At the Computer

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thanks, pixabay.  Look at that lovely balance of head on spine!

True confession time. I am a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and I have poor use of Self at the office computer. Pulling down the longer I type and read and scroll, I catch myself correcting with what I call ‘The Puff’— jutting out the chest, resulting in an over-arch of the spine. It’s an archaic understanding of what it means to be upright, a hold-over from my pre-Alexander days of life in a body.

In addition, my feet invariably will cross at the ankles and my legs draw back under the chair, applying excess pressure to the toes in contact with the floor. Unaware of this for a length of time, and, voila! Toe cramps.

As a long-time Alexander Technique student, and now teacher, I have not been ‘fixed.’ The AT study and teacher-training merely (and profoundly) provided me with the ‘means-whereby’ to coordinate mind and body in service of ease and poise. And this is an essential distinction for anyone interested in the Technique. We do not study to perfect ourselves, we study and practice to give our selves choices and options.

Quick fix? Nope. Useful tools for the business of being in a body? Yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once More

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I have missed writing for Poise and Presence! And so….here’s a post written on returning from a recent workshop.

It was a winter Saturday afternoon at Ohio University’s Alexander Technique Audition Workshop. Singers were delighted with the resonant, full, and free sounds emerging from their mouths. The primary question was, ‘How do I keep this?’

The answer? ‘You don’t.’ Attempts to keep,  codify, cement, solidify; all fail. Why? Because they require stasis, and fine singing with good use requires movement and change.

Then. If it isn’t possible to keep a glorious sound forever, what are the options? For starters, come back to the present moment in which you find yourself. The magnificent singing is over, but this moment is yours. Claim it. Get out of your head, out of the loop which is replaying the past, that past when you sang your best ever. It’s gone. The sound waves have moved on.

Utilize the magnificent power of your cognition to think well in present time. Alright. Back here. Back to now. Returning to feet in my pink velvet heels. (Yes, a student was wearing a pair. Loved them!) Inviting length and width, merely by thinking of them.

And about those habits of use: right arm pulling in toward ribs, torso torquing to the left, thorax over-arched and off-balance with the pelvis. Note them, and be inquisitive. What might happen if you simply stop with the arm pull, the torquing torso, the over-arching spine?  What if there is no attempt to fix, but rather a decision to ‘NOT DO’?

Then sing. Watch. Observe. Feel. Fully engage yourself in the experimentation that is required to hone your singing craft. You’ll produce yet another glorious sound, particular to this moment.

Thank you, Ohio University vocalists. It was a lovely afternoon. Always give yourself one more chance. Once more, with feeling! Once more with presence, and yes, poise.

Alexander Technique Teaching

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Rescuers transport dogs from disaster areas to safety. Rescuers placed themselves in danger to save those caught in the fury of California wildfires.  And then there is this rescuer of vintage and antique dishware, found at yard sales, thrift shops and yes, curbside trash piles.

The desire to rescue is a strong one, whether it be puppies, people, or vintage dishes. As an Alexander Technique teacher, I do battle with this powerful impulse, because rescuing is the last thing I ought to be doing with my students. And here lies the paradox: I wish to help my students but will only interfere with their learning if rescue is what I try to do.

Instead, the task of the teacher is to practice good use of oneself and permit the lesson to take its course.  Always I have a plan.  But, I have learned that in being present to myself and to my student, the lesson plan becomes a springboard to what really needs to happen. Rescue? NO! Attentive and aware? YES!

(pixabay photo)

 

Trying

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pixabay graphic

‘Part of my difficulty is that I am always trying to be right. I must stop this trying to be right, for immediately when I try to be right, I do things wrong  (i.e., in the old way that feels right).  I must cease this trying to be right.’

That’s Goddard Binkley, in The Expanding Self, a memoir of Binkley’s Alexander Technique training. His journal entry continues:

Inhibit this tendency (to try and to be right) and I shall then be free to project the guiding orders, that is to direct my neck to be free, and my head to go forward and up. Moreover, if I can inhibit this tendency, which is so overwhelming, to try and be right, I can then allow nature to assert itself.’

Yes. That. What he said. Quit with the trying. That’s all this Alexander Technique teacher has to say. Just stop with trying so hard. Often the trying has produced the physical tensions and misuse, and merely stopping will be enough to restore ease and poise.

 

Air

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Worthington Presbyterian Church vocalists are meeting every Thursday night this month, preparing summer season solos and receiving coaching from me and from colleague, Sharon Stohrer.  Talk about lifelong learning!  Here are women, several of them in their mature years, continuing to make beautiful music as they hone the craft of singing.

They are an inspiration to this singer of 60 years.  To inspire is to ‘infuse an animating, quickening, or exalting influence into.’  To inspire also means ‘to inhale’; ‘to take air into the lungs.’  Isak Dinesen wrote this about her Ngong farm in Africa:

‘The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it, was the air….Up in this high air, you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart.’*

The sound we produce rides the breath.  Soundwaves require air.  It’s what they travel on. And each full and good inspiration has in it the potential to inspire as the lyrics and melodies reach the ear of the listener.

May you breathe, and yes, sing, with ‘lightness of heart’ this first week of summer—–

*Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen, 1937.

Standing Still

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thrush, photo courtesy of pixabay

With new walking poles in hand, I traipse through the pine woods on an enchanted April morning. Meandering over the animal trails, I eventually pause in a small forest opening, catching a glimpse of a thrush hiding in low branches, waiting me out.

How often do we get to be face-to-face with a bird? That’s what happened next.  He studied me carefully, decided I was no threat, and continued his routine, hopping along the pine needle carpet, his beady black eyes intent.

Let’s redefine what it might mean to stand still. When I’m teaching choristers, they are encouraged to observe the support of their feet.  From there, they can let the body move ever so slightly in a figure-eight pattern.  These micro-movements prevent fatigue and fainting, both a hazard for choral singers who often stand in place for long periods of time.

Standing still in this lively way brought so much more of the world to my notice.  On leaving the forest opening by the same path, I now saw spring beauties, the bleached jawbone of a woods creature, a wooly-worm, and heard a deer snort nearby.  None of these wonders were in my field of attention on arrival.

Whether bird watching, singing, or waiting in line at the grocery, remind yourself that standing still can bring the world to you, and does not require freezing in place. May a few moments of lively stillness be yours today—-

 

 

Dressing for Ease

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“What should I wear to my Alexander Technique lesson?”  My answer:  ‘Wear what’s comfortable. Nothing special or particular is required.’  However, I do have a few directives for my own daily dressing:

No more heels. Hallelujah!

Denim on occasion, not everyday.

Natural fibers only. Cotton and linen are go-to’s, with some wool, if it is soft and light.

Camisoles exclusively.  Read:  NO bras.

 

Comfy Shoes: Easton Shoes  on Kenny Road. Owners Lenny and Marcia Comeras travel the world to bring Columbus the finest in footwear.  Finn Comfort, Hartjes, Thierry Rabotin, Mephisto, are a few of the brands carried.   Bi-annual sales make these shoes affordable.

Denim:  Just wear Second Yoga jeans, and forget about it.  You can get a committee-selected* pair at Cheesecake Boutique in Upper Arlington.  Pay the money and don’t blink.  * (Staff weighs in on the best look and fit. No baggy butts allowed!  Very fun retail experience, which says a lot, coming from shopping-averse me.)

Natural Fibers:  Still working on this one, and relying on friends for assistance.  Current-Paris-resident, Julie Donnell, swears by anything Eileen Fisher.  This line is way out of my price range, and I have yet to purchase any of their pieces.  Sales do exist. Susan Petry is gifted at finding fine fabric pieces in thrift stores and second-hand shops, so that’s always an option. (see photo’s aqua scarf for an example of the treasures that await your next thrifting expedition)

Camisoles:   A clearance rack at Anthropologie in the Short North District provided me with the best-ever-camis.  They don’t roll up my torso, and have one side v-neck, the other scooped.  Shelf-bra tops are an excellent alternative to camis and can be found at my favorite location for a mammogram, The Stephanie Spielman Breast Center.  The lobby houses a gift shop! amoena is the brand name.

Have a rollicking good time shopping your way to comfort——-