How to find a meditation posture with less tension through the help of the Alexander Technique
Is your back in pain when you meditate? Do your legs go numb within the first minutes or get ankle pain? Do your shoulders tense up and affect the back of your neck? Have you had a meditation teacher tell you to simply sit through the discomfort without giving you individual support for your posture?
All these things are habitual when sitting in meditation, but are they actually necessary? Freeing the mind of thoughts is difficult enough, so why not spending some time understanding how to make the posture more suitable to your individual needs?
We all have different types of flexibility, postural habits and body structures. Suggesting a one-solution fits all is not helpful in the long run. This is why we created a workshop to give both general and personalized tips on how to make the posture work for your specific body by applying Alexander Technique principles to your meditation posture.
This workshop includes:
Looking at the postural habits that bring about pain.
Understanding how to engage the feet while meditating.
Finding your personal meditation posture in sitting and in walking with the help of an experienced Alexander Technique teacher plus an experienced yoga teacher
20 minute meditation session where you can try-out your new found knowledge
Sunday October 16th, 2022 – 11.00 -13.00
This is for anyone who would like to reach a position more at ease while meditating. You do not have to be an experienced meditator to join… to be curious is enough!
Early registration discount: 10 € discount if you register before September 20th, 2022. The workshop is refundable unless cancellation occurs later that October 4th, 2022, after which 50% refund. After October 4th, 2022, no more refunds are possible. Please register before the spots fill up!
What to bring:
Materials will be provided at the studio. However, you are also welcomed to bring your own cushion or meditation bench.
Joerg Aßhoff – is an experienced Alexander Technique Teacher with a 30 year working experience. He is now the director of the Alexander-Technik-Schule in Berlin, teaching the next generation of Alexander Technique teachers. His expertise includes teaching at the University of Performing Arts, Community schools, and speech therapy schools. He practices Zen meditation since 1990 and studied with a Japanese Zen master for a long period of time.
Pinelopi Sioni –is in her third year of the Alexander Technique teacher training course, studying with Jörg Aßhoff in Berlin. She completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. She then studied Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff;“Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses with David Moore. Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.
As a person born with a club foot and having received corrective surgery as a baby, my feet have always been a sensitive spot for me. The way I learned to use my body as a child was a way to protect myself from pain and from movements that felt impossible to do. As a result, these habits of use developed into a very particular way of movement that brought me into decades of chronic pain. It has not been all bad. The pain brought me into yoga and stretching of very tight muscles. That in turn, brought me into the Alexander Technique and a deeper understanding of what it is I do that increases the tightness of those muscles.
The Alexander Technique does not deal directly with a single part of the body. A teacher will always work with the body as a whole, and that will have an effect on a specific part in an indirect manner. In short, one could say that for an Alexander Technique teacher, “Feet are never just feet. Feet are a reflection of the whole body.”
So these past three years of intense Alexander Technique have changed my whole body and the way I use it. As a result of these changes, three indirect changes have also occurred at my feet.
My foot grew a size.
Well, I guess it didn’t grow like kids’ feet grow .. but it must have released to fill its true size, because I no longer shop for size 41! I am assuming that I have had a lot of tension in my feet and that has been scrunching them up to a shorter size. At the beginning I thought that this was only me, but then one day when we were talking in class I realized that this has happened to half of the trainees in my course!
Fortunately I am the kind of person who only owns two pair of shoes, and this change did not mean a massive investment into my wardrobe!
Good bye insoles.
As you might imagine, being someone with my kind of history has made me always dependent on medical custom made insoles. Furthermore, after my club foot leg was lengthened it never reached the full length of the other leg. Doctors have told me different kinds of measurements from 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters difference…. apparently enough to create back pain.
I remember talking about insoles during one of our breaks in my first months of training. My teacher was being very cautious about staying completely neutral on the subject of insoles. Other trainees were saying negative comments about insoles… comments I have heard before, such as “Insoles make the feet lazy”. I felt the need to be protective over my insoles and responded loudly how my insoles have reduced my pain (something I still do believe). Inside me, there was turmoil. And somewhere, a little bit of hope. Could it be that I could get rid of them one day? Could it be that the way I walk changes so much that I do not need custom made insoles and shoes?
And then corona happened. Waiting at the doctor’s office for a new prescription of insoles felt reckless. Going to shops to buy new shoes and bringing them to another shop to change their height really did not feel like a high priority when we were isolating and living through a lock down. And so slowly, remembering the conversation I had at the beginning of my course… they left my life. At the beginning, there was pain and confusion in my body. But within two months, I was so surprised to find there was no more pain and that I could do without them. I have now been over a year without insoles. Something I never thought would be possible. And yet!
The way my shoes wear out is different.
In the past, the soles of the shoes I had would wear out quickly. The wear out was uneven. The outer edge of the sole was more worn out than the inner edge, causing a diagonal slant. This would happen within the first four months of having a new pair of shoes. What this means is that I would put more pressure on the outer edge of my feet when I walked, wearing the sole out unevenly.
But this too has changed! I bought new shoes and have been wearing them now for nearly a year. It makes me so happy to look at the soles and still see that they are evenly worn out. No more diagonal slants. My walking has changed. Where I put the pressure is different. And my shoes are proof.
About the Author:
Pinelopi is in her 3rd year of the Alexander Technique teacher training course, studying with Jorg Asshof in Berlin. She is now taking on Alexander Technique tester students. She is working at half price (25€) until she graduates in the spring of 2023.
Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two yearsin Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. She then studied Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff; and“Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses with David Moore.Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.
During Alexander Technique lessons the student learns how to break deeply embedded habits and create new ones. This happens while working together with a teacher in different positions: sitting; standing; walking; laying down on a massage table (aka table work). While the teacher performs table work, new students often misunderstand this part of the lesson as receiving a massage. However, although there can be similarities, table work differs to massage in many ways.
Direct Versus Indirect Approach
A massage therapist works with a direct approach. What this means is that they often release tension through using a deep tissue touch. They often focus on a specific problem that there client might be feeling in their body, and are working directly to release the tension around that problem. An Alexander Technique (AT) teacher, on the other hand, uses an indirect approach while performing table work. Their touch is a very light touch and does not go into deep tissue release. The release the student experiences is through giving themselves directions while assisted by the teacher’s hands. If a student is experiencing a specific problem, say pain in the shoulder blade, an AT teacher will not work directly with the shoulder blade or nearby muscles. Instead, they will focus on the coordination of the whole body and thus affect the shoulder blade indirectly.
A massage predominantly addresses muscles which then gives a feeling of release to their client. Table work predominantly addresses the nervous system which also gives a feeling of release, through enhancing overall coordination. Both methods provide release. One approaches it directly, the other one approaches it indirectly.
Student Versus Client
In the Alexander Technique we talk of ‘students’ and ‘teachers’. In massage there is the ‘massage therapist’ and ‘the client’. What is the difference?
The Alexander Technique is a learning method and a re-education of our nervous system. When receiving a class there is active participation from the student, even during table work. The teacher’s light touch only gives the student a stimulus inviting them to be active in their release process.
Receiving a massage, on the other hand, tends to be more uni-directional. The massage therapist gives the massage, the client receives it. The massage is something that is done to the client, and requires no active participation from the client. Massage offers an experience to the client, while table work offers a release of undue tension with the purpose to help the student experience and learn to use their body differently.
Let us take the previous example of the pain in the shoulder blade. A massage can work on releasing that pain, but it will not focus on how the student got the pain in the first place. The Alexander Technique will work on recognizing the habits that brought around the issue. It is a learning process, involving a student and a teacher.
Massage often is about relaxation, healing and therapy with a massage therapist providing the experience. An Alexander Technique teacher, is more focused on the learning process of the students and its nervous system. Although the Alexander Technique has therapeutic effects, these are more a by-product of the technique. The focus is learning.
Lying Down Versus Semi Supine
In most massages the clients are laying down on their backs or on their bellies with the legs stretched out.
In table work, the students are laying down in the semi supine pose. This pose is used in order to create the most balanced relationship between our neck, head, and back. Again, the purpose here is the coordination of the whole body.
Skin Contact Versus Clothes
Many massage methods (but definitely not all of them) require you to take your clothes off so that the massage therapist works directly with skin contact and oils. In AT table work, the student keeps their clothes on and there is no direct skin contact. It is, however, recommended that the student wears comfortable clothing that allows the teacher to move the legs and arms easily.
Eyes Open Versus Eyes Closed
From my understanding, in most massages the client can choose what they do with their eyes. It is common for people to close their eyes when they undergo a deep relaxation and a release of tension. Thus, although closing the eyes is not explicitly asked for during massage, it tends to happen on its own.
In the Alexander Technique the student is asked to keep their eyes open during table work – if not for the whole time, then at least most of the time. This was for me, personally, very challenging at the beginning. The reason for open eyes is to learn to let go while remaining present with the world around us. We often get carried away with the visual stimuli in our every day life. Part of the AT re-education includes ‘how can I be with you and stay with myself at the same time?’
So How Does massage differ to Alexander Technique Table Work?
First, let me say that I am using a very general term here when I am referring to massage. Massage comes in many different shapes and forms. There are massages with clothes on and off; massages with different degrees of therapeutic capacities; massages that when done regularly are also creating a re-learning and re-organizing of the body.
The purpose of this article is to try and create a more accurate picture of what to expect during AT table work.
So to sum it all up, here is what to expect:
The teacher uses a very light touch creating a stimulus for the student’s body to do the releasing.
The teacher will use an indirect approach and will focus on the overall coordination of the body.
Even during table work the student is invited to actively participate in the release of tension.
Therapeutic effects are by-products of the Alexander Technique. The focus is on re-education, not healing.
The student lies down in the semi-supine during table work.
Table work happens with clothes on.
The student is invited to keep their eyes open.
About the Author:
Pinelopi is in her 3rd year of the Alexander Technique teacher training course, studying with Jorg Asshof in Berlin. She is now taking on Alexander Technique tester students. She is working at half price (25€) until she graduates in the spring of 2023.
Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. Currently she is deepening her knowledge through Leslie Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy Course, David Moore’s “Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses. Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.
2020 has come to an end, and it is fair to say that many were happy to turn the year. As midnight approached, I heard sighs of relief from many neighbors welcoming the year through their open windows. This year has been a hard year for all of us in more ways than one.
Interestingly enough, for some of the more fortunate ones living in countries with social systems and economic help, this has also been a good year in some respects. Some people told me how they so desperately had needed to slow down and how these lock downs allowed them to do so; others realized how over stimulated they have been with social interactions and how as they came out of the first lock down they were more careful to re-build their social life in a more sustainable way; many others spoke of physical rest from the never-ending commuting and realizing how much this has been taxing on their overall health.
Looking Forward to a Conscious 2021
With the arrivals of the vaccines, I have read that we can probably resume our “normal” lives in April 2021. The life after the pandemic can not and should not be the same as it was before. I am hoping for a rise in consciousness both in the personal way we live our lives, the economic systems that shape them, as in the global way we treat the planet and each other. I am wishing for a conscious 2021.
It is good to pause and reflect on the hardships of the past year, but also on if there has been any parts of this year that has been positive for us. How do we see ourselves integrating the parts that are positive in a post-lock down world? Have our bodies and minds been asking for more rest? Can telecommunications take over taxing commuting? Do we wish to be more selective of our social interactions in terms of quality versus quantity?
Pausing in the Present
Of course, due to the capitalistic society we live in, our lives are often being swept away by a wave of productivity, not allowing us time or the resources to pause and choose. However, pausing and choosing is absolutely essential.Viktor E. Frankl, a renown psychologist and holocaust survivor, refers to this pause as “a space that allows us to choose our response”. In yoga this pause is the act of meditation. In the Alexander Technique this pause is referred to as “inhibition”. Tara Brach refers to this as the Sacred Pause: the pause between stimulus and reaction, that frees us to the possibility of a different path.
So for 2021, my wish to the world is:
May we all practice the Sacred Pause and be free to choose a different path.
In part I of Computer Work and Posture, I discussed the importance of learning how to take care of ourselves while working in front of computers. Since computers are our new way of life, learning skills of body care and presence while using computers is vital. In order for us to have an upright posture, we need to first know how we define upright and what we mean by it. I suggested that we start thinking of upright less as a fixed straight position, and more as a balanced relationship between your neck, head and back.
A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. The height of the books you will need underneath your head varies depending on both the shape and the present use of your body. It is best to let a trained Alexander Technique teacher help you determine the height of the books needed, but if you are not yet in contact with one you could use this video as a starting point.
The following instructions and mindful exercise are also available on audio here:
Instructions for the Semi Supine
Lay down on your back with your head placed on top of some books for support (5 to 8cm as a starting point). Put the soles of your feet on the floor with your knees facing upwards towards the ceiling. Place your hands on the belly with the elbows pointing outwards
Mindful exercise while you are in the semi supine.
First let yourself notice how your body feels in this position. For the moment, let your intention be to notice without wanting to change anything. Simply to become familiar with what is.
Some questions to help you in your process:
Is my back in contact with the floor? If not, which parts of my back are not touching the floor?
Are the parts not touching the floor similar on both the right and left side? Or is one side more lifted than the other?
Is it easy for me to have my knees pointing upwards? Or would my preference be to let them drop inwards towards each other or outwards?
Are the soles of my feet carrying equal weight? Or is the weight traveling more towards the inside or the outside of my soles of my feet?
Do my shoulder blades feel comfortable on the floor? Or are there places where they feel crammed.
At the end of this reflection mentally tell yourself, “this is the relationship that my neck, head and back have throughout the day”.
Now allow for some subtle changes to happen in your posture. Let your intention be to explore an easier relationship between your neck, head and back rather than to “fix” your relationship. As the word “fix” implies, the mentality associated to that is too static and creates a one fit all mentality. We wish for a subtle fluid relationship rather than a “fix” solution.
Some subtle changes you could invite:
You could gently lift your pelvis, place your hands on your upper back and caress the back downwards in the direction of the pelvis, while coming back down to the floor. Did that increase your back’s contact to the floor?
You could gently lift your shoulder blades to allow for more space in the upper back, and then place them on the floor again. What change did this movement bring with regards to how much of your back is in contact with the floor?
If you feel that you wanted to bring the knees inwards, you could try placing your feet closer to each other. If you feel that you wanted to let your knees go outwards, you could place the feet a bit further apart from each other. Do these changes to your feet make it easier for your knees to be pointing upwards without tension? Did this also bring a subtle change to the pathway of weight distribution in the soles of your feet?
If your shoulder blades feel cramped, you could gently lift your elbows and place them again on the floor. Did that bring a subtle change or do the shoulder blades still feel the same way?
Once you found the most comfortable place in this position, then do nothing. Allow for 10-15 minutes to pass where you simply enjoy doing nothing. Let gravity do the work for you.
Before you come out of the semi supine position, mentally tell yourself, “This now is the relationship that I invite my neck, head and back to have during my computer work”.
When to do this practice
It is good to do this practice before you begin with your computer work, once in the middle of your computer work and/or at the end of the work. It will help to find your center during computer work. Do remember, however, that this is a starting point, a step one, if you will, for how to take care of yourself while using a computer.
Tune in for the next blog where we will investigate positions of mechanical advantage while working on the computer.
“We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet, each day we listen to inner voices that keep our lives small.”
― Tara Brach
We wish you a good beginning of autumn!
Here’s what’s happening over the next three months at English Yoga Berlin: Pinelopi is back in full swing giving her regular Hatha Yoga classes, organizing a retreat, and beginning to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Juli has started a German-language class at an FLTI* Sportverein.
Pinelopi is back!
After a month of intense knee rehabilitation, Pinelopi is teaching Berlin Hatha Yoga again! She is very happy to be back doing what she loves most. Her Hatha Yoga classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you wish to join a class please check out the schedule.
Yoga Retreat “Beyond the Thinking Mind”
Pinelopi will be leading a Hatha Yoga retreat in Brandenburg Oct 25th to Oct 27th. In this yoga retreat we will look at the thinking mind and its patterns; identify the beliefs that create certain types of thoughts; and explore ways to experience the world beyond our thinking minds. The retreat includes yoga classes, meditation instruction, mindfulness walks in nature and more. Check it out and book the last place available.
Deutschsprachige FLTI* Yoga
Since 2012, Juli has been giving yoga classes in German at the women’s thai kick-boxing sport club LowKick eV. In August of this year, Juli made the switch to the FLTI* sport club Seitenwechsel eV.
Juli freut sich den FLTI* Berliner community Yoga anzubieten!
Alexander Technique Teacher Training
Pinelopi is beginning herAlexander Technique Teacher Training this September. The course will go on for three years. The focus of the Alexander Technique is to free the neck from tension, better the overall coordination of the body and to let go of old habits stored in the use of the body while cultivating new ones. If you are interested to become a volunteer for the training teachers please get in touch.
We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. We wish you a healthy, happy autumn, with lots of candlelight and quality moments!
In 2018 we have hosted two workshops at our yoga studio with David Moore and Rossella Buono. The workshops were a great success. Everyone left feeling they learned something valuable to bring to their practice and are now asking for more. So here it is!
WHEN: Friday August 30th – Sunday September 1st, 2019
WHAT: A three day Yoga and the Alexander Technique workshop that will give us the opportunity to explore the basics of posture, movement and breathing. The workshop gives participants the skills to develop a personalised approach to their yoga practice based on their own unique characteristics and needs. The practice does not end on the yoga mat, but involves the development of our awareness to how we are living and moving in all aspects of our lives. Besides examining and refining yoga poses we will be looking at everyday activities as simple as walking, standing and sitting.
In this workshop we will explore:
Coordination and posture from an Alexander Technique perspective
Modifying yoga poses
Breathing and pranayama
Deepening observation skills
Freeing the energy flow through the body
Identifying and overcoming habits
Doing and non-doing
Developing an individualised practice
WHO THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR: Yoga teachers, Alexander Technique teachers, and other body work practitioners who are interested in connecting these different disciplines might find this workshop particularly beneficial. However, anyone who’s curious to learn more about overcoming ingrained habits in their everyday posture or yoga practice are very welcome to join!
David Moore, Director at the School for F.M. Alexander Studies graduated from Australia’s first Alexander technique training course in Sydney in 1985. After graduating he spent some weeks each year for several years studying with senior American teacher, the late Marjorie Barstow. Since then he has established private practices in New Zealand and Melbourne, run many residential courses in Australia, Italy and New Zealand, and taught classes and intensive workshops in the UK, Germany, Japan Italy, Taiwan, and the USA. In 1999 he set up an Alexander Technique Teacher Training course which is approved by the Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. This 1600 hour training course runs over three years.
Rossella Buono relocated to Canterbury, UK in January 2013 from Melbourne where she had an established Alexander Technique practice. Working with a great range of people, Rossella has applied the Technique to improving the lives of people with issues such as back, neck or shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, sciatica, asthma, stuttering, anxiety and stress. She has also enjoyed attaining tangible posture and movement improvements for musicians, sportspeople, office workers, and the elderly. In her capacity as a care worker, she has developed strategies to improve the quality of life for people with physical and mental disabilities. She is the co-author of “For the Love of Games”, that offers a collection of more than 100 Alexander Technique games and activities to use when working with groups and individuals.
Rossella was first introduced to the Technique as a means of her own rehabilitation, after breaking her leg in an accident – and found herself benefiting greatly from the approach. After eliminating residual pain and regaining sustainable, coordinated mechanical function, Rossella decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Since then she has worked to offer others the same opportunity for the elimination of pain and improvement of overall quality of life.
PRICE: €260 (€230 for the first 8 bookings) – max 16 participants
For more details and to book a place, please click here.
We are happy to present our second workshop on Yoga and the Alexander Technique in Kreuzberg, Berlin! Rossella Buono, who is a close collaborator with David Moore, is back in Berlin and will be bringing the Alexander Technique to our Hatha Yoga classes taught by Pinelopi.
WHEN: Saturday 2nd December 10am-1pm & Sunday 3rd December 10am -1pm
WHERE: English Yoga Berlin, Görlitzer Str 39, Kreuzberg
FOR WHO: For any one with an interest in yoga or the Alexander technique.
TAUGHT BY:Rossella Buono and Pinelopi from English Yoga Berlin
The workshop consists of two mornings in which we will develop an individualized practice and an understanding of the uniqueness of the use of yourself in movement and at rest.
The workshop will provide an active and practical investigation of:
· Coordination and posture from an Alexander Technique perspective
· Modifying yoga poses
· Doing and non-doing
· Directing energy through the body
· Identifying and overcoming habits
In the first half of each morning Rossella will be introducing the Alexander Technique and how to apply it, in the second part we’ll use the new knowledge as Pinelopi leads a yoga class and Rossella provides hands on guidance and feed back.
– All abilities and levels of experience.
– Absolute beginners are welcome!
– Please wear comfortable clothes.
Booking is strongly recommended to ensure a place. To book your place, please contact:
Rossella: rossella (at) rossellabuono (dot) com
Pinelopi: pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com
Rossella Buono relocated to Canterbury, UK in January 2013 from Melbourne where she had an established Alexander Technique practice. Working with a great range of people, Rossella has applied the Technique to improving the lives of people with issues such as back, neck or shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, sciatica, asthma, stuttering, anxiety and stress. She has also enjoyed attaining tangible posture and movement improvements for musicians, sportspeople, office workers, and the elderly. In her capacity as a care worker, she has developed strategies to improve the quality of life for people with physical and mental disabilities.
Rossella was first introduced to the Technique as a means of her own rehabilitation, after breaking her leg in an accident – and found herself benefitting greatly from the approach. After eliminating residual pain and regaining sustainable, coordinated mechanical function, Rossella decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Since then she has worked to offer others the same opportunity for the elimination of pain and improvement of overall quality of life.
Originally from Greece, Pinelopi has grown up all over the world. Beginning her yoga practice in 1999, she went on to complete a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. Since 2008, she has been working as a full time yoga teacher in Spain and continued to do so after her move to Berlin in 2010. Her classes are a mix of Hatha yoga asanas (yoga poses), grounding techniques, pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (practice of detachment), yoga nidra and meditation. She is an injury conscious yoga teacher and a firm believer that yoga is for everybody and any body. She believes that no one should ever be in pain during class. All yoga poses can be adjusted so that one is still stretching, growing, strengthening, challenged, without experiencing pain or triggering old injuries.
Rossella will also be offering Berlin private lessons from Monday 4th to Thursday 7th of December. Cost €60 for a one- hour lesson (location Zentrum fur Alexander-Technik)
For more info about Avital's artwork click on the image.
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What is the Alexander Technique? The Alexander Technique is a re-education method that helps you break deeply embedded habits. Through this technique you learn how to recognize habits; how to pause; and help create new neural pathways in the use of your body and mind. Lessons at the studio. Alexander …