Category Archives: Confidence

Brazilian Singer uses Alexander to Calm Performance Anxiety

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Carla Hassett, singer. musician, and Alexander Technique client, was just interviewed by Linda Wertheimer on NPR about Carmen Miranda, São Paulo, and the making of a far from traditional Brazilian album +Blue.

Her CD Release Concert is happening July 10, 6pm and a Killer band is locked in (with members of Sergio Mendes and Bebel Gilberto’s band), to play in Los Angeles at Kulak’s Woodshed. But if you’re not in LA, you can catch the concert LIVE ONLINE at ClapMe.com!!

Read how she has used Alexander Technique to calm performance anxiety:

“When I finished recording my album and started thinking about playing shows in support of it’s release, I knew I had to do something to address my performance anxiety.

Thankfully I found Sharon and embarked on a 10-week intensive one on one training with her. It never occurred to me to come at emotional anxiety from a physical perspective, but I know from years of singing that the mind-body connection works both ways, so I was eager to get started. Sharon helped me to change my experience of feeling hopeless and helpless to overcoming very powerful feelings of anxiety that I feel while performing.

I put these skills to the test in a big way this week when I was invited to do an interview with Linda Wertheimer on NPR. Before, this sort of thing would floor me, but I used the breathing techniques and alignment skills that Sharon taught me and they keep me calm, cool, and present. Of course I had moments of panic, but I was able to work quickly through them and get back to a confident, calm state of mind. Success! Next challenge will be the album release concert and live webcast. I’m already practicing and applying the techniques Sharon taught me and I know It’ll be a great show!”

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How to Sit at a Computer

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.  Kids now have to do their homework on iPads or computers.  One reason I chose Alexander Technique as a career was because I did not want a job where I had to sit at a computer.  Even I have to spend time at a computer writing blog posts, sending emails to clients, and doing accounting.

 

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 (I did not make this video)

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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Easiest Way to Calm Nerves in front of an Audience

I love publ320403_10151090611431909_1182712153_nic 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).

Warming Up the Audience

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.

Click HERE or on the above photo to watch the warm up session.

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
  • 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?

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Why Do We Hate Our Bellies?

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.  Our body image is distorted.

(Check out the LOVE YOUR BODY workshop for Self Care and Self Love during the month of February)

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!”

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The result of this obsession with rejecting our bodies is that many people suck in their gut, harden the abdominal muscles, hold their breath, shrink their posture 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 tract that is at first frightening, and then, liberating.  Anger, power, fear, freedom all feelings that are visceral.  And then, confidence.

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We deserve our bellies.  We deserve to feel the power, the confidence 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.

If you are ready to embrace your body, then join me for the LOVE YOUR BODY workshop, February 1, 8, 15, & 22 at 7pm in Los Feliz.

The Power of Your Sacred Pelvis

Your lovely lady hipsYour 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 A full human leg, anterior view, showing bones and joints in situyour 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.

 

3 Mistakes You Make When You Get Nervous

You got the phone call.  You are going in!  This could be a chance of a lifetime!

Nervous Wreck

 

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:

VIDEO 3 Mistakes You Make When You Get Nervous

 

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, sign up for our free video series!

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Alexander Technique at the Santa Monica Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare Santa Monica Festival
Shakespeare Santa Monica Festival

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.

Realinging your Body, Breath, and Spine with Sharon Jakubecy

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.

 

Sharon coaching a client to release strain and stress during Constructive RestThey 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.

 

Do You Have a Vision for Your Life? Watch Mine

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

My Vision Board 10/12

 

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:

Click on the image to watch my Video Vision Board
Click on the image to watch my Video Vision Board

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?

Stressed, Overwhelmed, Anxious? Feel Your Feet

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.

 

Feel your feet on the ground
Feel your feet on the ground

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!

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You have a Gift. Give It!


Two days ago, I was with a client who asked me “What do you do right before you go on stage?”  From years of working on stage in dance, theater, and public speaking, I know that a thorough warm-up gets my energy flowing and my voice sparkling clear.  But, what I really do the moment right before I walk on stage is remember that I am giving the audience a beautiful gift!

When you give a great gift to a loved one, you feel eager and excited to give it to them.  There is a warmth in your heart that opens you to the other person.  There is no tension in your shoulders or strain in your voice.  You don’t need anything from the recipient and their smile and joy is what gives you satisfaction.

When you walk into an audition, pitch meeting, or interview, you have a great opportunity to GIVE YOUR GIFT.  Your words, your energy, your time, your dedication, and your passion are a gift you give to your audience.  When you are giving the gift of wisdom, your body is grounded, open, and confident.  Your voice is warm and it fills the room.  Your audience is engaged and curious because who doesn’t want a really great gift?!

In an audition, pitch meeting, or interview, people make the mistake of believing that their audience is judging them.  Many auditioners will have the body language of a scared and hurt victim.  When you remember that you are giving a gift that they have never received,

You no longer need to protect yourself

You don’t need to be pushy.

You don’t have to seek their approval by leaning in towards them.

You are more open to what they need to hear from you.

The warmth in your heart will carry your message into the room through an empowered and resonant voice.

Giving the gift of YOUR message removes any nervousness or worry that you may mess up or they won’t like you.

Giving the gift of your passion sets an example for everyone around you who also has a vital message to share with this world.  Give your gift and inspire your audience to take action, motivate your viewers to change, and impact the lives of thousands of people around the world through film, television, or public speaking.

When I share the gift of Alexander Technique freely and generously, I see dramatic changes in my clients.  I empower my clients to boldly enter any high-stakes situations with pleasure, confidence, and composure.  They feel at home in their own skin and their voices communicate professionalism and power.

Ivana Shein, an actor and writer here in Los Angeles, schedules a session with me just a few hours before she steps on stage.  Now, she is giving her gifts BIG TIME!  This is what she said about her sessions before her one woman show:
“It was an absolute pleasure to be on stage (after my session with you).  I was able to let go of the stress of producing my show and switch into my true creative mind that is in my body.  It was grounded.  I felt more available and free to have fun!  Constructive Rest and Alexander Technique have become a important part of my pre-performance ritual.  Sharon’s ability to make a performer to feel totally present, vibrant, and grounded is truly beyond comparison.”

Ivana Shein brings her one woman show “Faking It” from the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal to Los Angeles.

Faking It is a raucous look at what it takes to belong. Legally. To a country. It’s about how Ivana got her Visa. And also how she lived before her Visa. It’s about Hollywood. Living in it, living outside of it, and sneaking into it by accident.   (Dates, location, time, and to purchase tickets are on the flyer to your right)

 

If you are looking to give your gifts and talents freely, vibrantly, and openly, it’s time to train in the Alexander Technique.  Next workshop starts August 27.  Sign up at  http://alexandertechniquela.com/workshops/actors/