Larry Ball - a teacher of the Alexander Technique
A physical & psyche path into education health and strength
|Address:||San Rafael, CA 94901|
THE EXPLORATION, STUDY AND PRACTICE OF THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
AS TAUGHT BY LARRY BALL
"Study the movement of the earth, the movement of plants and trees, of animals, the movement of winds and waves -- and then study the movements of a child. You will find that the movement of all natural things works within harmonious expression." Isadora Duncan (from her essay "Movement Is Life")
For me, the primary purpose of the Alexander Technique is to help educate, heal and strengthen the whole individual in working toward our own harmonious expression of our life within the natural world.
At 29 years of age I discovered the Alexander Technique, began lessons, and fell in love with it. Within a year I knew I wanted to teach Alexander’s work. I trained for three years at the San Francisco school with Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pincas. Over the last 40 plus years I have been fortunate to realize that this is my vocation in life. This realization has been my motivation for working assiduously to deepen and extend my knowledge and understanding of the value of Alexander’s work and how to go about teaching it.
The underlying foundation of my Alexander work is my belief in the unknowable mystery of life. I agree with John Dewey's words from "Nature and Experience": "The visible is set in the invisible; and in the end what is unseen decides what happens in the seen; the tangible rests precariously upon the untouched and the ungrasped."
Unless I include the existence of the unknowable in my life and teaching, I am limiting myself and my teaching to only the material aspects of my life as a human. I would be teaching from a limited perspective of the value of Alexander’s work to myself and others.
For over 40 years I have studied and practiced Alexander's work for myself. And for 40 years I have taught others that Alexander's work is a fundamental pathway by which they can learn to allow life (It's energy, joy, and beauty) and consciousness help them receive, experience, and express wholeness in their daily lives. This includes: realizing whole health; healing pysche and physical pains, anxieties and misconceptions; becoming more fully alive; creating from within their Selves; working toward fulfilling their potentials; moving and acting freely within themselves and outward in the world with greater understanding, strength, balance and ease; and so forth.
The following words speak to the fundamental nature and value of Alexander's work.
The technique of Mr. Alexander gives to the educator a standard of psycho-physical health - in which what we call morality is included. It supplies also the "means whereby" this standard may be progressively and endlessly achieved, becoming a conscious possession of the one educated....It bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities. John Dewey
Good health is priceless and this technique lays the best possible foundation for good health. If one is mis-using oneself it must be an advantage to be able to correct this misuse. Patrick MacDonald (one of the first students taught by Alexander to become a teacher of his work).
In "Education of an Amphibian", Aldoes Huxley sets forth a detailed descrption of the benefits offered to us - physical, pyschological, spiritual, essence, the transcendent within each of us, and more. - by Alexander's work.
,, ,,my experience may one day be recognized as a signpost directing the explorer to a country hitherto 'undiscovered' , and one which offers unlimited opportunity for fruitful research to the patient and observant pioneer. F.M. Alexander
The Alexander Technique
We have been given the gift of life. We are expressions of life within our hearts, souls, psyches, spirits, feelings, sacred bodies, oneness with others, nature, and God, To me, these describe my wholeness. I am at my best when I strive to recognize, experience and practice my wholeness as an indivudal and as part of my community.
I believe life itself (it's energy, joy and beauty) is the primary and most powerful source we have with which to recognize, experience and practice wholeness in our daily lives..
I believe Alexander's work offers a profound and pragmatic means of education by which we are able to more fully connect with this source.
From Marjorie Barstow, one of my mentors in my Alexander work, I have learned that the greatest gift, amongst many, of Alexander’s work may be the fundamental experience of the joy and rapture of being alive.
Out of this experience comes the abiliity to open the "doors of perception" of which Aldous Huxley spoke. William James wrote that most of us make use of only a small portion of our possible consciousness, Alexander's work helps us transform ourselves into making use of our deeper reservoirs of consciousness, wholeness and life.
The study and practice of Alexander's work helps us become conscious of our habitual misuse of ourselves; a misuse which interferes with the development of our consciousness and of our wholeness. The misuse of ourselves - psyche and physical - causes pains, anxieties and misconceptions. The misuse of ourselves causes us to fail to use strengths and powers of all sorts, which we have as our birthright. In many ways the misuse of ourselves makes us less than what we are and can become.
Alexander's work offers us a means whereby we can prevent the misuse of ourselves and enable ourselves to allow our natural strengths and powers to continously develop our consciousness and wholeness.
We have the strength and power to prevent our limited ego minds from continuing to have control of our consciousness and wholeness. With the help of Alexander's ideas and life's energies, joy and beauty, I can choose to pause and perceive my wholeness before acting habitually and unconsciously. In these moments of pause I am able to choose to perceive and energize myself as a whole. Within this realm of being and non-doing I can heal, become healthy, more fully experience and enjoy living, allow my instinctual creativity to florish, allow the evolution of my Self, and choose, act and move with deeper vitality, attention, understanding, strength, balance and ease.
The examples of the help Alexander's work gives us are endless - both profound and practical:
One of them is experiencing and being able to undo excessive and harmful psyche and physical pressures that most of us place upon our bodies: heads pressing into spines, rather than being allowed to frolic from the top of our spines; knees required to bear weight for which they are not intended, rathen than allowing them to be free to bend and twist with flexibility; sacrums whose strength and freedom of movement are unknown and ignored, thus preventing spines from being allowed to move as one with full strength; trochanter bones that are forced downward from the hip joint rather than being allowed to move freely to the side of the pelvis before beginning their journey to the knees; ankles that are stiff and heavy from being locked, rather than allowing ankle bones to articulate and move about as the body moves; feet that suffer the burden of supporting the weight of far too much of our body, rather than allowing every bone to radiate its own energies and vitality; arms that are held in place rather than being allowed to explore; shoulders that are pressed against upper torsos rather than being allowed to become wings; upper bodies that lie heavy on the lower body, rather than being allowed to do their share of the work of body movement. The list goes on. We develop spinal pains, sore shoulders, headaches, and other chronic ailments. We can no longer run because of pain in our knees. We have diffiiculty in performing our skills because of pain. We no longer experience the exquisite perceptions of our sensations and feelings arising out of movement, performance, labor, etc. We forget our primal connection with playfulness, the connection that allows us to be at our most human.
Our ignorance and misuse of our body in movement and at rest is pervasive and widespread. it is not a matter of merely studying posture or form. It is a matter of allowing our bodies to be one with life, our consciousness, and our wholeness, including allowing our experience of nature and the mystery of of life help us.
Another example of the help offered by Alexander's work is in the area of choice. Frances Wickes writes "From....experience comes the knowledge that choice acts in every moment - not a choice of this or that, but of living or non-living. The thought or feeling that is repudiated, the occurrence unregarded, is a choice of non-living. This same moment can, through choices of awareness, be made into a turning to instead of a turning away."
In our materialistic culture most of us are directly influenced into making choices that perpetuate our habitual ways of being and living. We generaly do not deeply nor thoroughly examine with our consciousness the choices we have in each moment of being and living. Having separated from our authentic and natural selves by the requirements of surviving in our culture, we find it very difficult to know what our wholeness wants and needs in our moments of choice.
Another result of our limitations in making choices, is the difficulty of allowing creativity to emerge from within our wholeness. Alexander's work provide an opportunity for the experience and practice of the "non-doing" that is required for creativity to emerge. I believe it is within this realm of non-doing that I am able to transform and become more whole.
Another example is in the area of knowing oneself. Living in our culture, most of us have not been educated to deeply and honestly examine ourselves in our assumptions, our motivations, our actions, our chocies, our movements, etc. Yet, such a practice is necessary to know oneself.
Thomas Merton wrote: "Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one's own - be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid."
For most of us, our coummunity and cultural education fails to help us address the issues thomas Merton has raised. Alexander's work addresses and provides help in finding ways to address and resolve these issues.
Each of these problems are within our power to address and resolve. I believe a solution lies in allowing life, our wholeness and our consciousness to help us. Alexander's work is the most effective and availalbe pathway I have discovered that can provide this help to each of us.
Historically Western culture has failed to recognize the ability of our wholeness to help us know ourselves and live a truer, healthier life on earth. Instead, Western culture generally limits such efforts to our mind, to our ego. In our materialistic culture our hearts, souls, spirits, feelings, pysche, sacred bodies, oneness with others, our nature, and our connection with the unknowable are generally given short shrift and often dismissed as non-existent.
Through your Alexander work new experiences of your wholeness emerge from within you. Once experienced and explored you are able to begin to learn to allow your wholeness to express Itself in your choices, actions, movements and healing. These changes allow us to choose, act, move and heal more fully and wholly as humans on the earth. These changes help us allow harmony with oneself and nature, even in the midst of a human world that has broken away from harmony with nature.
Your experiences in each lesson give you motivation to explore this work on your own each day. In doing so, the energies, knowledge and understanding provided by life, your consciousness and wholeness grow and evolve. In doing so, you transform yourself.
About My Teaching and History
I began studying the Alexander Technique in 1976. I graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in San Francisco in 1979. At that time the school was under the direction of Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pinkas. I was a member of the school’s teaching faculty assisting Frank Otttiwell from 1981 to its closing in 2004. While a student in the school I worked with Patrick McDonald during his yearly visits to the school, as well as with Walter and Dilys Carrington during their visits and workshops. While a student and teacher in the school I worked extensively for over 10 years with Marjorie Barstow, both in San Francisco during her yearly visits to the school, and in Lincoln, Nebraska. Marjorie Barstow and Frank Ottiwell are my mentors.
I have taken Alexander at his word and have attempted to be a pioneer of the work he began: to explore, to observe, to listen and to discover the truly unlimited knowledge and understanding his work offers. During these years of study, exploration, and practice I have found an open doorway to and greater understanding of the gifts the Alexander Technique offers.. Alexander's work has helped me to live a more wondrous, joyful and healthy life. This work has led me to a great improvement and understanding of myself within my deepest self and in the world.
I believe my teaching of Alexander's work is imaginative, intuitive, non-critical, playful and creative. I share it as best I can with students through my presence, touch and words. I teach my students my vision and understanding of Alexander's work and help them explore the value of Alexander's work for them.
I teach in San Rafael.
I am happy to answer any questions and discuss this work with you.
Cell: (415) 377-0449
I offer the following quotes from a few of the the sages I have studied that give further insight into my vision and understanding of the value of exploring, studying and practicing the Alexander Technique.
People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.... Joseph Campbell
Energy is eternal delight. William Blake
I have no doubt that most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a small portion of their possible consciousness....much like a man who, out of his whole bodily oganism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.... We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream. William James
Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one's own - be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid. Thomas Merton
From......experience comes the knowledge that choice acts in every moment, not a choice of this or that, but of living or non-living. The thought or feeling that is repudiated, the occurrence unregarded, is a choice of non-living. This same moment can, through choice of awareness, be made a turning to instead of a turning away. Frances G. Wickes
Comments on my teaching
“Larry was one of my teachers at the Alexander Training Institute - SF. After graduating in 2003, I went to him for continued training for two intensive periods of study. Larry offers a very unique philosophical perspective on the Alexander Technique, which I believe guides his teaching. But I didn’t go to him for philosophy; I went to him for the experience of his touch. Under his hands, I felt harmony, the mystery of my body’s own potential to heal itself, and a sense of intrinsic movement and vitality. It would be an exaggeration to say that I could feel cellular movement, but that’s the type of metaphor that rises to mind when working with Larry. His quiet touch provides deep wells of space that were particularly important to me during times of distress. Studying with Larry will not give you simple answers. You will instead experience the mystery of life in the body. As a teacher, I often reference his work.
Elyse Shafarman, Alexander Technique teacher, MA. M.AmSat teacher
“ I can’t thank Larry enough for the inspiration his lessons have given me. I have been trying to resolve the contradiction between doing and non-doing for years, ever since my earliest workshop with Marjorie Barstow more than 30 years ago. The shift of verbal emphasis Larry teaches in the words “let the universe do it” just dissolves the problem. A miracle really. And what is even more fantastic is that in lessons Larry stays with the sensitivity of touch that allows ‘it’ to do itself. Wow.”
Marion Miller, Alexander Technique Teacher
“13 years ago Larry was my teacher at Alexander teacher's training school. Today he is my mentor. Larry's work opens a corridor of enlightenment that can only be found when one truly surrenders to the energy and balance of natural things.”
Alan Bolton, Alexander Technique teacher AmSAT.
“My lessons with Larry have been deeply healing and revealing for me and I've appreciated them enormously.”
" As I write this I feel the echo of working with Larry just a few hours ago. And I feel re-opened in a new way - to my self and to my surroundings. Better not to say too much. Only to know that the direct experience is what matters and the quality of the vibration is much subtler than my ordinary materialistic experience. Right now I feel l like a buoy in calm gentle waters. This is in large part of just having worked with Larry."
David Page, Alexander Technique Teacher, AmSat
“As a student of movement for over 25 years, I have accumulated countless concepts, tips, and exercises that are meant to help me move and function better. But all of those things go out the window when working with Larry. He cuts through the fog and helps me see and experience that I already have everything I need to be free and whole right here, right now.
Matt Stevens, Linguist and Alexander Technique Teacher, AmSat