One of my practicum students asked me an interesting question. “What brought me to the Alexander Technique?” It probably began with my involvement in artistic gymnastics as a kid. My instructor taught us from a deep appreciation for the grace of movement. She also coached us to work hard toward physical resilience and refinement of movement. Ludmila Savinkova — my coach — was the first World All-Around Champion in 1963.
Since that time my life has taken many turns. At one point in my life I worked as a paralegal. It involved very little physical activity, yet a lot of study — sitting at a table and working long hours in front of computer in a fixed position. After my day I’d run to yoga class. Still, next morning I distinctly felt that I wanted more movement in my day — every day. I felt that yoga was giving me joy of moving that involved every bit of my body. That involvement also connected me to my time with my coach Ludmila, which was a particularly bright time in my life.
By way of my involvement in that yoga program, I became certified to teach. By that time I had already benefited a lot from yoga. I saw my body transforming. I liked my outlined muscles and the silhouette I saw in a mirror. I felt very enlivened and “connected” after each yoga class. Regardless of the style, I was benefiting, learning, enjoying.
Gradually teaching yoga grew into my main occupation. Through continued involvement in yoga I continued to explore the subtleties of movement. I focused on getting my students to enjoy movement in a way that my first gymnastics coach did years earlier. I also was exploring movement as an essential factor of human health.
I wanted the movement I taught to be efficient and safe. I was also dedicated to explore healing potential of movement. I considered how different asanas could be modified for people with various musculoskeletal challenges. I observed that among my clients — even young people – maybe every third student would have pain or some sort of discomfort. In time, efficacy and safety became a priority in my developing teaching approach. I pursued how it was possible to achieve more with less effort.
Since then — whatever I was doing — I brought that approach with me. Even when I was bent over the counter washing dishes I was thinking about how I used my body. When I was dancing salsa, I was looking for ways to move more effortlessly. I practiced moving with the energy of the dance, but with less tension — to be lighter and “taller.” I was focused on finding that “effortless effort” in my colleagues’ experiences.
One of my colleagues mentioned that he noticed his awkwardness in the simple act of driving a nail into a wall. He said that his body felt unnaturally tense. I considered the body / mind connection again and again, with the idea that we should move more as “whole” bodies in a harmony of unison, and not merely as a random collection of our body’s parts.
From the beginning it would have been easier had there been some smoother and more direct way to progress, with expedient shortcuts. Yet, more often than not, the opposite is a case. Like Joseph Campbell reflects in his myths, the hero has to take a detour to find the truth, or the answer to the question.
In my case, my personal stumbling block was my own stubborn back pain. It was very frustrating. I found myself asking, “Why was I dealing with chronic nagging back pain now — after I gained such a solid experience practicing yoga and my muscles felt and looked stronger than ever?!”
I couldn’t help the feeling that I was being betrayed by my body. Until that point in my practice I had experienced healing of other injuries, but this time it was different. The pain I was experiencing simply would not go away.
I began searching for a new approach to the problem that I could incorporate into my life and work. I started by networking with different specialists — very good specialists in their respective fields – beginning first with a chiropractor, then with a series of osteopathic treatments. I also visited some medical doctors. But that was only the beginning.
In the back of my mind the question lingered, “Don’t you know how to help yourself, being a yoga specialist?” I was haunted by this question until one day I made a fortuitous discovery. I was going through a book very carefully tracing every anatomical connection searching for an answer. It was then that I stumbled upon the first reference to the Alexander Technique, so I researched it further on the Internet
It was a pivotal turning point. Step-by-step I managed to resolve my chronic pain. My interest continued to grow from there. I developed a passion to learn every possible detail that I could about how the technique worked. I devoted the better part of the next four years of my life to learn F.M. Alexander system. That is how I came to the Alexander Technique School.
Now as a practitioner I continue to explore the ongoing possibilities within the system. I “practice what I preach,” working on the “old habits” of my body and my lifestyle. This involves looking at all major areas of my life, including my personal life, my work as an Alexander teacher and yoga coach, the way that dance and even the way that I walk. I have developed the approach of seeing the “bigger picture” of my life in a way that influences how I perceive myself, my life, and the people around me.
I am also fascinated by F.M. Alexander’s personality. I was very fortunate to be able to familiarize myself with his system. It has been truly life-changing for me, my colleagues, and my students. F.M. Alexander’s teachings bring a tectonic shift into the understanding of the body as live human organism in a similar way that Einstein caused a shift in thinking in his field of relativity theory.
I am happy to share with my clients Alexander’s discoveries and the practical ways that they can be applied to enhance our everyday activities. Alexander’s system is a great resource that allows my students to tap into new potentials. Among the major benefits is discovering how to live in our bodies with greater ease and poise.