So many of my clients, whether they are actors, speakers, doctors, or editors, have to sit at a computer for their business. Almost everyone has a website or a social media presence which requires them to sit at a computer. Sitting at a computer, especially for long periods of time, leads to poor habits of posture taking over. These painful and compressive habits impact your experience of confidence, vitality, and body language.
Some of the worst postural habits I observe are:
- Head pushing forward towards the computer screen
- Ribs collapse forward compressing the lungs and diaphragm
- Hips tuck under which shortens the spine
- Breathing becomes shallow and breath rate has to quicken
A participant in one of my workshops, shared this video with me from YouTube. I like it because it uses clear and understandable images to demonstrate support for the head, neck, and spine.
Watch the video now
Some other recommendations I would share are:
- Your body is designed to move. Do not sit for long periods of time.
- Get up and move.
- Notice your body moving with your breath while you are at the computer
- Yawn and stretch throughout the time you are at the computer
- Give yourself the most space possible across your chest and abdominal wall
- Allow your spine to have length along the curves (You don’t want to straighten the spine
- Have the bottom of your feet flat on the floor or some other surface
- MOST IMPORTANT – Your awareness of your body is more important than the computer. Pay attention to your body and make conscious choices of how you want to sit at the computer.
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Not happy with your Body?
When I first took Alexander Technique lessons, 15 years ago, I had excruciating hip and low back pain on the left side. Little did I know that this “pain crisis” would lead to my career as an Alexander Technique teacher.
At the time, I would have to leave work because I was in so much pain. I also dealt with constant and nagging thoughts about my own body being too fat and not sexy enough. This is difficult to admit out loud.
For years, I dealt with what I now believe was some body dismorphia. NO matter how in shape I was or if I did happen to gain a little weight, I was constantly badgered by own thoughts of needing to lose weight and feeling ashamed of my body.
Many of my clients now, both men and women, come to me for their first Alexander Technique session and quickly express some form of body shame. They look at me with knowing concern of their weight “problem.”
As a culture, we are obsessed with our weight and believe that the solution to almost all of our problems (relationship, financial, health) is to lose weight.
“If I lose weight, I will find the love of my life.” ( I had this one)
If I lose weight, I will be more successful in my work and make more money.”
If I lose weight, I will be healthier.”
This constant self flagellation has a powerful negative impact on how you feel about yourself and your body. These thoughts create a a self image that makes you feel disgusted with yourself and not good enough.
How can you attain radiant health and well-being if you are constantly repeating these hurtful insults to yourself?
When a client, shares with me her own negative self image, I ask her “Would you continue to come back for lessons, if I spoke to you that way? Or if someone else spoke to you that way?”
Awareness of how you think about your body gives you insight into why you feel the way you feel about your body and yourself. When you clearly “hear” your negative and painful thoughts, you have an opportunity to question those thoughts and choose thoughts that are healing and supportive of your well-being.
Your body is an amazing gift. Your body deserves your appreciation and complete awe. Your heart miraculously beats and your lungs, diaphragm, and ribs breathe (even when you are asleep)!
Your body is amazing!
I love public speaking AND being in front of an audience. The opportunity to connect with a large group of people all at once gives me a thrill.
Since I was a little girl, I wanted to put on big make-up, wear wild costumes, have big hair, and make sure everyone noticed me!
It’s the Gemini in me.
Even though I loved having an audience, I would sometimes get shaky hands, my voice would quiver, or I would get tongue tied.
What I learned at a young age was that I had to warm up so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by the adrenaline rush of walking onto a stage with all eyes on me.
Professional athletes warm up. Musicians warm up. Actors warm up. Warming up your body, breath, and voice decreases the shock of adrenaline in your system. Instead of shrinking in response to the pressure of being in the spotlight, you teach your nervous system and body to breath through it. You ground yourself so that negative thoughts don’t distract you.
Towards the beginning of every talk I give, I Iead the entire audience through a mini warm up (This is very interesting when my audience is filled with a hundred managers of a pharmaceutical corporation).
In the photo above, I had the entire audience at Lisa Elia’s Meet the Media Day yawning, stretching, lip fluttering, and shaking it out so the participants were relaxed and ready to meet and interview with members of the media.
After a thorough warm up, you feel relaxed and loose. You have shed the armor of tension so you are more open to the people you are going to inspire.
When I work with clients who say they can’t speak in front of a group or they get too nervous, I encourage them to begin with a warm up to see how their experience changes. I have heard some hilarious and wonderful testimonials after a warm up:
“I don’t give a sh#t what anyone else thinks about me right now!”
“I feel like my vagina is unplugged!” (Yes a woman actually said that)
“I could stay up here in front of everyone forever!”
“I feel SOOO calm. And I am NOT calm.”
“I’m realizing that it is actually safe to let my guard down and let people in.”
You can try some of the warm up exercises that I lead my groups and clients through:
- Sit quietly with your hands on your chest and belly. Notice your body being moved by your breath.
- Let breath out with a Whispered Ah to allow your shoulders and jaw to release
- Yawn and stretch with sound
- Lip flutter (Watch the video here)
- Hum and shake your hips, twist your ribcage, & bounce your shoulders
How do you feel afterwards? What is different in your body? your nervous system? your voice?
On October 25, I am leading a 3 hour workshop titled “RESONATE Find Your Voice & Capture the Heart of Your Tribe” You will experience a full warm up and then test the results out in front of a safe audience of your peers. Feeling the lightness and looseness of your body allows you to be open, connected, and powerful. When you find your voice you find your love for public speaking and your joy in connecting to your audience.
Find out more at http://alexandertechniquela.com/workshops/resonate/
When I work with my clients, one of my first intentions is for them to FEEL their bodies, in other words, for them to have body awareness. Inevitably, every person whether man or woman, when I ask them what do they notice, report to me “I notice I need to lose weight” or “I notice my stomach is pooching out.” The thin people say it. They not-so-thin people say it. Our cultures dislike and rejection of our bellies is epidemic.
Even in myself I notice a constant awareness of needing to lose weight. I notice myself in the mirror and see my belly which makes me feel wrong. So many of my clients also believe that they are not supposed to have a belly. They believe that something is wrong with their bodies because they do not have washboard flat abdomens. I knew I grew up with a constant nagging of “I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m too fat!”
The result of this obsessions with rejecting our bodies as they are is that many people suck in their gut, harden the abdominal muscles, hold their breath, AND pull their spines out of alignment.
They are stressing themselves out!
Our bellies are a vital part of our whole SELF. Within the belly contains the digestive tract and reproductive organs. In many ancient modalities, the belly contains our spiritual center, our truth, our intuition. For women, our miraculous ability to create life and bear children is within our bellies. In terms of chakras, our belly houses the second chakra which relates to our relationships, sexuality, and our passion for life.
Why would we want this seat of passion and creativity to smaller or flatter? Somewhere we as a culture have learned to deny our bodies and especially our bellies. Many people I see in Alexander Technique sessions, carry themselves in a way that smashes the belly, making digesting and breathing difficult. They often don’t want to feel the presence of the belly. But BOY, when they do, there is a rush of emotion and feeling. Breath moves the belly and they feel sensations, movement in the digestive tact that is at first frightening, and then, liberating. Anger, power, fear, freedom all feelings that are visceral.
We deserve our bellies. We deserve to feel the power and the joy that our bellies give us. The power to bear children. The power to trust our gut instinct. The power to take up space in this world. The power to breath fully and to breathe down into our truth.
Freeing our bellies grounds us on our feet. We center ourselves through the difficulties life brings. Letting your belly take up space gives you wholeness and self acceptance. In order to experience the richness of life, we can honor and cherish the gift of our bodies and our bellies.
Your body is not a burden. Your belly is not a curse. Your body has miraculous abilities to heal, to experience life, and to relate to our fellow human beings. Your belly is big and breathable. Your belly is precious. I invite you to love your belly, honor your belly, and to embrace your belly. Let yourself feel your belly.
Please comment below and share!
Your pelvis is a physical center of nerves, muscles, organs and bones which connect you to your creativity, sensuality, and confidence. When you are suffering from pelvic pain, lack of sensation, and/or inflexibility, you can struggle with intimacy, personal power, well-being, and living passionately.
During Alexander Technique sessions, I meet many clients who do not have an awareness of their pelvis, groin, and lower abdomen. It almost seems as if that is a “No Man’s Land” (Or No Woman’s Land). Women, especially, are taught to keep the knees together or we will expose ourselves and possible be labeled a slut. Somewhere in our historical education, we were told that our pelvises and the organs and nerves contained within them are dangerous or that they will get us into trouble.
Ironically, we have pelvises with reproductive organs and highly sensitive nerves that tap us into our sensuality, our sexuality, and creativity. We are made to be sensual because we have the equipment to be so. A very thorough historical and anatomical volume that I highly recommend is a book titled “Vagina: A New Biography” by Naomi Wolf.
The anatomy of the pelvis, hip joints, spine, and diaphragm are interconnected. With a clear understanding of your pelvic center and the gripping you hold here, you can release old patterns of fear, armoring, and constriction, letting your juices flow. Your joy and your passion can inform your relationships, your work, and your artistry in the world. Your hips will open, your breath will drop down, and you will SHINE.
With the gentle and sophisticated hands-on guidance of Alexander Technique on your head, neck, and spine, the soothing freedom of Breathing Co-ordination of the ribs, belly, and diaphragm, and exploration of the pelvic anatomy (CLOTHES ON OF COURSE), you reach a profound calm state in the nervous system and discover HOW to release the muscles and joints of your sacred center.
I have seen people transform in Alexander Technique sessions. There is a fire within that is unleashed as a young female actor allows her abdominal wall to soften and move with her breath. An older man in his 60s stands big and tall and is reminded of his strapping stature when he was younger.
What lies dormant in your pelvis? What creative endeavor have you given up on? How have you shrunk yourself? Begin to observe your pelvis. What is it like to let your breath move you deep down into the pelvic floor? How do you feel when you five your groin some space and uncross your legs?
I look forward to hearing from you! Reply in the comments below and please share.
You got the phone call. You are going in! This could be a chance of a lifetime!
You have to be at the top of your game. But what if you get nervous? Can you handle to pressure? What’s going to happen when all eyes are on you?
You know that when you get nervous your body acts like it doesn’t have a brain anymore. Maybe you are like some of my clients who fidget. Or you lose all awareness and you have no idea what you are saying with you body language.
Unconscious behavior thrives when you are nervous. Habits that interfere with your clear thinking and professionalism take over your body and your voice so you look like a powerful force on stage and on camera.
Some of the biggest mistakes you make when you get nervous diminish your stature and your body’s ability to deal with the demands of higher levels of adrenaline.
Watch the video below to see if you make these mistakes:
Being calm in high-stakes situations takes training. When you learn how to ground your body and your nervous system, you can very consciously choose how you want to communicate in auditions, pitch meetings, and performances.
Training in the Alexander Technique gives you skills to heighten your awareness. You learn to release the tension patterns that prevent you from breathing easily. You gain conscious control of your body so you can release over activated muscles. You can soften your shoulders and allow your chest to open inviting your audience in to your world. You are free to express your authentic emotions without the nagging inner critic telling you “This is too dangerous!!! Shut down!”
Your awareness or your consciousness opens up the possibility of choice, of power over your own destiny, of thinking thoughts that will streamline your success. If you want this choice, this powerful consciousness, it requires training, practice, mindfulness and CURIOSITY. Being curious allows you to see clearly what your unconscious patterns without beating yourself up. Curiosity moves you away from trying to be right and allows you to venture into the world of the unknown and non-habitual, a world of vulnerability and authenticity. Here is where you truly connect with others and share your truth.
If you want this curiosity, vulnerability, and honesty, join me for Power Poise Performance starting August 13 Sign up at http://alexandertechniquela.com/workshops/actors/
The Santa Monica Shakespeare Festival begins August 9 with “Twelfth Night” and then continues with “Taming of the Shrew” on August 15. Visit Santa Monica Shakespeare for information and tickets.
I have had the honor to teach Alexander Technique during the Classical Training Intensive with Louis Scheeder and John Farmanesh-Bocca.
Performing Shakespeare has heightened challenges for the actor. Shakespeare’s characters truly mean what they say and they are usually dealing with life-and-death circumstances. These circumstances trigger anger, confusion, desperation, exalted joy, rage, overwhelming love, deep desire, and suicidal sadness.
These are all emotions that the normal person does everything in their power to avoid. They are difficult and painful to honestly communicate.
In my first 2.5 hour training with these enthusiastic actors who were hand-picked for the training and festival, I emphasized the essential ability for the actor to be able to breathe.
Under the high-pressure stakes of Shakespeare and rehearsing in front of renowned Shakespeare teachers and other highly-skilled performers, many of the actors interfered with their own ability to breathe freely so that the emotion could not pass through their bodies.
Here are some of the ways they interfered:
1) Sniffing in a deep breath before beginning a monologue. This sniffing action requires your body to work much harder to receive the breath necessary to support the complicated language and rhythm. You will actually make yourself more nervous and your body will tighten with tension.
2) Rushing to begin and get the monologue over with. When you rush, you usually have to push the words out and you compress your neck, ribs, and spine. The actor I worked with was losing her lines. Even her memory wasn’t serving her because the rushing triggered a “Fight Flight or Freeze” response.
3) Pushing the head, neck, and shoulders forward to communicate anger and/or frustration. This requires a lot of physical tension and cuts you off from your breath and voice. You also close your body off by narrowing the chest, shoulders, and abdomen.
As I worked with the actors, I gave them the light and guided touch that Alexander Technique teachers have in order to communicate the release in their neck, shoulders, and abdominal wall.
Each actor reported feeling lighter and that it was easier to breathe. This release of tension in the neck and shoulders make them look powerful and open.
I invited them to think about having space for breath to happen to them. They did not need to BREATHE. Their bodies breathe FOR them. Another way to think about this is allowing for length, width, and depth in the torso.
They all practiced Constructive Rest which is a floor exercise that allows the muscles of the torso to release into length and width.
I led everyone through an awareness exercise that demonstrated that breath moved them from the inside. They did not have to force breath in and out. This can profoundly center and calm your nervous system before auditions and performances.
Our second workshop is this week. I am eager to share the “tools” of Alexander Technique while they perform their monologues. The spaciousness in the body, which allows for free and easy breath, supports the difficult circumstances of seeking revenge, proclaiming your love, or plotting the demise of you forsaken lover.
So many websites, speakers, news articles, books, and TV programs talk about how to change your life. It is a huge market because most people either want to change their health, their financial situation, their relationship situation, to accomplish their BIG dream, or all of the above.
An essential ingredient to accomplishing these changes is having a vision. Then, making it visual by using pictures, images, and affirmations. Our brain does not think in words. It thinks in pictures.
Maybe you have created a Vision Board. When you have pictures to look at they make imprints on your subconscious mind.
If you are on the Alexander Technique LA email list, you may want a pain-free life or you want to “nail” auditions and have confidence on stage, on camera, or when you are public speaking. Those are the types of pictures you want to cut out.
Here is a Vision Board I created a year and a half ago
A lot of events took place soon after I created this.
I met Dave, my fiancee.
I also committed to cooking delicious gourmet food and signed up for a cooking class.
I was called by the LA Philharmonic to work with the opera singers.
I have also taken a lot dance and yoga classes are deep passions for me.
Recently, I have had this nagging feeling about taking my work on this planet to the next level. Shortly after this realization, I discovered Mind Movies which are like Vision Boards on steroids!!! You add affirmations and music. They move so the brain is highly activated and engaged.
Please watch my Mind Movie:
Wow!!!!! Every time I watch it, I get the chills and holler out loud “Rawr!”
There are items in here that I have no idea HOW I am going to accomplish. However, I watch it every day and I share it with YOU. From my heart to yours. What is your Vision?
When you get stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, there is a series of events that occur in your body, your brain, and your nervous system, that knock you off center. All of your attention goes to the fearful thought or feeling, you may hold your breath, and you lose awareness of your body.
When this happens, TRY THIS! (Yes, those are my feet. Try this barefoot in the grass as well. Even better.)
Notice your weight dropping down onto your feet and then onto the floor.
Your connection to the floor (Your kinesthetic awareness of your feet), slows your nervous system, brings you into the present moment so you can be calm again.
This technique is extremely helpful in high-stakes situations where you could easily get lost in the stream of negative thoughts that sabotage life changing opportunities.
“What if I mess up?”
“I can’t do this.”
“What if they don’t like me?”
I have my clients train using this technique for auditions or public speaking events. They will tell me that right before an audition, instead of being distracted and overwhelmed, they feel confidence and relaxation because they are more aware of their feet and their bodies.
When you change how you move in your body, you change how you use your mind. The Mind-Body Connection is undeniable. Feeling your feet on the ground during times of stress can interfere with the negative thought loop. This interference gives you the opportunity to STOP, let breath out, and choose your thoughts. You have the time and mental space to think clearly, take right action, and succeed!
For more articles, events, and training to eliminate stress and tension, sign up (to your right) for ‘5 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress!
Sunday January 5 I completed Jessica Wolf’s Art of Breathing Certification for Alexander Technique teachers. This training is only for Alexander Technique teachers who have taught for at least 5 years.
The training focused on breathing coordination and the redevelopment of the diaphragm integrated with the Alexander Technique.
What brought me to Alexander Technique 15 years ago was chronic and excruciating hip and low back pain which I now know was associated with scoliosis.
I didn’t have extreme scoliosis but enough of a curve in my spine which led to tension, stress, and pain. This pattern of tension and pain led to a myriad of downward pulls that cranked my shoulder up to my neck, curved my spine and ribs to the right, and yanked my left ribs down into my left hip and leg.
Unconsciously, these habits hindered my free breath and the development of my ribs and diaphragm.
I had worked with Jessica in workshops and every time I FELT the curves and twists of my spine and the asymmetry throughout my ribs. With just a taste of freedom and release throughout my spine, ribs, and hips, I could tell that my left low back and ribs had the potential to move and release.
There was an old pattern of collapse and rigidity that was interfering with my vital capacity (the amount of air that can be taken in by the lungs). Unravelling the torque in my spine altered not only my physical state, but also my emotional and psychological experiences.
During one of my last sessions with Jessica, my left low back and ribs started to move not because I was doing something or forcing them to move but because I stopped gripping and tightening the muscles that were chronically locking my ribs and low back.
What an overwhelming sense of bliss. I experienced energy or a feeling of a vibration tingling from my back down my leg. My stress levels dropped and I felt a connection to my self and my sense of well-being. What a relief!
I have been a AmSAT certified Alexander Technique teacher for 10.5 years and now I am integrating Jessica Wolf’s Art of Breathing into my work with clients who want a powerful and pain free body, a resonant voice.
Redeveloping the diaphragm and bringing conscious awareness to breathing coordination can help people suffering from respiratory difficulties like asthma or emphysema or unleash the power and resonant voices of actors, lawyers, or public speakers.
For more information regarding breathing coordination and Alexander Technique, email info@AlexanderTechniqueLA.com.