Category Archives: Alexander Technique

How to Drive in LA Traffic Without Pain and Stress

Just before CARmageddon in Los Angeles in 2011, I was interviewed at the NPR studios to help listeners with traffic-related stress. Taking care of yourself while driving helps you stay calm, focused and at-ease during any crazy traffic jams you find yourself in.  Check out the link to the NPR story by Mandalit Del Barco that aired the Friday before the 405 was to be closed for an entire weekend:  http://www.npr.org/2011/07/14/137838936/i-405s-closure-will-be-a-nightmare-for-l-a-drivers

 

Fortunately, CArmageddon was not the disaster the city officials thought it would be.  However, on your way to that important meeting or audition, you still get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with people who are in to much of a hurry and without any patience.  You get stressed out, agitated, and your back starts to kill you.

 

“Grrrrrr!  What are all of these people doing on the road?  Where could they possibly be going at this hour?  What does that guy think he is doing?  He is driving like a lunatic!  I have been driving for 30 minutes and have only gone 8 miles! “

 

Driving is a necessary evil in Los Angeles.  Every day, the mean travel time to work for Angelenos is just about 30 minutes.  Both ways is an hour.  Add on driving to the kids’ school, to the bank, the grocery store, and maybe even a trip to the gym and Angelenos are spending close to 2 hours in the car.  While driving, many of my students complain about hip and lower back pain, neck stiffness, frustration, stress, and downright exasperation.     During their lesson, we look at how they are using themselves while they are driving and how they can undo the destructive tension that makes this everyday activity so unpleasant and painful.

 

Betsy Salkind is a comedian and writer in LA (www.BetsySalkind.com).  In one of her very first lessons, we went out to her car and investigated what she was doing that made her neck ache and her head explode.  While she was driving, Betsy was slouching forward, collapsing her ribcage and spine.  This position required her neck muscles to contract pulling the weight of her head back and down.  She was forward of the structural support of her pelvis, so her hip joints were compressed.  Her neck hurt.  Her shoulders hurt.  Her hips hurt.

 

It is possible to drive without compression and strain.  For Betsy, we arranged her position in the car seat so that she let her head, neck, and back release back and up away from the steering wheel.  The back of her head was supported by the headrest, which needed to be adjusted so that it didn’t tilt forward.  With her head supported by her spine, which was now long, her neck muscles were no longer straining to hold her head up.  Her ribcage had room to move with her breath.  **Here is an amazing little secret weapon that will help you to eliminate tension while driving** She held the steering wheel with the pinky side of her hand which helped her to stay supported by her back.

 

Now when she is driving Betsy doesn’t want to slouch because it makes the experience so much more stressful.  She sits tall, doesn’t hold her breath, and lets her pelvis and back support her entire body.

 

By making these simple choices for yourself, you too can drive in LA traffic without pain and stress.

If you have been stressed and in pain while driving, try these tips and leave a comment.  You can also share this article with colleagues and loved-ones who suffer when they drive.

24 Rejuvenating Ways to Spend Your Lunch Break

Your lunch break is an ideal time to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. It’s too easy to skip it or just rush to get food and throw it down your throat without giving yourself a true break.

I contributed to an article in Inc.com titled “24 Rejuvenating Ways to Spend Your Lunch Break” by Christina Desmarais.  Number 1 on her list (my contribution) is “Get Horizontal.”

“Desk workers tend to slouch, which compresses the spine and ribs, impedes proper breathing, and tightens neck and shoulder muscles. “Laying on your back in semisupine position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor for 10 to 20 minutes allows the muscles of your neck to release, your chest and shoulders to widen, and your whole body to undo tension built up throughout the morning. You rise feeling light, open, and destressed,” says Los Angeles–based Sharon Jakubecy, who teaches people how to have a powerful presence and communicate confidently through something called the Alexander Technique.”

You can read the other 23 recommendations by visiting the link HERE.

 

You can also watch the video below demonstrating Constructive Rest then try it during your lunch break.

After Constructive Rest, you have released tight stressed muscles, allowed your body to breathe freely, and calmed your nervous system.  You are ready for the rest of your day.  You have energy to accomplish your goals.  Some of my clients say it’s better than a power nap!

How does doing Constructive Rest prepare you for the second half of your day?  Let us know. Want more articles and videos?

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6 Ways to Calm Yourself Down During an Adrenaline Rush

Your body releases the supercharged hormone and neurotransmitter, adrenaline, when you have to slam on your brakes, get out ofthe way, or run for cover. It also releases it when you are stressed out, on a deadline, and have to speak in front of a group.

This RUSH triggers the FIGHT-or-FLIGHT response which turns off bodily functions such as digestion and increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow to muscles: all good things when you have to escape from a burning car.

However, when the stakes are high, FIGHT-or-FLIGHT can destroy any chances of effectively delivering your pitch, getting board approval, or making the deal.

Speaking in front of the board, pitching to your clients, or presenting to your colleagues is demanding and can trigger some of these more subtle and off-putting reactions:

1. Clenched Jaw
2. High-pitched Voice
3. Scattered Thinking
4. Locked Knees
5. Hunched Posture

6. Tight Throat – Can’t get your words out
7. Fidgeting or Clumsy Movements
8. Rushed or Fumbled Speaking

These symptoms will also make your listeners uncomfortable. They won’t take you seriously.

Being able to identify your own Fight-or-Flight
Response, and then, ground yourself enables you to communicate your expertise and think quickly on your feet. You can utilize the energy and the excitement of your adrenaline rush to connect to your colleagues or clients and get them “on board.”

Try these strategies when you experience an overpowering Adrenaline Rush:

1. Slow down.
2. Pay more attention to breath going out.
3. Feel your feet on the floor.
4. Open your eyes instead of squinting.
5. Stand tall and let your shoulders be wide
6. Let your ribs move with your breath.

Taking these action steps to calm yourself in a high-stakes situation makes you look, feel, and sound confident. Instead of feeling like you were in a car wreck, your colleagues and clients will be eager and enthusiastic to pat you on the back, shake your hand, and start your project!

 

Sharon Jakubecy (www.AlexanderTechniqueLA.com) is a speaker and Alexander Technique teacher for thought leaders, executives, and public speakers so they are calm, confident, and dynamic in high-stakes speaking events, interviews, and presentations. She has been featured on NPR, The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Weekly, and Backstage as a stress management and Performance expert. Want more helpful articles and videos? Sign up below:

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Bone Deep Strength

I share this video with all of my clients.  Seeing the impact of your slouch on your internal organs can elicit a strong desire to pay attention to how you sit, how you stand, how you move and how you breathe.

It’s much easier than you think.  Most people around the New Year decide to do something about their posture which typically includes a forced “Sit Up Straight” regimen along with painstaking exercise.  The typical assumption is that good posture is a lot of work.

My clients come for a first session in the Alexander Technique and are shocked when they have an experience of their bodies that is light, open, tall, and strong.  They gain “Bone Deep Strength.”  A sense of strength that requires a release of effort in the neck muscles, the chest muscles, the abdominal muscles, and leg muscles so that the bones can provide structural support for a free moving body.

Watch “Bone Deep Strength” and then keep reading.

 

Gaining Bone Deep Strength and the freedom that comes with it starts with awareness, an awareness of when you hold your breath, when you slouch, and the effort or heaviness that comes with those habits.  With that awareness, you have the ability to make new choices with your body.  You have the ability to think differently about your body.  You have the power own your full height and utilize your Bone Deep Strength!

Damaging Mistakes People Make with Breathing

I just finished an Alexander Technique session with a client who is returning to lessons after about a year. He has been experiencing lower back pain. What stood out to me while we were catching up was not only how he was carrying his head forward of his body but also that he was working very hard to breathe in and then holding his breath.

When I asked him what he noticed when he was inhaling, he recognized that he was lifting his shoulders and tightening his neck. After he breathed in, he identified the huge amount of muscular effort he used to hold the breath in. His leg muscles tightened. His abdominal muscles clenched. AND, His lower back was overly arched and gripped. This habit made his lower back hurt.

I then showed him the video below:

He was able to see that his neck and shoulders were not supposed to work in order to receive breath. I put my hands around the bottom edge of his ribs so he was aware of the movement of his back and ribs with his breath. Here is the trick: Let breath out (instead of breathing in)

“Sharon! I feel so relaxed!!! Letting breathing out is so calming. I am always working so hard to breathe in.”

Check if you are making these mistakes with your breathing:

1) Breathing in by lifting your chest and shoulders. This requires many muscles in upper body to grip and tighten and prevents your diaphragm from moving properly in order to take in breath.

2) Holding in breath after the inhale. Holding your breath actually requires your muscles to work unnecessarily. You will also start to feel frantic, panicky, anxious, and/or nervous.

3) Controlling the breath. Your body breathes better than you do. If you are breathing in deeply, you are interfering with your body’s natural breathing coordination.

These mistakes can not only cause physical pain but also evoke nervousness, fear, and anxiety. Letting breath out releases muscles and allows your body to take care of you. Your BODY breathes better than you.

If your breathing seems difficult and you have aches and pains, the Alexander Technique may be the solution.  Find out more about Alexander Technique can help you at the NO COST workshop Confident Posture & a Pain Free Body May 10 in Los Feliz.

Also in Laguna Beach on May 9

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