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What do you want to know about breathing? Answered in our newsletter


Feldenkrais, Alexander, Pilates, Yoga

I have observed that people that have done ongoing work of Moshe Feldenkrais, Frederick Mathias Alexander. Joseph Pilates  or yoga are generally better physically coordinated and somewhat or a great deal easier to work with than many others with.  Though they vary in approach and style, to me they have striking similarities in the way they adjust the body to open up to easier breathing. 

But the many people that I have worked on that have spent years working with these modalities still have mild to severe breathing blocks. I also observe them to be organized in a somewhat "restricted" way.  Drawing from Stanley Kelemen's ideas around "disorganization/reorganization" they often fall into the somewhat "over-organized" category.  Don't get me wrong, this "over-organization" can often be better than previous ways of being but the lack of insight into the breathing invites these movement styles to become slightly to severely restrictive.   

I think this is where the "discipline" of a system's way of creating the new "structural integration and it's functioning" is inhibiting the freedom of the breath in the name of the F, A, or Y "systems". They remind me of the difference between the various animal fighting styles of kung fu as compared with Bruce Lee's more spontaneous, unpredictable and often superior free form fighting style of Jeet Koon Do (sp).

So Alexander, Feldenkrais, Pilates and at least Hatha yoga try to support but do not ensure optimal breathing.  In so far as movement is concerned I prefer free form dance such as  Butoh or something led by Gabrielle Roth or Emily Conrad D'oud alternated or combined with the more structured movement forms previously mentioned.  I see the Optimal Breathing work (not breath work) as an adjunct to all of them and invite Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, and Yoga teachers to learn my approach(s) and integrate them into their already valuable work. The Optimal Breathing School

A recent workshop attendee says:

Dear Mike; You took professional interest in my health situation, and have given me so much helpful information.  I am forever grateful!  For over 50 years,  I have taught aerobics, water exercise, swimming, dancing, and helped people to relax to reduce their pain.  Your breathing information would be a help in ALL of these activities and situations as well as improving health and enjoyment of life. MT, retired.

See email below.
Dear Larissa:
See Mike's bolded comments. 

Dear Mike,

I was just reading your web site and realized that you don't seem to understand what the Alexander Technique really is about. If you would study F.M. Alexander's life more closely you would find out that he was known in his time as the 'breathing man' (so am I)  and the funny thing is that he was not even teaching people to breath! (I know, that is partly my point
He was and we Alexander Technique teachers are teaching our pupils to become aware their harmful unconscious habits that will interfere with their bodies functions, including the breathing, walking, biking scratching your head and so on. Ah yes. I have always thought of Alexander technique with this in mind. Great stuff. 

With a good Alexander Technique teacher a pupil can learn to redirect the energy by letting herself widen and lengthen instead of contracting into herself and so pressing the lungs and intestines as well as preventing the legs and arms to move freely. Now there is much involved in this and few lessons are needed to get the full understanding. Not true. One lesson/session is quite adequate to get huge change. Repeat HUGE. Many more factors needed then widening and lengthening to accelerate this breathing improvement as quickly as it can be done. Why take longer? The body can be changed rapidly without pain. Take it as far as it can go each session/time. The breathing gets better and the entire body adjusts around it to physically balance and energize.

So it is in learning any new skill.

Good understanding of the Alexander Technique in the guidance  of a skillful Alexander Technique teacher and putting the understanding into practice will among many things improve breathing, but please note, it is a side product not an end in it self. I understand but that is sad for people that do not breathe well or want faster progress. They need more then the "Alexander Technique" allows for, as wonderful as it can be.

Like they say 'breathing is so easy a child can do it'. We only need to get out of the way and stop interfering. I respectfully disagree. Many need radical and rapid improvement lest they get lost to the inadequacies of teachers that know little of accelerating breathing development and subject themselves and their students/clients to the risks of illness, drugs and steroids that await those with undetected breathing under-development. http//www.breathing.com/oxygen-menu.htm

(Well, of course singers and actors and so on need to do something with their voices. That is part of their training but here I am talking about just ordinary day to day breathing when we speak, walk, run, do our daily cores.) Learn to breathe optimally and they happen automatically. I come from breathing that also helps the rest of the body come into alignment. You come from the body alignment that helps breathing. Different emphasis. I integrate many things that do not exist in Alexander Technique.

One can teach different breathing techniques but if a pupil still has harmful uncouncious habits, for example pulling their head back and locking their neck the pupil WILL do the breathing excercises with the pulled back head and a locked neck. Pulled back head goes with shortened back which restricts the ribs to open up and side ways, and so on and so on...

Here is only a taste of what the Alexander tehnique is about. It is a very hard to understand and people who want quick fixes will not stick with it! Optimal breathing is not about quick fixes or only breathing exercises. It is about hands-on diaphragm development techniques, exercises, breathing exercises, ergonomics, nutrition, attitude, vocal proficiency and respiratory spiritual psychophysiology.

Our training is 3 years and it is intense with anatomy lessons and lots of practical work to first improve our own use and then focusing working on pupils. I welcome your integrating Optimal Breathing Techniques into your Alexander Technique work. Many New Yorkers are adding Carl Stough's work into Alexander Technique. My work is similar in some ways to Carl's but I believe it is as or more beneficial for many. The length of my training is evolving but so far 5 years seems to be a minimum.

Alexander Technique is only 100 years old and unfortunately some of the training schools in the world are not really Alexander Technique.....sad but true. My teacher John Nicholls was trained (over 20 years ago) by Walter Carrington who F.M. Alexander himself asked to continue his training school after he would die. My other great teacher Carolyn Nicholls is soon starting with other highly recarded Alexander Technique teachers setting standards for A.T. training schools so each student gets the best possible training and that the public can get the right idea of what we are about.

I would like to ask you kindly NOT to put together Alexander, Feldenkrais and Yoga. Alexander Technique is nothing like Yoga or Feldenkrais and it would be sad to give that impression to the public. To me they have striking similarities in the way they adjust the body to open up to easier breathing. Since I've worked with all three I'll have to pull rank on you in this regard. 

Lots of voice work, breathing work, singing teachers and the like are doing work with the Alexander Technique teachers. Both ways it is rewarding. I agree that Alexander Technique is valuable. It is just not breathing specific. My work IS.

If you tell me which State you live in I could tell you a good Alexander technique teacher that can clarify you what we Alexander people are teaching to our pupils.

With Great Respect I wish you a nice day and hopefully I hear from you, L )

I have worked with teachers already. You have not worked with me and obviously know little of what I teach. We have a space in a class in ..... this next weekend ..  if you want to opt in. I just know you will like it a great deal.  http://www.breathing.com/school/main.htm

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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
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