Rachel Bernsen is a nationally certified teacher, M.AmSAT offering The Alexander Technique lessons. It is a proven method for solving movement problems that can cause chronic pain and stress and enhances health and well-being with proven therapeutic results which include improved mobility, postural alignment, energy level, performance, effective relief from chronic stiffness, tension and stress.
5 Wednesday evenings, October 3-31, 2018
Advanced registration required SIGN UP
Neighborhood Music School | 50 Audubon St. New Haven
Once again, I’m looking forward to teaching at the Neighborhood Music School. It’s a great environment for musical training and for offering this mode of self care that’s so important to improving musicianship and technical skill. Your body is your main vehicle for artistic expression no matter your art form and the Alexander Technique is a means for using it well.
It is an effective way to solve physical problems that interfere with the complex coordination of playing an instrument, and of singing. Habitual ways of moving and thinking are unconscious and can be counterproductive. Alexander teaches you to be aware of these patterns and the means to move without them, opening the door for change. It is an invaluable tool for any performer.
This five-week class series offers an in-depth introduction. In addition to hands-on guidance students will learn the Technique through movement activities, group activities, demonstrations and discussion. Each student will also receive hands-on coaching on their respective instrument in the class setting.
Students should be at an intermediate level of proficiency or above on their instrument. No previous Alexander Technique experience required. REGISTER
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about postural or muscle tone. As a practitioner who uses her hands to guide people toward moving with greater ease, I started thinking more succinctly about how, through my hands, I assess the quality of a student’s muscle tissue, using that information to help them find more flow and availability in their movement. I am very specific about the language I use in working with my students and wanted to gain more clarity about why I use some words and not others to describe the quality of their muscle tissue. I became curious about the common, very general evaluation of muscle as loose or tight and it got me thinking about why I don’t use these words in my teaching.
If we’re bracing to move, that’s an inefficient way to perform an activity. But the reasons why we’re doing that are highly complex. It’s not simply that our muscles are tight, it’s that we are not effectively responding to change, even to something as fundamental as shifting our weight. Our muscles work best when they can calibrate tone*, a healthy state of responsiveness. This responsiveness is a mind-body phenomena and when we understand how our mind affects our muscle tone, we are on the path to change. It’s best to think about muscle tissue not as static, i.e. tight or loose, but instead in dynamic terms, in relation to thought and to activity. Instead of hardening or stiffening in our response, we want to be springy and resilient. The more we understand about the plasticity of our brains, our ability to adapt and change, the more we bring into focus the changeable quality of our muscle tissue and realize that we can re-educate our systems/ourselves to be more responsive.
Alexander Technique’s unique approach to improving postural tone is embedded in this attention to the connection between body and mind. As a teacher of the Technique I’m looking for responsiveness in my student’s system: how one responds to the stimulus to move. This has an absolute effect on their muscle tone. If they are fearful of a certain movement, then they stiffen. A straight forward example of this is sitting down. If you are afraid that the chair is not behind you and that you might fall, this anxiety has a great influence on how you sit. The quality of one’s postural tone is often directly related to the quality of a person’s thinking, and their ability to stay present in the moment. Even those individuals whose mobility is compromised by illness, degeneration or injury have the capacity for greater calibration of tone, working within their limitations.
When I put my hands on a student I’m looking for modulations in tone as they move, guiding them to release their breath and let themselves be more at ease. I almost always start a lesson with an activity and through my hands I get immediate feedback as to the state of their system in movement. I might sense a dynamic quality such as lengthening or softening or I might feel the opposite, that they’re contracting or narrowing. If upon moving they are doing the latter, I work with them to inhibit this response. I address their whole self by giving them verbal instructions along with non-verbal cues through my hands, guiding them toward a different quality of responsiveness, one with less muscular effort.
Alexander Technique educates students toward greater self awareness and self care. It teaches them how to apply the Alexander principles to their daily lives in a useful and practical way. As an AT teacher, I support each student in improving how they, their nervous system, muscle tissue and so on can organize around the movements of daily life such as sitting in a chair, spiraling, bending, writing, walking and so on.
The word ‘tight’ isn’t in my teaching lexicon as it does not adequately describe tone. Instead, descriptive words bring into focus what a student might be doing to impair mobility such as squeezing, narrowing or shortening. This takes into account how they are unconsciously organizing muscular action and can give them insight into how their movement habits are formed. I use words designed counteract these patterns, such as “widen”, “lengthen”, “release”, “soften” to help them have a new experience of moving and thus form new pathways.
This more complex understanding of postural tone is invaluable for all of us and especially for those struggling with limited mobility, back pain and for those in rehabilitation from surgery or a compromising injury.