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News from "Up Here"

MAY UPDATE

Hello Friends,

It’s taken me a while to assemble some thoughts for this newsletter. This is such a complicated time! I want to acknowledge and honor the immense loss and challenges being felt by many. I would also note the important personal discoveries that are being gained along the way.


Sara

LEARNING NEW THINGS

PANDEMIC


It is ironic that the last time I wrote, it was about the importance of touch. You can read that newsletter here.
Now, we are discouraged from touching, yet who has not been touched by the outpourings of strength and resolve in our communities? Zoom meetings are an amazing way to connect with people in palpable ways. We are picking up the phone to call people. We are touching others in any way we can; smiling with our eyes, gesturing, and bowing to greet others are among the newly acquired behaviors of the times. We are gaining first-hand understanding of how our habits can change, and how flexible we can be in our capacity to adapt and change moment to moment (washes hands)


 


THE BREADTH OF BREATH

We are grateful for our health and our capacity to breathe easily. If we, or someone we know, have been sick, we are even more conscious of the comfort of breathing freely. We are always breathing. We are always being breathed. How can breathing be a tool for managing anxiety? How can breathing be a teacher for better living in our bodies?

On my daily walks around my neighborhood, social distancing as I go, I catch myself holding my breath if I pass a person who is too close, or not wearing a mask. How many other times do we notice ourselves holding our breath? When we are concentrating hard on a task, or experiencing stress or anger we may restrict or stop breathing. It is well known that taking a breath is a good way to reset our nervous system.  F.M. Alexander and other breathing experts such as Carl Stough, taught the importance of focusing on the exhale. Exhaling fully has a calming effect on our nervous system and can help regulate our moods. Here's a useful article. By fully exhaling, we illicit an automatic and complete inhale.


 


THE WHISPERED AH

Alexander taught an exercise called, “the whispered AH.” Try it! 

  • 1. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor, in a quiet place.
  • 2. Exhale gently to begin the cycle.
  • 3. With your lips gently closed, draw the breath in through your nose while thinking a pleasant or amusing thought (this will enliven the zygomatic muscles, bringing lift to your system).
  • 4. Allow your jaw to drop passively and let the breath out on a whispered "AH" sound.
  • 5. Close your lips and repeat steps 3 - 5. 

Notice what this experience brings to your mood and any physical sensations that come with it. Perhaps you feel a bit lighter, more expansive, grounded. This is a nice way to take a break from screen time and quiet your mind. Think of it as an organized sigh.

It took me years to appreciate the simple, yet universal benefits of this exercise. Take your time with it, and, if you don’t enjoy it at first, consider trying again another time.


When working with singers, I see the disadvantages of over-emphasizing the inhale. Singers feel compelled to get a deep breath, which they need to support the tone. Without exhaling adequately, though, each deep breath piles up on the last deep breath until the the glottis tightens with the accumulated breath. In voice talk it’s called, “stacking the breath.” That’s what happens to a greater degree when we hyperventilate. We are unable to expel the CO2 in our lungs, which can cause dizziness, tingling of extremities and difficulty getting a calm breath. The solution is to blow out! So when you feel that your breathing has become tight, or stuck, focus on the exhale!
 

 


CONNECTING


I have been so moved by the experience of teaching online over the past two months! The directness of the face-to-face communication can be very powerful. Watching students discover things without hands-on guidance is wonderful. They are processing things using their own thinking and awareness and big changes can happen. I have also had a great time teaching workshops in this format. 

Here’s a video I made early in the pandemic to help others work with their body, mind and breath, and restore a sense of calm.  I hope you enjoy it.


 
Please be in touch if you want to explore online Alexander lessons or if you would like to organize a virtual workshop. And let your breath move through you and appreciate each return over and over again!

Stay well, stay in touch.

 

ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHINQUE

The Alexander Technique helps us let go of unhealthy habits and reactions, allowing us to function more in harmony with our natural design.  Alexander lessons are a valuable resource to performing artists, athletes, and anyone with chronic or incidental pain as well as those wishing to feel more ease and freedom within themselves.
Book a Lesson with me, or Learn More on my website.
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