Sitting Quietly In A Complicated World

Robert Rickover interviews Sandra Bain Cushman, an Alexander Technique teacher in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is the author of the forthcoming book Mind Body 40 Days.

Between them, Robert and Sandra have more than 50 years of experience teaching the Alexander Technique.

Sandra: “As our world has become more complex, people are feeling more fragmented. There’s this movement to sit and be quiet and to center oneself. The Technique offers information about how the body balances itself and how coordination works.”

Robert: “Alexander Technique can help people sit more easily.”

Sandra: “Ask yourself, what are you looking for in your sitting practice? Not only more balance in your body but also in your life… I think that what people are really seeking in their sitting practice is integration, calm, and freedom from a lot of negative emotion.”

“The Alexander Technique does seem like magic. When your neck is free and your head is balanced way up high on the spine, when you really move up and think of your coordination being organized where your head rests on your spine, there’s this fabulous release into lightness, coordination and ease. As far as I know, Alexander teachers are the only ones skilled at that.”

Robert: “To tell someone to sit up straight is at best useless and at worst harmful. It’s just a rearrangement of tension. Alexander Technique takes you from where you are and shows you the direction of release.”

Sandra: “Once you find your primary control, you are more present. You’re not just struggling in the dark to be more present. We have a way back to drop you in your presence. Your eyes focus and your voice changes.

“I love watching Marjorie Barstow work with singers. The moment she put her hands on them and found that head-neck relationship and the whole person let go, the sound was fabulous. You would hear the difference. The sound would fill the room. More of the person would arrive in the room. That’s because we’re engaging the design of ourselves. I think that’s missing from the other techniques.”

Robert: “Do you have to think about your head-neck relationship all of the time?”

Sandra: “At the very beginning because you don’t know it. It’s like learning a language. You’re learning to think inside of your activity through your body. As you become more adept at that, you start to inhabit yourself in such a way so that it becomes part of how you think. It’s like a software program installed in yourself and it’s running.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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