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I was raised by two parents who live in a constant state of anticipatory anxiety. When I started my Alexander Teacher Training at ACAT in 1987, I had mild panic attacks, which disappeared over the three years of training.

When I would subsequently experience the physical sensations that came with those panic attacks, I would notice my inner narrative would start to tell me frightening things. Other times I would begin thinking about something that was frightening and the sensations would begin.

I have been able to work effectively on my own with both phenomena, unless I am experiencing a certain threshold of stressors. After the 2016 elections in the US I experienced a prolonged anxiety/depression episode. My heart rate might spike to 120 bpm while drifting off to sleep and I actually saw DJT’s face flashing in my mind’s eye when I wasn’t choosing to visualize anything.

In this case, AT helped me seek support and help in a systematic way. I went to my GP to rule out heart problems or disease and discussed medication options. I inquired about beta blockers, which she explained would take around 30 minutes to kick in, so would not help at the moment of an anxiety attack. She only offered a diazepam (i.e., something in the valium family) which I declined. She said “You are doing everything I would suggest except seeing a therapist. “

AT helped me access my capacity to articulate my symptoms, recognize my vulnerability to anxiety/depression, as I realized had experienced these episodes in the past, and I could now make the connection to a pattern. This helped my immensely to view the event as a real physiological state and not a failure of my character or will. AT also helped me tolerate short term discomfort as I pursued a longer term approach to managing the stressors in my life. The whole experience helped my upgrade my self-care to a whole new level.

I would encourage anyone dealing anxiety or depression to reach out and find support, help and resources. I never recognized my predisposition to anxiety and depression until my most recent episode, and now that I have realized, I feel a sense of relief and clarity. This is not about my lack of self-discipline or character, it’s straight up bio-chemistry and physiology.

Part of “good use”, a central theme in the Alexander Technique, is one’s capacity to recognize and address what is going on, in a more objective way, regardless of the feelings associated with the situation. Alexander needed a mirror to show him he wasn’t in the position or shape he felt he was when reciting, and this allowed him to resolve his chronic hoarseness. In a similar way, I expanded the criteria and context in which I considered my “symptoms” and came up with a more comprehensive solution, as well as the understanding that I have a constitutional vulnerability to anxiety and depression.

I have now begun to see how low level anxiety has shaped my strategies for living, and I am continuing to make changes and take action that allow me to be less unconsciously shaped by anxiety.

This, among many other benefits, is why I am so devoted to the Alexander Technique as a life practice. The positive changes keep coming.

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As an Alexander Teacher, I have been trained to observe and analyze my students’ movements and behaviors, so that I can teach them tools to maximize their efficiency while minimizing physical and mental stress.

One measure I use to that end is movement quality. I use a couple different scales, one of which is the range from smooth to jerky.

Efficiency and smoothness can typically be enhanced in the unspecialized activities of daily living. During Alexander lessons, it is common to use the activity of standing up and sitting down in a chair to explore habit and learn more advantageous ways of coordinating our own movements.

Upon sitting, many people shift slightly behind their balance and “plop“ into a chair. There is often a point during sitting when people have the feeling they can’t bend their knees anymore, so they may pitch their upper body quite far forward, or they may pull their lower back up and press their knees together, to overcome the stiffness they experience in their knees, ankles and hips.

When standing up, there is often a lurch or jerk to get the seat off the chair, and sometimes another jerk or a tendency to lock the knees at the point of arriving in the final upright position.

In conjunction with my hands-on assistance, I help my students explore the rhythm and smoothness of their movement. Sometimes, I ask them to allow me to guide or steer their movement, so my hands generate the initial energy to begin moving. In that case, the student is learning to provide postural tone and balance support, while reducing the activity in the musculature that initiates movement. At other times, I leave my hands on to observe how they move, on their own, and to impart a calm, fluid state through my touch, as the student initiates and guides their own movement in space.

Either way, the student is learning ways to start, move and come to a stop with as little excess effort as possible. The process of slowing down creates time and space for them to reduce unneeded exertion. The mildest degree of success indicates improved smoothness and efficiency. Through this activity, the student is gaining a skill they can self-apply throughout the day.

It can also be a simple frame in which to observe oneself. If my goal is to be smooth and efficient in my actions, I have a scale to assess how I am doing. I can tell if I am more or less jerky as I work with my desire to be smooth.

Looking at the contrast of smooth/jerky when watching others move can also help a student relate to the idea.

Not every idea is useful for every student, so I like to have a wide array of ideas, tools and examples that can be demonstrated at my disposal. This is one of many approaches to directly influencing our activities in a helpful way.

Try this:

Watch yourself in a mirror while doing this exploration.

  • Touch your nose with your index finger with your non-dominant hand.

  • Try it again, moving as quickly as you can. What do you notice about the effect speed has on the smooth/jerky continuum.

  • Touch your nose with your non-dominant hand, with you main aim being to move smoothly in your arm joints and leave your head and neck poised freely on top of your head. What did you notice this time, regarding speed and the smooth/jerky continuum?

  • Explore standing up and sitting down with the goal of increasing smoothness. What do you notice?

    ©2019 N. Brooke Lieb

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A simple google search with the term “effects of head forward posture” yields results that show a possible correlation between degree of forward displacement and pain in computer users; increased time spent sitting at a desk increasing instances of neck pain; and a decrease in respiratory efficiency. Read more here.

Measures show that the greater the forward displacement of the head increases the increases the weight sent through the neck. In a neutral position, the average human head weights 10-12 pounds; as the head moves forward, this weight increases drastically:

At 15 degrees, the head weighs 27 pounds

At 30 degrees, it increases to 40 pounds

At 45 degrees, it weighs 49 pounds

At 60 degrees, it exerts a force of 60 pounds on the cervical spine.

Read more here.

How Can Alexander Lessons Help?

Alexander lessons teach students how to reduce the inclination to shift head weight forward through a variety of skills and interventions.

On the behavioral side of things, students learn internal and external cues to reduce the forward shift of their head in activities of daily living, including sitting, standing, waling, computer use, and specialized activities (examples: knitting, playing an instrument, sports).

Judith Leibowitz, Founder (1964) and first Director of Training (1967-1981) at The American Center for the Alexander Technique had lessons with F. M. Alexander. During a panel discussion at the 1986 International Alexander Technique Congress in Stonybrook, NY, Judy shared that F. M. gave her the following verbal cues while using his hands on to guide her: “Allow the neck to be free, to allow the neck to move back and up, to allow the head to move forward and up… For many of us in the Alexander community, the phrase “to allow the neck to move back and up” is not part of the verbal directions we have learned, but the actual event of the neck moving back and up is something we all promote in the use of our hands.

On the intervention side, part of many Alexander lessons include time when the student is resting on her back on a table. Alexander Teachers call this table work. There are many skills that can be illustrated, taught and refined on the table, where the feeling of losing balance and falling is mostly eliminated.

Teachers attend to the release and lengthening of muscles coming from the torso to the skull on the table, and coach the student to allow a lengthening of the curve of the neck. When laying down, as the neck lengthens it moves down towards the table. If the student was oriented upright, this movement would be back in space.

All of the instruction is done with a quality of touch that most students find pleasant. Lessons also help students release tension and learn how to do that for themselves outside of lessons.

Aesthetically, an increased forward carriage of the neck and head is not as visually appealing as a more erect trunk/neck/head relationship.

Whatever your motivations - looks or health - reducing the degree to which you displace your head forward could be good for your health.

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Training teachers and offering post graduate lessons and classes has been one of my passions during my 30 year career as an Alexander teacher. It has informed my studies, how I interpret Alexander’s writings, and is the area I focus my continued learning and development.

One consistent standard I see across all approaches to training is to emphasize that the teacher’s application of Alexander principles to the act of teaching is the foundation of teaching. Before working hands on with another, a level of self-organization is vital.

One analogy I use is that of a lifeguard. The first rule of being a lifeguard: Don’t drown with a drowning victim. Save yourself first.

I don’t mean to imply that teaching an Alexander lesson carries any significant risk of life to teacher or student. And, among teacher trainers, there is a fairly consistent recognition that the teacher’s use of herself and effectively applying the same skills being taught as the vehicle for teaching is the foundation of effective teaching.

  • On a practical level, here are some of the ways that value plays out in my teaching, as I use the very same methodology I am teaching:

  • Recognize the stimulus in the moment (a question from the student, placing my hands on her shoulders or head, moving her arm)

  • Pause to prevent or relieve any stiffening in my head/neck/spine and throughout my system

  • Continue to reduce that stiffening while I attend to the activity of the moment (speaking, guiding my student’s movement, helping my student refrain from moving without stiffening, lifting and bending my student’s leg while she is on the table; guiding her as she observes and changes her breathing pattern) .

  • Use the same methodology as I assess the outcome of the previous moment and select what comes next.

  • Outside of teaching, apply this methodology to my daily tasks to maintain and improve the skills I use when teaching.

Preparatory Learning

One of the prerequisites to apply to the Teacher Certification Program at The American Center for the Alexander Technique was a minimum of 26 lessons. The expectation and hope was that people entering the program would already be somewhat versed in self-regulation and slowing down, and have a level of stamina and postural support to spend three+ hours per day immersed in applying Alexander’s methodology.

Much of ACAT’s first year curriculum was structured to have first year students receive many turns, continue to build their stamina and postural support and have a chance to preview the skills and sequences they would eventually learn and practice further along in the course. This gave them a chance to slow down, watch, practice calming themselves and acclimate to the flavor and tempo of Alexander teaching skills.

Benchmarks during training

There are many signposts of the progress during training.

One benchmark I monitor is the how hard the student is trying to “get it right”. Alexander used a term called end-gaining, which refers to a degree of habit and automaticity in carrying out an activity. This would include a low level of awareness and analysis of how some task is being accomplished. As a counterpoint to end-gaining, he used the phrase means-whereby, meaning a higher level of observation, planning and efficiency with reduced stress on mind and body. This benchmark plays out in a very individual way, but there is an observable shift in each student. I am waiting for the student to abandon end-gaining and become genuinely engaged and curious about how to apply Alexander skills to action. For some, this happens more easily, for others, end-gaining can be exhausting. Inevitably, each student progresses on this continuum and embraces means-whereby more of the time.

Another benchmark I track is alertness. I watch the student’s eyes. I watch how well they are tracking discussions, activities, transitions, and the general flow of events in the classroom. I also listen to how they articulate about their experiences in turns, and how they speak during discussions.

These observations, along with others, give me information on the relative progress of the student as she progresses through the training course. They are by-products of returning to the foundation of teaching: apply Alexander’s skills to yourself as your first step in the teaching process.




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My writer’s block is still with me. I have written down notes and titles for 12 or more topics, but just can’t seem to find the inspiration to sit and get the writing done.

In the meantime, necessity is the mother of invention. I somehow managed to delete every email in my inbox on my desktop computer. 14,000+ to be exact. I only keep the last week’s worth of messages on my web-based server. 11 years deleted.

Spoiler alert: every email IS backed up and I have successfully retrieved them. And now, after going through every email and deciding what I need to keep, I only have 862 emails in my inbox.

Read on if you want to see how AT helped me walk step by step through the problem solving process.

I have an external hard drive, so I know all the emails are there. But I can’t see the folder where they live.

In my attempt to restore from the back-up software, I get error messages, and manage to delete every email from the sent box on my desktop.

This is heading in the wrong direction.

I haven’t panicked, but I am feeling a level of frustration that makes me want to destroy something, because the restore process isn’t working like it might, and I can’t see the hidden files.

I allow myself to feel the extreme frustration and rage while I let another part of my brain work on the problem. I text a friend who is a Mac specialist, then figure out how to make the hidden files visible. That takes an hour or so.

As it turns out, I am unable to import all the missing emails into the mail program while they are on the external hard drive. I can see them on my finder, but the mail program won’t let me view the hidden files.

So, I first have to copy them from the external hard drive onto my computer. I will spare you the boring details of how the back up files are nested inside each other and the dates are not consecutive.

I figured out a system for going through each folder of backed up emails quickly and keeping only what I needed - anywhere from 0 to 17 at the most.

I still have to restore my whole sent email box, but I am looking forward to having that virtual clutter gone as well.

Where is the Alexander Technique in all of this? My capacity to re-regulate my stress level and get productive is a direct result of all those years of stopping, calming my nervous system and releasing tension from my neck.

Who knows, if I still can’t get past my writer’s block, I may start cleaning out drawers and closets.


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(first published in Pain Management Tools Newsletter © 2008 N. Brooke Lieb)

Alexander didn't have a teacher to help him solve his vocal problems.  He had no one telling him where to begin or how to approach finding a solution, so he began with simple observation and then experimented on a trial and error basis.

One of Alexander's observations and concerns, as he worked for over 60 years teaching people from all walks of life, was the lack of critical reasoning people brought to problem solving.

Some of my most effective teaching moments have been when I could help someone see, for themselves, how they were using their body or reacting to a situation.

Example 1:

At the first lesson, I showed this student how she was putting pressure on her lower back by locking her knees and pushing down onto her waist.   Within moments, she was able to lesson the pressure.

"When my doctor suggested surgery to alleviate excruciating back pain from two herniated disks, I remembered a friend who had avoided surgery by working with an Alexander trainer so I tried it too.  It's been almost two years since I started working with Brooke and I am virtually pain-free.  When I do have pain, it's because I've forgotten to use the Alexander tools Brooke taught me; as soon as I remember to walk properly, the pain goes away.

I no longer suffer from terrible lower back pain. My whole body feels less tense and I have fewer muscle aches. Using the Alexander Technique while playing golf, lifting weights or doing any other physical activity has helped prevent injury."

Example 2:

"I asked Brooke about my knee pain and she asked me to get up from the chair and within a few seconds she saw my problem. She had me sit and get up again, this time giving me commands on how to position my legs when getting out of a seated position. I felt the difference immediately and to this day, I use the instructions she had shown me. "

Example 3:

I am working with a young actress, who shared she is not satisfied with her quality of sleep.  After about 5 lessons, she came back and told me she has engaged in a point-by-point investigation into solving the combined issues that were interfering with her sleep.  She said she'd solved some of her problems, knew the solution to others and was getting to them; and still had some questions about solving some of the problems.   At our lesson last week, she said she was sleeping better already.

 Here is her checklist:

 1. Sleep Mask- buy one that does not fall off

 2. Mattress- switch with neighbor, get a new one

 3. Pillows- remove second pillow and get smaller pillow to put under big pillow (both pillow were a lot for me, and one was not enough so I was always struggling with them at night)

 4. Glass of Water- Keep at distance far enough that you can't knock over

 5. Dogs-

 6. AC- Keep remote next to you and turn on and off as you please during the night

 7. Comforter- Keep yourself cool so you won't get hot under it, ask Michael to push it to your side before he gets in the bed so he does not sleep on it and therefore deprive you of wonderful comforters

 8. Michael awake at night-

 9. Dogs chewing things- before going to bed remove all things that the dogs can reach that you know they will chew on (shoes, pens,etc)

While students who have lessons sometimes have a hard time describing what the Alexander Technique is, or describing the sensations and changes they experience, these examples are a bit more concrete and can help students understand the reasoning process that is an integral aspect of applying the principles of the Alexander Technique.

You can ask: "How am I doing what I'm doing?  Could I do this differently?"

A simple example from my own life came when I realized I could thread a needle more easily by facing the whole towards my eyes, and bringing the thread from behind the needle into the hole.   It is much easier to see.  I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person, but I realized how habitual I can be in life, and when I made this simple adjustment (after 38 years of threading a needle "blind" by bringing the thread in sideways) the activity became much easier and more efficient.

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Happy Valentine’s Day. I wish you chocolate, pleasure, connection, ease, and a generally good day.

I started the day with dance class, one of those spaces in my life where my mind focuses on the present moment. I don’t think about anything but what I am doing. It’s the best form of meditation for me - moving and active.

I spent the rest of this day arm deep in old documents from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, preserving the history of 54 years of people who came together in our shared love of The Alexander Technique.

For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, find out for yourself. Take a lesson and decide for yourself.

While I was scanning documents and organizing things, I had on Spotify, listening to a one of the curated playlists they have called “Easy 80s”. That music really takes me back to a formative time in my life, and the soundtrack that played kept the pleasure coming all day.

What has all this got to do with the Alexander Technique? My capacity to be present, pay attention, focus and productive has been greatly enhanced by the technique. I am having such a lovely day, enjoying myself and grateful to be alive. Alexander Technique helps me choose where to direct my focus, so more of my days are spent in ease and pleasure.

Don’t get me wrong, I know life isn’t all roses. I’ve written about some of my not so great days in these blogs, you can read about how the Alexander Technique helped me then, too.



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My great joy is training Alexander Teachers. I had the honor of serving as Director of Training at The American Center for the Alexander Technique from 2008 through 2018, at which time we closed our doors. In my tenure on the faculty, from 1992 until 2018, I had a chance to participate in training over 130 teachers. I have also had a chance to serve as guest faculty on other courses and offer post-graduate training to colleagues from all over the world.

Hands-on teaching

I have been profoundly impressed with all my colleagues’ commitment to excellence, regardless of their “Alexander lineage” or style of teaching.

Sometimes that commitment to excellence manifests as an aspiration for perfection, and that can generate anxiety.

I had the good fortune to train at ACAT while Judy Leibowitz was alive, and had a weekly class with her almost every semester. Her teaching and words have been captured in a lovely book, edited by Katherine Miranda, called “Dare To Be Wrong”. I found Judy’s style of training teachers fully embodied that exploratory attitude. Judy taught my by emphasizing what was going well, and how I was exploring with her, even as she taught me the highly technical skills of hands on work. She taught me how to match what I said in words with what my hands-on work was communicating.

Judy had a way of guiding me into the exploratory and playful side of the work, even as I was going through some emotionally challenging situations in my personal life. Her attitude was that I was more than adequate in my ability to be present, try something out, observe the outcome and celebrate what worked or adjust my ideas and try something else.

For me, inhibition - taking time, slowing down, calming my nervous system, having more space, putting the result on “pause”, releasing over-exertion - is the most helpful aspect of Alexander’s method.

Don’t worry about you don’t want, put your attention on what you do want

I have watched new teachers work with students, and 99% of the time, change happens, the change we are after when we teach. Students invariable benefit, even if it isn’t clear moment to moment what is happening.

When I am working with teachers and teachers-in-training, I invite them not to worry about how perfect their use is, and not to be afraid of going wrong. The more I am worried about whether I am using myself well, the less I am applying the tools.

Instead, remember that if we are inhibiting and directing for ourselves and our student, that intention is present in our manner,our words and the quality of our hands. We may be pulling down a bit, or stiffening our necks here and there, but what is novel about our touch, words and being is that we are ALSO working deeply and skillfully in our nervous systems with the tools of inhibition, awareness and direction. That added dynamic will register on our student’s system. It’s different enough from their baseline state, that on some level, they will experience the possibility for change.

I don’t think the Alexander Technique is about perfection, I think it’s about supporting ourselves, making choices and dealing with the constant demands of life. As teachers, we can offer our students our own example, and be perfectly imperfect, and more than good enough.

© 2019 N. Brooke Lieb

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“What you face now is a fact. Is a fact ever a problem?”* Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

(*A fact is a problem when the fact is not faced.)

As a student of the Alexander Technique, I was first introduced to the idea that I may be more subjective than I realized in most areas of my perception.

This topic was first explored in the context of my bodily sensations. What felt “right”, necessary or baseline for my posture and movement, was not as right as I believed. I was loading more compression on my joints and using more effort in my muscle tone than was necessary for much of what I was doing.

I started training to teach the Alexander Technique after 4 years of private lessons. It wasn’t long before I began to see how my subjectivity wasn’t limited to my sense of physical effort. My world view, my identity, my emotional tones and most every area of my life was impacted by the habitual way I processed life, and my reactions gave me all the information I needed to work with my habits.

Why is it so much easier to know what someone else should do to solve their problems?

They say it is hardest to see one’s own habits, which are typically framed as faults, flaws and biases by self and others. Unfortunately, I can be very self-critical AND defensive in my earnest efforts to observe my habits and work for change…

On the other hand, when I am teaching the Alexander Technique to my students, or training teachers, I have a chance to observe their habits without being invested in the rightness or wrongness of those habits. This bit of distance allows me to soften, recognize my own habits, and work with myself more effectively.

Many of my students are gobsmacked when they come to realize their habits, so I get lots of practice helping them take the sting out of awareness. Habits need not be tied up in value judgements. Not attaching to the judgements can make the habit easier to address.

©2019 N. Brooke Lieb

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As I sit here at my computer typing this, I am a bit slumped, resting on my forearms, legs crossed, breath somewhat shallow. Before I rush to change position, I am finding a bit more inner space. I loosen tension in my face and jaw, and realize I want to raise my desk chair and sit closer to the edge. Phew, that’s better!

As I take myself through this process, I imagine one colleague in particular sitting in judgment of me for slumping in the first place.

That’s one scenario about how my desire for “good use” backfires.

What is “good use?”

Alexander referred to the interplay of physical, intellectual and emotional behavior and action as “Use”. He understood that we are holistic beings. We do not have distinct, separated functions.

Alexander referred to the interplay of physical, intellectual and emotional behavior and action as “Use”. He understood that we are holistic beings. We do not have distinct, separated functions.

Alexander referred to the interplay of physical, intellectual and emotional behavior and action as “Use”. He understood that we are holistic beings. We do not have distinct, separated functions.

Example: My arm doesn’t function and exist in a vacuum from any other aspect of myself. My arm moves with different quality depending on my overall state and the context of movement. When I am dancing, I have a different context for my arm movements that when I am bringing a bite of food to my mouth. In either activity, I may be unaware of inefficient action.

Alexander discovered how the poise of his head affected his overall stature, poise and behavior - his “use”. When his head was poorly balanced, he experienced a cascade of difficulties, and his most pressing symptom was chronic hoarseness. When he was able to optimize poise, starting with the quality of his thinking, to find a more advantageous balance of his head, his difficulties began improving.

He spent his teaching career applying that discovery to himself, and sharing that discovery with others.

“How do I get “good use”?: Start by allowing for “better use”

Alexander did say that if my use is better today than it was yesterday, that is improvement, and if I am to continue to use myself well, I don’t want to hold on to yesterday’s baseline, I want to allow for continued change.

The Alexander Technique does have a value system, which includes efficiency, coordination, and congruence in our selves. This can include an appreciation of accuracy, subjectivity, personal preference and values, to allow the individual to choose more effectively in the moment. The skill includes not turning those values into dogma.

Perhaps “good use” includes an attitude of awareness, curiosity, flexibility, space to change, and taking the time to explore what is so and how would I like it to be. I do want to have good use, but I don’t want to be trapped, limited or confined. How I approach my attainment of good use gives me clues as to whether I am using myself well in the endeavor.

©2019 N. Brooke Lieb

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