My primary AT teacher up to now has been Jessica Wolf. I actually came to her not because I wanted to study Alexander Technique, but because of my interest in the works she does with the breath, based on the breathing coordination work of Carl Stough. In today’s session at AT school our teacher was Judy Stern—a physical therapist and wonderful Alexander teacher in her own right—who has also been trained as a teacher in Jessica’s “Art of Breathing” work. She led us through a series of procedures to get in touch with the breath and the potential freedom of the rib cage, which I am reproducing here, to the best of my memory:
1. Resting Position
Come into a simple resting position lying on the floor with support under the head and the feet flat, the knees pointing up.
Spend a few moments inviting the neck to be free, the head to release forward and away from the spine, the back to be long and wide and the knees to release towards the ceiling and away from each other.
Allow the exhalations to be soft and easy and the inhalations to take care of themselves. Allow each breath to be unique without forcing or restraining.
2. Silent “La-la-la’s”
After a soft, easy exhalation, allow the breath to flow gently in through the nostrils. Open the mouth and let out a silent breath while lightly flapping the tongue as if saying “la,la,la,” but without making any noise. The idea is to trick the glottis to stay open so that there is no pressure on the out-flowing air. This way all the breath can freely leave the body. Repeat once or twice.
3. Pelvic Lift
From your resting position, ground though your feet and legs and slide the knees away from you, lifting the pelvis up a few inches off the floor. Take care not to tuck the tail up towards the knees at all. Keep the hips and pelvis soft, let the work of the lift happen in the legs..
Exhale with a silent “la-la-la” as you rest the pelvis back on the floor. Repeat once or twice. This will help lengthen the spine.
4. Elbow Clasp
From your resting position, using a minimum of effort, reach your fingertips towards the ceiling, keeping the elbows on the floor. Pause for a few moments, then reach the fingertips across the body to clasp the opposite elbow. Pause here for a moment with the upper arm bones vertical. Allow them to be heavy, the shoulder blades dropping into the floor and the chest and upper back widening.
Maintaining the clasp, allow the elbows to release to one side. Don’t make this a stretch. Instead, allow there to be a release into the weight of the body. As you release, do one or two silent “la-la-la’s.”
Pause for a moment and repeat to the other side.
Bring the arms back to the middle and rest the forearms on the head for a few moments before changing the crossing and repeating. Release the arms down by your sides and pause for a moment, observing any changes in the torso and the breath.
5. Beach Ball
From the resting position, once again reach the fingertips towards the ceiling with a minimum of effort, keeping the elbows on the floor. Turn the palms to face each other and imagine that you had a large beach ball between them.
Keeping the image of the beach ball connecting the two hands, slowly and gently reach the arms up towards the ceiling and move them around as if moving the beach ball through space.
After a few moment of this, return the arms to the floor and observe any changes.