, a more relaxed, elastic, confident kind of person, and taller than you used to be.
I've had all the usual desk job issues to a greater or lesser degree for the past 10 years. Plus a hip/sacro-iliac issue that became aggravated during Bikram yoga and led to an extremely painful month, physical therapy, and a reassessment of how I use my body altogether.
For years I had been in at least some pain every day, periodically immobilized, and usually on ibuprofen. I exercised a lot, had massages, and saw different doctors and chiropractors who kept contradicting each other’s diagnoses. I was told I had a damaged disc, and that were was clearly no disc damage (this from looking at the same x-ray). I was told that I had wear in bones of my wrist, and that there was definitely no wear. I was diagnosed with scoliosis and with no hint of scoliosis. I was prescribed orthotics and then told I should absolutely not wear the lift in my shoe because it was gravely harming meNeedless to say, I was starting to feel pretty sceptical.
I wanted something to finally work. All my actor friends had been telling me I should try Alexander Technique. I thought I might as well.
I feel like everything else I tried was a band-aid, and Alexander Technique is the only thing that addressed what is actually going on in my body. (Well that and some physical therapy – but physical therapy's approach and goal is a little different.) The great thing about the Alexander technique is that while it's like taking up chess or something in terms of the learning curve, the immediate relief and reward is so great you want to keep at it. Chess, you lose a lot. You walk out of every Alexander lesson, including your first one, feeling like Lou Reed: like someone new, someone good.
Gradually the rewards are staying with me longer and longer, I have more and more awareness of how to use my body in movement and stillness to avoid pain and damage, and I feel that I am gaining more grace and poise than I ever thought possible. I am letting go of the habits that were hurting me. I thought that anxious, hunched look was just how I am. It's not. It's just how I felt.
I recommend this technique for anyone who wants to improve their relationship with their body for any reason. It's worth it taking even just a few lessons, if you can't budget the time or money for more. The awareness you gain each time stays with you – it can go under the surface, but it's still like money in the bank.