Helping others to breathe and move more freely
Suzie Daggett interviews Nora Nausbaum, a teacher of the Alexander Technique and a professional flutist. Working with the Alexander Technique for more than 15 years, Nora has helped people progress through their day with less effort, less pain.
How did you get interested in the Alexander Technique?
As a professional flutist, I found I had been misusing my body. My neck and shoulder hurt a lot, and I was looking for something to help. A musician friend suggested I try the Alexander Technique. I found I was playing and doing everything else with a lot of unnecessary contraction in my spine, joints and muscles. I learned I was going into “startle pattern” – a reflex in which the head goes back and down onto the spine, thereby contracting the whole spine. In addition, I was also throwing my pelvis forward, thus the bottom of my spine was in contraction. Quite the unhelpful way to use my body. The Alexander Technique changed this, and now I teach it.
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a 100-year-old method for changing habits that contract the spine and joints. Often, stiffness and pain get in the way of achieving what we want to do in life. Frederick Matthias Alexander, a Tasmanian who made his living as a Shakespearean recitalist, developed this method in the late 1800s.
After losing his stage voice, he consulted doctors, who found nothing wrong with his vocal mechanism. Their advice was for him to rest, which only allowed his voice to be used for 20 minutes.
He then began to observe his own habits and after nearly a decade-long experimentation, he discovered that his technique has universal application.
He cured his vocal problems as well as freed his breathing. He became known as “the breathing man.” Doctors would send him patients to learn how to breathe and move with ease.
He demonstrated that once we learn to stop interfering with our reflexes, our balance improves and pain and stiffness decrease or disappear.
What was your training with Alexander Technique like?
At the beginning of my student training, I found that my kinesthetic sense was fairly dormant – that is our sense of muscular effort and knowing where we are in space. I had to learn what gravity is in my own body, how to use the joints properly, how to move easily, learning a correct body map. It is important to become aware of unnecessary tightening in the neck, shoulders, legs, feet, and even the base of the tongue. Once you are aware of these subtle areas, you can do something to change them. Teacher training is very intense, involving 1,600 hours over a three-year time frame. It is experiential as you learn about your own habits and how to pass on increasing body freedom through your neutral hands and verbal guidance.
What type of clients do you work with?
I work with theater people, musicians and people who have neck and back pain. I help them understand where their habits of movement get in their way, creating contraction or tension in a muscle that leads to pain. If the habit is creating pain, it is time to consider a new way to move and think. If musicians tend to play with pain, that, of course, can interfere with the quality of their music. When I work with musicians, I teach them how to approach their instruments without contracting muscles they may have used for many years. When I work with theater people, I help them approach a role from a more neutral place rather than a place locked into habit. This frees them to play a role that is more true to their work. I help people to become aware of their body and how it moves, how it can be free, how it is to be in ease with balance.
Why is the Alexander Technique a life-changing technique?
When you know more about your own body and mind and train yourself to be less reactive and habitual, in constant physical or emotional pain, that can change a life! If you are in pain, you are in mental trouble. You cannot think clearly. Habits that contract also contract the breathing mechanism. If you are not breathing naturally using the ribs, that can affect your emotional state. It can be an interesting lifelong journey, learning nonhabitual ways.
What do you get out of doing this work?
It is really interesting to be able to teach and help people. Freeing the physical, mental and emotional pathways that have held us in one way and losing old unhealthy habits makes us more who we are.
Nora Nausbaum teaches flute as well as the Alexander Technique. She can be reached at 273-5489 or http://www.ATSierra.com
Suzie Daggett is the TV host of Healing INsights on NCTV, and the publisher of INSIGHT, the Directory of Healing Arts Practitioners; she can be reached at 265-9255., http://www.insightdirectory.com
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