Problem Solving

(first published in Pain Management Tools Newsletter © 2008 N. Brooke Lieb)


Alexander didn't have a teacher to help him solve his vocal problems.  He had no one telling him where to begin or how to approach finding a solution, so he began with simple observation and then experimented on a trial and error basis.

One of Alexander's observations and concerns, as he worked for over 60 years teaching people from all walks of life, was the lack of critical reasoning people brought to problem solving.

Some of my most effective teaching moments have been when I could help someone see, for themselves, how they were using their body or reacting to a situation.

Example 1:

At the first lesson, I showed this student how she was putting pressure on her lower back by locking her knees and pushing down onto her waist.   Within moments, she was able to lesson the pressure.

"When my doctor suggested surgery to alleviate excruciating back pain from two herniated disks, I remembered a friend who had avoided surgery by working with an Alexander trainer so I tried it too.  It's been almost two years since I started working with Brooke and I am virtually pain-free.  When I do have pain, it's because I've forgotten to use the Alexander tools Brooke taught me; as soon as I remember to walk properly, the pain goes away.

I no longer suffer from terrible lower back pain. My whole body feels less tense and I have fewer muscle aches. Using the Alexander Technique while playing golf, lifting weights or doing any other physical activity has helped prevent injury."

Example 2:

"I asked Brooke about my knee pain and she asked me to get up from the chair and within a few seconds she saw my problem. She had me sit and get up again, this time giving me commands on how to position my legs when getting out of a seated position. I felt the difference immediately and to this day, I use the instructions she had shown me. "

Example 3:

I am working with a young actress, who shared she is not satisfied with her quality of sleep.  After about 5 lessons, she came back and told me she has engaged in a point-by-point investigation into solving the combined issues that were interfering with her sleep.  She said she'd solved some of her problems, knew the solution to others and was getting to them; and still had some questions about solving some of the problems.   At our lesson last week, she said she was sleeping better already.

 Here is her checklist:

 1. Sleep Mask- buy one that does not fall off

 2. Mattress- switch with neighbor, get a new one

 3. Pillows- remove second pillow and get smaller pillow to put under big pillow (both pillow were a lot for me, and one was not enough so I was always struggling with them at night)

 4. Glass of Water- Keep at distance far enough that you can't knock over

 5. Dogs-

 6. AC- Keep remote next to you and turn on and off as you please during the night

 7. Comforter- Keep yourself cool so you won't get hot under it, ask Michael to push it to your side before he gets in the bed so he does not sleep on it and therefore deprive you of wonderful comforters

 8. Michael awake at night-

 9. Dogs chewing things- before going to bed remove all things that the dogs can reach that you know they will chew on (shoes, pens,etc)

While students who have lessons sometimes have a hard time describing what the Alexander Technique is, or describing the sensations and changes they experience, these examples are a bit more concrete and can help students understand the reasoning process that is an integral aspect of applying the principles of the Alexander Technique.

You can ask: "How am I doing what I'm doing?  Could I do this differently?"

A simple example from my own life came when I realized I could thread a needle more easily by facing the whole towards my eyes, and bringing the thread from behind the needle into the hole.   It is much easier to see.  I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person, but I realized how habitual I can be in life, and when I made this simple adjustment (after 38 years of threading a needle "blind" by bringing the thread in sideways) the activity became much easier and more efficient.