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  Alexander Technique Cheshire


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On Practicing
June 2012
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On Practicing
Julia Child, Carnegie Hall and the Alexander Technique
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A few weeks ago hundreds of Alexander Technique teachers, who are certified by the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT), convened for their Annual Conference and General Meeting at the Juilliard School in New York City.


I am thoroughly invigorated by the wonderful workshops and great companionship I enjoyed with my colleagues. My teaching is enlivened by new understanding, my self-explorations and practice are taking me to new discoveries, the use of my whole self and my hands continues to grow through both, intelligent workshops and newly stimulated self-practice.


Foto by Cynthia Knapp, 2012

Today I hope to share some insights with you about ways to work on yourself beyond studying in the safe environment of a teacher you trust.




Michaela Hauser-Wagner

On Practicing


In any kind of teaching, there is no question that students improve their learning by doing some kind of work outside the classroom or instruction time. Anybody who ever seriously studied a language or instrument, wanted to participate in a Marathon or aimed for a Martial Art level, knows that. While many adults consider study and practice a necessity for children, they tend to grow out of this habit as they leave school. Now that I am older, I find that more people in my age group come back to practicing. We want to keep our bodies and our minds fit, we have the drive to accomplish certain goals before a looming deadline, and we have the advantage of knowing ourselves better and the freedom to make choices.


With the following list of questions I hope to bring us closer to our attitude and insights about practicing in general:

  • what do you associate with the word practice?
  • how do you remember practicing as a child?
  • are adults practicing?
  • what particular skills have you studied or practiced since you left school?
  • how have you done that?
  • have you set a goal? have you achieved it?
  • do you dedicate time and regular practice to a particular long term goal?
  • do you give relatively brief but intense attention to a particular project?
  • do you have more than a few irons in the fire?
  • do you forget to practice? what makes you forget?
  • do you need to see a teacher to keep you on track or are you good at studying on your own?

There are different ways to practice the Alexander Technique outside of lessons.

  • you can make it a rule to lie down every day for a certain period of time and practice awareness of your body, your mind and the interactions between the two.
  • as you rest in Semi-Supine you can send mental directions to yourself: neck to be free for the head to go away for the back to lengthen and widen and the knees to release forward.
  • you can practice awareness of yourself in daily activities
  • you can practice specific skills that come out of your lessons or your overall awareness: bending, "Monkey", lunge, Whispered Ah, Hands on the Back of Chair ....

Let me suggest a few more examples of practicing the Alexander Technique:

  • How do I bend to wash my hands? Try sending your knees forward and your hips back.
  • How do I stand? Feel both feet on the ground and explore their contact points. Release your legs to the ground.
  • How do I walk to the mailbox? Ask your neck muscles to let go so that your head can balance freely on top of the spine.
  • How do I deal with pain, stress and discomfort? Ask yourself to stop feeling and analyzing. Ask your mind to stop repeating recurrent thought patterns.
  • How do I lift a heavy object? Think wide in the shoulders and between the armpits, even as your hands come together in the front.
  • How do I hold myself in the car? Let the front of the arms and the top of the shoulders go. Think wide. Let your neck be free. Release your eye muscles.


In New York last week Alexander Technique teacher and running coach Malcolm Balk quoted his cello teacher: "If all else fails, try practicing. "
The following is adapted from a blog I wrote about three years ago. 
Last week in preparation for a road trip I went to our public library and checked out the Audio CD of Julia Child's book My Life in France. Up to this point all I knew about Julia Child was that she discovered cooking late in life and that she brought French cuisine to America. While I listened to this biography I learned so much more about Julia Child, not just about her accomplishments but about her style, the means by which she achieved her goal. She repeated and practiced recipes over and over again, at the cooking school and later when she adapted French recipes for the American market. She wanted to understand every single step of transformation from an animal to a meal, from basic ingredient to sauce or baguette. She looked into the science of flour types and the limitations of home ovens. But most of all she repeated and reworked and then did it once again - just to be sure. After she had already been a highly accomplished home cook and started to teach (a friend!) she cooked a dish in the morning in order to be prepared for the lesson in the afternoon. She checked and re-checked all the recipes that went into her first cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", which took about a decade of preparation.
Julia Child
When I am teaching the Alexander Technique, I sometimes feel I should fulfill some of the great promises and discoveries this work holds during the student's first three introductory sessions.
The fact of the matter is however that Alexander Teachers go through a 3-year 1600 hour fulltime training in order to qualify as teachers; they continue to exchange with one another and take lessons from colleagues - more or less for the rest of their lives, and that they lie down regularly to practice elements introduced in the first few lessons: neck to be free, head forward and up, back back, knees away, etc. It is this ongoing practice of conscious control, this mastering of basic ingredients that enables us to produce specialties and delicacies like the preparation for an artistic or athletic performance, the resolution of a persistent pain, the managing of a psychological or emotional crisis.

F.M. Alexander did not accept anyone as a student unless the person committed to a minimum of 30 lessons, daily, five times a week. He knew what it takes to be successful. So did Julia Child, as well as many other people who are accomplishing in unusual ways.
My young daughter's first violin teacher quoted Shin'ichi Suzuki when she told us "you don't need to practice every day, only on the days you eat" - in Suzuki pedagogy figures in the range of 10,000 repetitions are being mentioned in order to accomplish a new level.

Do you remember this old joke? A man walking in Manhattan asks a passer-by "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The other replied "Practice, my friend, practice."
On the topics of habit formation and practice I am recommending a brief article on Psyblog
"How Long to Form a Habit" and the book 'Outliers', in which author Malcolm Gladwell proposes the "10,000-hour-rule", a theory that success in any field depends on enormous practice time.

Exciting news!! I am now teaching in Middletown at Yoga in Middletown. Lessons are presently scheduled on Fridays, but can be expanded to one other day. Contact Michaela at [email protected] or 203-271-3525.

Think Young - Balance, Posture and Beyond

Osher Liefelong Learning Institute, UConn Campus, Waterbury

Wednesdays June 6, 13, 20, 27, 10:15 - 11:45


Free Intro Lecture: Posture - Back Strength - Balance

Elm City Market, Chapel Street New Haven, Thursday June 28, 6:00 - 7:30.