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Thread: Alexander Technique

  1. #1

    Alexander Technique

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    Now, let me be very clear. Treeleaf is not supporting this or that, and by all means, everybody here is free to use yoga, Pilates or anything if needed to sit and live better. All I want is to introduce you to what was presented to me by my teacher years ago and made such a radical change in my life.

    The fact is that my teacher, Mike Chodo Cross, fell off with Nishijima and pretty much everybody that disagreed with him at some stage. He comes across as a strong and sometimes quite angry person, cursing this and that. The fact is that, apart from this shadow, the guy is an amazing teacher, a great sitter who not only understands Dogen like nobody else, but also can teach you how to free yourself from this compulsion of being right and wake you up. His hands, his guidance, the endless patience he had with me made it possible to sit and live painfree and also to gain a deeper understanding of Dogen's teachings. Hands on. A good Alexander Technique teacher is a rare find, but once you find one, your life might never be the same again. I owe him sooooo much.

    To cut a long story short I was cursed with back troubles from a very young age and all through my early years of sitting, I often had to stop any activity and just stay in bed. That bad... I once picked up a translation of Shobogenzo from a chap living in England, on the other side of London, and red that he was a Zen teacher and an Alexander Technique teacher. I was a bit familiar with the tecnique through many musicians I met and who learned to play their instrument without all the misuse that generally ends up with major trauma and injuries. I was really searching for something that could help me. I rang the guy. He invited me to come and the story started...

    I often use the Technique and although I never trained I daily follow its principles and directions as much as I can, and fail of course so many times. A few days ago I manage in just a few seconds to stop a huge back ache that was starting to creep and grip my entire torso. Just using direction and inhibition.

    So here are two videos of the older student of FM Alexander who used to teach in America, a kind of Joko Beck of the Technique...
    You might get an idea of what the Technique involves and what it does. Many priests, in Japan, America and Europe have started to discover the incdrebile benefits of this way of moving and being. Of course, you may sit without any difficulty from the start and Zen doesn't need the Technique. Nevertheless, in my clouded eyes, the understanding and experience of zazen as a fluid, changing and dynamic practice are greatly helped by the Technique.

    gassho


    Taigu



    ]

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  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Alexander Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    the understanding and experience of zazen as a fluid, changing and dynamic practice are greatly helped by the Technique.
    As I've said elsewhere, I had regular Alexander lessons for about 6 months, back in 1989 (the same year I discovered the dharma), several months in 1993-4, and some lessons after that at different times. I find that the Alexander Technique is a sort of zazen for moving and for posture.

    Like Taigu, I have had back problems - a mild scoliosis, coupled with a neurological issue, have given me serious back pain over the years. While I don't consciously practice the technique regularly, I do have its concepts integrated into my mind. Not that I grok it fully or anything, but the basic concept of the Technique is very zen-like. "Let the head go forward and up..." It's the "let" that is important; instead of doing, you are non-doing.

    I'd recommend that anyone who's really curious read a book by F. M. Alexander called The Use of the Self (http://www.amazon.com/Use-Self-F-M-Alex ... 0752843915). It's old, it's written in a clunky style, but it has some wonderful insights.

    Also, learn the "semi-supine" position to relax your back:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zfgg67dOsro[/video]]

    (A Google search will lead you to other videos and text explanations.)

    It's a powerful relaxation tool, and one I use regularly.

    Also, many Alexander teachers will give a free or discounted first lesson. I'd recommend trying it if you can find a teacher locally.

  3. #3

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Thank you Kirkmc,

    The whole thing about the Technique is that reality is ot not what you think reality is.
    Very Zen like indeed.

    There is no clear way of sitting, standing, being.

    The Technique teaches people to act out of I don't know.

    If an alien would ask me what should I do while i am on earth?

    I would answer something like: sit Zen, learn the technique and have fun (whatever...fun means for you).




    gassho


    T.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Alexander Technique

    Hi Taigu,
    I don't tend to have pain sitting. That does not matter. I'd like to find out more about the Technique. A friend says he has a great teacher. I must go for a consultation some time.
    Gassho
    Soen

  5. #5

    Re: Alexander Technique

    The best is to find a good teacher and take a few lessons. Don t hesitate too long, it might totally revolutionize the way you sit ( i am sure it will).

    Gassho

    Taigu

  6. #6

    Re: Alexander Technique

    I do have back/rib pain once I hit the 20 minute mark while sitting. Being overweight and inflexible doesn't help! I did a search and there is an AT therapist in my city, I might check it out. I am always skeptical of "therapies," but I'll trust the source here

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Alexander Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    I do have back/rib pain once I hit the 20 minute mark while sitting. Being overweight and inflexible doesn't help! I did a search and there is an AT therapist in my city, I might check it out. I am always skeptical of "therapies," but I'll trust the source here
    It is not a therapy; not at all. It can be used to help with physical pain, but the goal is more like zazen in movement.

    Hard to explain... kinda like that zen stuff.

  8. #8

    Re: Alexander Technique

    I recently started to learn the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). My particular interest is in the honkyoku (original pieces) and am currently learning Kyorei, which, while only about 60 notes can last approximately 12 minutes. So the required volume of breath is quite large. As such, and remembering this thread, I have decided to look into the AT with the quadruple benefit to my suizen, zazen, sewing practice (my back hurts after sitting so concentrated for a long time) and for my job. I found a teacher here in Dallas, Phyllis Richmond. I have asked her about private lessons and am also inquiring with my employer about them covering the cost, being as I sit at a computer 99% of my work day and posture improvements could greatly help.

    Has anyone else recently gone through the training? Thank you Kirk for that book link, I have also downloaded and read a few more on my Kindle to read on the matter, but every one of them says the same thing, that you really need to have lessons from an instructor. So here I am!

    It appears that Mrs. Richmond has a great deal of experience, but I welcome any guidance on choosing an instructor.

    Thanks in advance.

    gassho,

    Shawn

  9. #9

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Hi Shawn,

    So glad to hear this. There is no training per see, just lessons in which the teacher uses her/his hands and vocal instructions to guide the student through an exploration of his use and misuse. The work or undoing is entirely yours, up to you to be aware of this lifelong habits that restrain your life. Nothing is invasive about the technique, the release is done through an indirect procedure of stopping, wishing, allowing, letting. Inhibition of bad habits, direction are the two most important aspects of the Technique.
    The most interesting book I red so far is this one:
    http://www.amazon.com/Indirect-Procedur ... 106&sr=8-2

    have a great journey and I bet you won't regret it.
    By the way you will have to start with dropping this heavy endgaining of yours: "the quadruple benefit" will be found if you drop any idea of milking anything from that cow.

    gassho


    Taigu

  10. #10

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    By the way you will have to start with dropping this heavy endgaining of yours: "the quadruple benefit" will be found if you drop any idea of milking anything from that cow.
    Haha! Wonderful. Thank you once again sensei.

    Gassho

    Shawn

  11. #11

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Hi all,

    I've been taking AT lessons for a few weeks now and practicing regularly. Well really, all the time I'm mindful. But specifically techniques like semi-supine (or at rest) before zazen and when I need to 'reset' my spine. I wanted to briefly share with you a book I am reading that I really am enjoying. As being new to AT, there is a vast field of information I'm only beginning to understand, but this book has been wonderful in explaining things clearly and visually. I have both the Kindle version & the soft copy. I would highly recommend the soft copy as the illustrations are wonderful and the CD in the back gives guided training on the technique.

    While I believe it's most beneficial to have the gentle and guiding hands of an experienced teacher, for those who maybe do not have the financial, time or other capabilities, this book is only $16 USD and so fairly reasonable should you be interested.

    Body, Breath & Being by Nicholls

    Again, it's definitely a beginners book and while it has some theory, it's mostly application.

    Have a wonderful practice,

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  12. #12

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Hello all,

    I've been trying to find time, resources, energy...yes, all excuses...to begin this practice. Thank you Taigu and Shawn for these resources and advice! I feel I would benefit greatly from this practice, just need to get over some mental blocks in the starting. I have tried so many things. I exercise daily, I do yoga, I've tried to learn some Qigong from the internet and other resources...yet I still experience back troubles. So I get frustrated, pigheaded, and convince myself that it doesn't matter what I do, that I still will have these issues. That may be so, but maybe this time would be different. Might be a good time to add this to my Ango practices...

    thank you all for your time and inspiration yet again,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  13. #13

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Thanks for the link, Shawn. I will check it out.

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Alexander Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyRok
    Hello all,

    I've been trying to find time, resources, energy...yes, all excuses...to begin this practice. Thank you Taigu and Shawn for these resources and advice! I feel I would benefit greatly from this practice, just need to get over some mental blocks in the starting. I have tried so many things. I exercise daily, I do yoga, I've tried to learn some Qigong from the internet and other resources...yet I still experience back troubles. So I get frustrated, pigheaded, and convince myself that it doesn't matter what I do, that I still will have these issues. That may be so, but maybe this time would be different. Might be a good time to add this to my Ango practices...
    It's entirely possible that no matter what you do, you _will_ still have the back problems. Some back problems can be corrected by improving posture, but others can't, and are the result of purely mechanical issues. In my case, I have a mild scoliosis which has led to a nerve being pinched. While improving posture certainly helps, it's wrong to think that it will correct the problem. I think there's a much-too-common belief that back problems are only psychological (in fact, there are a few very popular books that say just that). If you do have problems, it is really useful to see a rheumatologist and get x-rays, scans or MRIs, so you do know if it's something that can be corrected. In my case, getting an MRI led to me realizing that I absolutely _shouldn't_ be doing many yoga poses, that they can be very harmful.

  15. #15

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Thanks Shawn, definitely interesting!
    _()_
    Peter

  16. #16

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Hi Everyone,

    Just listened to a podcast that Mike Cross shared today on Facebook that I thought some of you may also be interested:

    http://bodylearning.buzzsprout.com/382/ ... meditation

    Also he had some very good commentary on the podcast which I think is worth re-sharing as well:

    Hi Robert, If Zen practitioners come to you with aches and pains because they react badly to their teachers' instruction, by stiffening up, or getting "set," the fault as I see it is primarily with the teacher. You and Michael seem to lean towards sympathizing with the Japanese so-called masters and blaming the deluded Western students. But the truth as I see it is that there are no true Zen masters in Japan, and there haven't been for a long time. If there were any true teachers, they would teach the things you teach your Alexander pupils, to stop them stiffening up and getting set. They would recognize the folly of teaching others, whether Japanese or non-Japanese, to try to sit upright, straightening the spine, pulling the neck back, and all the rest of it. There is no difference to speak of between what deluded people in the west call "good/right posture," and what the Japanese call "tadashi shisei." It's not a problem of cross-cultural communication. As I see it, it is a problem...
    I would argue however that Chodo's argument maybe is only valid in that these teachers are probably basing their teachings off of Fukanzazengi (something that Chodo has talked extensively about in his blog) and have limited to no exposure of the methodologies employed by AT.

    Just my 2c.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  17. #17

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Nowadays,a growing number of Zen priests, some in San Francisco Zen center, some in Los Angeles, some even in Japan ( Rev Fujita) are inetrested in Alexander Technique as it makes it possible to really sit at ease and joyfully. Unfortunately, many people out of arrogance refuse to even think about it.

    About Fujita and his work, check this blog...

    http://rceezwhatzmore.blogspot.com/2010 ... kshop.html

    Alexander...We are talking here about the discovery of a fine and great gentleman who worked endlessly, studying the way he stood, sat and moved, through a mirror and discovered the extent of his misuse. He started to teach others and the Technique was born.

    Many Zen monks have expressed doubts and even hostility towards the Technique over the last twenty years. Sadly, even Nishijima roshi refused to even consider taking a lesson to see for himself. Sadly, many people said that this was thinking, and thinking was out of the question in the unfolding of the body mind in shikantaza.
    Sadly, as often, this is the product of a very lethal combination: arrogance paired with ignorance. They fuel and feed each other, I see them at work in my own mind and life as well as in others.

    I said many times how much the Technique changed my life and totally revolutionised the way I sit. Twenty five years of painful sittings, back aches, tensions and sweating went out of the window. The possibility of ease and joy, and of course, the complete cure of my back troubles that used to keep me in bed for days on end. How? A miracle? Prayers? Tricks?

    Nothing of the sort. Just work. With the help of the hands of a teacher and many hours of inhibiting and directing consciously.

    A few beliefs that AT may challenge:

    Painful sitting is normal
    Breathing should be controlled
    One should straighten the back with the chin in
    The whole form of zazen should be like a solid and steady mountain
    the teacher should correct the student or the student should correct himself of herself

    and many more…

    In fact, Alexander rediscovered a very important teaching which is the heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo and beautifully expressed by Koun Ejo in the Absorption in the treasury of light:


    “Do not seek reality, just stop views”,

    non doing and inhibition, allowing, not fabricating or making. The technique is not a skill one can get after a few lessons, it is a lifetime journey.

    The radiance of allowing is close to the brightness dear to Koun Ejo, encompassing, radiating in all directions, dynamic ebb of joyous space.

    But don't be mistaken: one doesn't think inhibition or direction during sitting, one does it prior to sitting, just like we inhibit and think about the directions before getting off the chair in a lesson.

    gassho


    Taigu

  18. #18

    Re: Alexander Technique

    I'd like to visit an AT teacher, and found one not too far away. But, it's not in the budget right now. Is it worth bothering with books (like the one Shawn linked to above), or should I just save and wait for when I can get in-person instruction?

  19. #19

    Re: Alexander Technique

    Matt,

    I think you shoukd just wait because nothing can really match what you will deeply experience through a very good teache's guidance. Although the training is long and pricy to become a qualified Alexander teacher, I have the impression that the prices are really mad. In England they are cheaper and as good. What a shame.

    gassho


    Taigu

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