Sharon operates the website AlexanderTechniqueLA.com.
I call her Thursday morning. “When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
Sharon: “In the beginning of my life, I said I wanted to discover the cure for cancer. That mutated into wanting to be a neuro-scientist. When I started college, I started dancing. Once I was dancing, I said, I can’t be a doctor, I have to dance. It led me into Alexander Technique, which I feel is the perfect combination of movement and dance and the brain and neuro-science.”
“I was about 25 and I had excruciating hip pain. I’d be doubled over and I’d have to leave work and go home and lie down. I thought something was serious wrong with me. Another dancer suggested that I try the Alexander Technique. When I left my first lesson, I didn’t have any pain in my body. That planted a seed.
“After taking lessons for two months, I felt this ability to deal with the stress of my job, I worked with children with autism, so that at the end of the day, I wasn’t completely drained and miserable. I knew it was directly related to my work in the Alexander Technique.
“Around that time, I was trying to figure out if I was going to get a master’s degree to continue working with children with autism, or was I going to become an Alexander Technique teacher. My insides were saying Alexander Technique. It was a gut decision. And everything fell into place.”
Luke: “How did Alexander Technique change your life?”
Sharon: “I could recognize how I was responding to stressful situations in ways that didn’t serve me — such as clenching my jowls, holding my breath, tightening my chest. Alexander Technique gave me the skills to recognize that and then to release the release muscular tension of stress. I learned how to release my neck and to release my chest and ribcage. So rather than being in a physically tight response to stress, I could be open and think more clearly.
“It also allowed me to move into my full height. I have scoliosis, which created a lot of back, shoulder and hip pain. Being able to release the physical tension of that scoliosis so that I have a more dynamic use of my body eliminated my pain.”
Luke: “What sort of feedback did you get from other people when you started studying Alexander Technique?”
Sharon: “Most people were like, huh, what’s that? Most people don’t know what the Alexander Technique is. Or, the other response is to try to stand up straight by lifting their head and pulling their shoulders back and say, oh, Alexander Technique, that’s posture therapy.
“I laugh at that. Good posture is a by-product of the work.”
Luke: “What did you find most challenging about your Alexander Technique teacher training?”
Sharon: “Shedding old habits. There were moments when I didn’t want to see my own patterns [of compression]. When you’re freeing up all the time, your old self comes in and says, don’t touch me. I want to be tight. I want to be the way I’ve always been.”
“When you look at yourself and your own habits on a daily basis in an intense way, it is sometimes shocking. We often assume that what we’re doing is right and what it really is is just familiar. To recognize that what you’re doing is wrong and harmful is difficult to deal with.”
“I had to work during my training. In the beginning, I worked with children with autism. I was going to the training in the morning and then driving around Los Angeles to work with these children. That didn’t last long because it was exhausting. Then I got a job working as an after-school program director. That was much easier, because driving around LA and doing Alexander training don’t mesh well because they are too exhausting.
“I was so envious of the people who were able to just train. One woman would go to the training in the morning and then go home and nap for two hours. I was so envious.”
Luke: “Tell me about the transition from graduating from teacher training to becoming a full-time teacher.”
Sharon: “After I finished the training, I continued to work with children. At the same time, I was building a practice.
“A pre-school offered me a full-time job with benefits and I started crying because I knew I wanted to teach the Technique. So I didn’t take the full-time job and I realized that I had to make this work. I built a website. Through the website, I got a lot of Alexander students. Now I go to networking events, I do interviews like this, I joined a public relations group to learn how to market, I teach workshops… Financially, it goes up and down, but I am so driven. Every time the option of getting another job it fuels the fire. This work is too powerful.”
Luke: “What have been your biggest challenges as an Alexander Technique teacher?”
Sharon: “Using the computer to reach out to people. I chose this line of work because I love to stand on my feet, I love to move, I love to interact with people. The way the world is going is to use the web to reach more people and I can’t stand to sit at the computer and to work on the website and the marketing. I resist it. I complain about it. I have business coaches who help me and tell me to get over it.”