Category Archives: Breathing

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.

 

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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I’m a certified teacher in Jessica Wolf’s Art of Breathing


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.

 

Cast on ‘True Blood’ after Alexander Technique

Self-Sabotage Solutions: Sharon Jakubecy and the Alexander Technique
by: Michelle Luchese www.MichelleLuchese.com

 


  “Just wanted to let you know, that my first audition back I was thinking about everything you taught me and     walked in with confidence and just innately took a breath before beginning and I booked it!! It’s a Co-Star on   True Blood and I’m so excited, thank you so much!! What an awesome way to start off 2011. I just had to tell   you!”
-Michelle Luchese www.MichelleLuchese.com who played the role of young woman who is an anti-vampire       campaigner in the fourth season of True Blood

 

 

So often we walk into an audition room and clench up only to have inhibited the very gifts they have asked us to show them! What do you do to stop this constant innate self-sabotage? Well I found a lady with some answers, people, and here is what Sharon Jakubecy’s expertise taught me today!

Sharon first approached me about checking out one of her private Alexander Technique classes for my blog and I was more than happy to stop by and see exactly what this technique I’d always heard of, was actually all about. Now I can officially say, Sharon has taught me the art of allowing my body to tell me how to relax.

We started by learning how to relax the head into it’s natural upright position, trying to get away from this thing that had somehow become habitual. Checking out my normal everyday walk in her mirror, we noticed that my head was darting forward in some sort of attack mode! Once I understood not where specifically I needed to move my head to fix this, but how to relax into the correct position, we talked about the differences between what my body naturally wants to do and that of which I could do with all the extra space in my lungs if I just freed up and allowed my body to be centered, grounded, and full of breath. It seems that starts with just allowing your head to find it’s proper place, all through relaxation, as opposed to forcing it into some unfamiliar territory.

It’s amazing how resilient the body is. I was afraid the slump in which I had allowed myself to hangout had become my new posture, but not so. With Sharon’s adjustments through light touching to some tension points, I found a healthy, strong, centered stride and was on my way. She has this amazing bullshit-detecting mirror in her studio and she had me going back to my previous slump position as we worked, so as to see the progress. It was fascinating! Not only did I feel so much more in my power, I looked it too!

Sharon asked where and when my clenching usually occurs and I said that first few minutes in the room at auditions. So we did a couple mock auditions, coming in centered, then again coming in flustered from being late but taking just a second to catch my breathe and center myself just before opening the door. And what I walked out of her door with, was a whole new idea of what confident and grounded means. It’s not just a state of mind people-oh no-it’s an actual thing you can practice and ask your body to keep reinforcing. I’m so excited to use it next time I audition!!

(And she did it!)  If you have a big audition, pitch meeting, or interview, call TODAY to set up your Introductory Alexander Technique session.  CALL (310) 383-1796 for information and to schedule your first session.

 

 

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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