Saturday, March 29, 2008

Alexander the Great

I had my first Alexander lesson on Friday afternoon with Nanette Walsh. I was really impressed with her; she was intelligent and really knowledgeable on physiology and anatomy and able to explain why she was asking me to do what she was. Plus she had the sweetest old dog named Harley who lay in the room with us, and came up to observe when we were standing up, like some kind of canine consultant, sniffing at my pant legs.

So the first thing we did as soon as we got into the room was “chair work.” She immediately had me stand in front of a straight backed, hard chair and she positioned me to correct way to prepare to sit. For me, it’s all about not having your chin jut out and tightening up the next muscles when I engage my back muscles to prepare to sit down, or stand up.

Then we went to the table and I lay down on my back with my knees up. She also place three small phone books (like the ones we get in NYC for just one neighborhood) about three inches thick total under the knob at the back of my head. My neck was just sort of suspended but supported. She explained that the books are to help keep the top of the head pointed forward, up and out. Adjustments were made to my shoulders and lower back to allow my body to spread outward. Nanette explained that that is the whole idea, for the body to spread out.

We also spent a lot of time on my breath. I’ve done my fair share of yoga and meditation and I was always taught that it’s best to blow your belly out when you take in breath, sending it to the small of your back and abdomen instead of just the chest. Nanette explained that for someone like me who has trouble with tense muscles in my neck and shoulders, it’s important to fill all the way up, and of course, out.

So now I’m practicing my “chair work,” and today I lay on my yoga mat for 10 minutes trying to “direct” my body to spread out. Nanette made sense to me, and I think after about a month or so of living with this new information, I’ll go back for more.

Here’s some information and a bit of history on the Alexander Technique. If you have back problems, it could be worth a try.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had wonderful experiences with the Alexander Technique - helped me let go of all sorts of tension in my body, especially my neck and shoulders.

A great source of information about the Technique can be found at

9:51 PM  

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