Tag Archives: Fight flight or freeze

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.

 

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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