Alexander Technique Centre Ireland Newsletter, Spring 2017

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Winter sunset, snowy scene

Welcome to the Spring 2017 edition of the newsletter. We hope you enjoy it! A special welcome if you are new to the Alexander Technique mailing list. We will not fill up your inbox as you will be only sent an e-newsletter about 3-4 times a year.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. The wound is the place where the Light enters you. Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
  — Rumi

Featured in this issue:

Voice and Breathing

Bubbles in blue water

Without our breath nothing else would have any importance whatsoever; in fact, we would not even exist. Our breath is our number one priority, for without it we are unable to utter one single word or perform even the smallest of actions. The life-force itself automatically causes us to take a breath without any effort on our part; we do not even have to remember to breathe as it all happens by reflex.

I do not claim to have discovered any new method of breathing, but to understand the only true one - Nature's.
  — F. M. Alexander

Efficient and beneficial breathing is an integral part of good posture, a clear mind, and using your body in the way it was designed to be used. Like many other functions of the body, this simple act of breathing is often unconsciously interfered with. Poor posture and misuse of the body can cause an over-tensing of the entire muscular system and this in turn can affect the breath and voice. Muscle tension can also produce a general 'collapsing' or pulling down of the whole upper body, which can result in a considerable limitation in the lungs' capacity to take in air. This can lead to shallow breathing causing us to make an extra effort in order to just have sufficient air. In short, we can make the effortless act of breathing very hard work. This extra exertion goes largely unnoticed, because we become accustomed to our shallow and strained breathing; this is the way we have breathed for many years and therefore it will feel 'normal' and 'right' to us. If the body is unable to get enough oxygen, because its natural deeper breathing is being interfered with, we will have to find another way of achieving this objective in order to get the oxygen it requires. The breathing rate will need to increase and as a result a quicker, shallower, type of respiration occurs and in this way we start to develop habitual ways of breathing.

When Alexander first began teaching his method he was nick-named: 'The breathing man'. This was because initially he developed his technique to help people breathe in a better way. Most of his first pupils were actors suffering with voice strain, asthma or just shallow breathing. After a lesson his pupils noticed a remarkable difference in their breathing as they started to release the muscular tension that was interfering with their natural breathing. Many voice trainers and physical educators encourage 'deep breathing' as a way of getting the lungs to work as they should, and while their aim may be sound in principle, the way they encourage their students to achieve this may actually exacerbate many respiratory problems. People are often instructed to increase their lung capacity by 'pulling in' or 'pushing out' their breath, but this only further tenses an already over-strained muscular system. Almost all breathing exercises focus on the in-breath, as for example the instruction to 'take a deep breath', but this will invariably cause the person to interfere with the breathing mechanisms even further. Tightening and shortening the muscles can result in arching of the back and lifting the chest which actually restricts the breathing even further, causing additional detrimental breathing patterns or ingraining the original breathing habits even more deeply. Like the rest of the Alexander Technique, breathing naturally is a process of unlearning detrimental habits, rather than practicing certain breathing exercises or techniques.

Alexander was a trained actor and efficient breathing was essential to his skillful recitation. The Technique he developed involves becoming aware and preventing poor breathing habits. It is based on 'doing less' and one of his most famous quotations was 'I see at last that if I don't breathe... I breathe'. Many performing actors, singers and even teachers find that the technique dramatically helps their breathing and helps them to achieve an improved voice production without strain. By ensuring that we breathe naturally, we can also effectively combat the effects of stress that often come with public speaking. In this way, we can feel calmer and more in control even at times of intense emotional or mental stress.

How to Breathe CD by Richard Brennan

Richard Brennan's new book, How to Breathe, is due for publication by Connections, London, in Autumn 2017, in English, and several translations. His audio CD, How to Breathe, is available for sale here.

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Results of the Study to Examine the Impact of Wedge Cushions on Childrens' Seated Postures Published

On Wednesday 4th November 2015 five AT teachers and AT Teacher Trainees, from the Alexander Technique Training College in Moycullen, introduced twenty 4th class primary school pupils from the Claddagh School in Galway City, aged around ten years old, to the use of wedge cushions when seated. The study examined photographic evidence, children's views and teachers' views on the impact of the use of wedge cushions on seated posture over a 6 month period.

Child seated at a school desk, slumped over

The children had been asked to write a few sentences about sitting at a desk and whether they found the chair comfortable or uncomfortable. They were also asked to describe what they did to make sitting comfortable. In addition, photographs were taken of the children sitting at their desks working prior to commencing the pilot study.

Initially one hour was spent in the classroom introducing the children to the concept of good posture and poor posture. Prior to the intervention the children were observed by the AT Teachers/Trainees as they completed work seated at their desks and their observations recorded.

The children were then given a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation about how the spine works, how children's posture changes from 5 year olds to teenagers, and how the school chair can contribute to poor posture in teenagers. A model spine was used to show children how rocking on their sitting bones promotes good posture when seated.

The children were then taken in groups of 4 and they were shown how to find their hip joints and their sitting bones and how to rock on the sitting bones to allow the spine to stay long when working at the desk. They were each given a wedge and shown how to correctly position it on the chair. It was also explained to them how the feet placed flat on the floor promotes good posture when using the wedge.

Finally, comments were collected from children about how they felt about the use of the wedges. In December 2016 the results of the study were published and can be found here:

Keep up to date with latest news on this topic on our school chairs campaign page.

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The 2nd International Alexander Teacher's Convention, Dublin 2017


Come and join us at the 2nd International Alexander Technique Convention in Dublin in April 2017!

This week is primarily designed for Alexander Teachers and teacher trainees, but anyone with a sincere desire to learn more about the Alexander Technique is welcome.

There are still places left for the Alexander Teachers convention is only 3 months away and takes place in Dublin from 9th – 15th April 2017. The Convention is designed to deepen your understanding and advance your teaching and communication skills to empower you in taking Alexander's principles forward into the future without losing the essence of the Work. The structure of this week-long convention includes daily workshops, open-minded discussions, work exchanges and networking opportunities which will foster a sense of community, sharing, laughter and integration of learning.

Presenters include Giora Pinkas, Anthony Kingsley, Trisha Hemingway, Wolfgang Weiser, Glen Park, Niall Kelly, Glenna Batson, Tommy Thompson, Jeando Masoero, Barbro Olsson and Francien Schoonens.

Places are limited to 100. Previous experience of the Alexander Technique is essential. For more information please visit

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Four day workshop with Jule Gartzke (Germany), January 17th - 20th 2017

Jule Gartzke, Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique & the performing arts

This week will be of great interest to those involved in the performing arts. Jule loves to teach the technique in application to many kinds of performance. Normally she does not prepare a workshop with a strict plan in mind, but rather likes to work with the flow and needs and interests of the participants. She has many games and procedures that she offers to demonstrate various aspects of the technique.

Generally she likes to focus on breath and voice work possibly including some text work or free speaking and she also loves to work with all kinds of movement.

Jule was born in 1970 in Würzburg, Germany. Between 1984-1989 she did intensive training in Ballroom Dancing, Tap Dance, Jazz and Modern and then she studied on the BA course of Contemporary Dance at the Folkwang University Essen between 1990 - 1995. She then went on to do an MA in Dance and Alexander Technique under Professor Nadia Kevan between 1995-96. Then she completed a three year Alexander Technique Teacher Training course with Dr Chris Stevens.

Jule then did an intensive Training in Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qui Gong from between 1995-99.

Between 2004 and 2009 she did post-graduate training in Alexander Technique with John Hunter in London and Elisabeth Walker in Oxford, as well as doing a variety of workshops in a several different disciplines, including Laban/Bartenieff movement, Feldenkrais, Meyerholds Biomechanics, Body Mind Centreing and Pilates.

Course Details

Dates: Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th January 2017
Times: Tuesday 2.30 pm – Friday 12 noon
Venue: The Alexander Training College, Moycullen, Co. Galway
Cost: €200 for four days or €65 for one day
Suitable for: Anyone with previous Alexander Technique experience.
To Book: Please contact Richard Brennan on 091 555800 or email

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Three Day Workshop with Francien Schoonens (Holland), 14th - 16th March 2017

Awareness in Movement ... Any Movement

Francien Schoonens, Alexander Technique

Francien is a naturally gifted teacher and tackles each problem with laughter and kindness. She loves exploring new and exciting ways to move and happily challenges stereotyped habits of behaviour patterns without judgement. Whatever activity you are involved in, you are sure to find a new, better and easier way of doing it ... that's for sure!

Francien trained at ATA in London in the early 1980s under Don Burton. She now teaches the Alexander Technique in The Hague, Netherlands and has taught in England, Spain, the USA, Australia, France and Crete.

She has given workshops and individual lessons to a wide range of people including diplomats, doctors, nurses, office workers, swimmers, cyclists, runners, singers, instrumentalists, children, not to mention Chinese acrobats, ballet dancers, modern dancers and tango dancers.

Francien also was the director of her own training course in Holland for a number of years.

Course Details

Dates: Tuesday 14th – Thursday 16th March 2017
Times: 10am to 4pm each day
Venue: The Alexander Training College, Moycullen, Co. Galway
Cost: €200 for four days or €70 for one day
Suitable for: Anyone with previous Alexander Technique experience.
To Book: Please contact Richard Brennan on 091 555800 or email

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Workshops in May 2017 with Malcolm Balk (Canada): The Alexander Technique and Running

Malcolm Balk, Alexander Technique and Running

After a very successful visit to the Centre in August Malcolm will be returning to do a number of running workshops in May 2017.

Malcolm Balk qualified with Patrick Macdonald in 1984. In addition to maintaining a private practice in Montreal, he also teaches at Plattsburgh State University in New York. Originally attracted to the Technique because of major tension issues while playing the cello, he is also a Level 4 running coach and still competes in his veteran category (2012 Canadian Age Group winner: half marathon). In 1991 he developed The Art of Running workshop which has been enjoyed by runners all over the world. Malcolm's book, Master the Art of Running with the Alexander Technique has sold over 20,000 copies.

We all think we know how to run. After all, it's as natural as putting one foot in front of the other. To often, though, an activity which should be pleasurable and fulfilling instead leads to frustration and injury. Learn how to achieve and maintain fitness without injury and how to overcome self-imposed limitations.

Course Details

Dates: Wednesday 17th - Thursday 18th May 2017
Times: 9.30am to 4pm each day
Suitable for: This workshop is open to all and does not demand a high level of fitness.
Venue: The Alexander Training College, Moycullen, Co. Galway
Cost: €75 per day. You can attend either day, or both days.
To Book: Please contact Richard Brennan on 091 555800 or email

Can't make those dates?

No problem. Malcolm is also doing extra workshops on Friday 19th and during the weekend of 20th - 21st May. To book these workshops, please contact Michaela Wohlgemuth on 087 7556558 or

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Training Course News

New Teacher Graduates from the training course

Seamus O'Grady, new graduate from the Alexander Technique Centre in Galway, Ireland, November 2016

Wholehearted congratulations to Seamus O'Grady who graduated on the 30th November. Seamus was the 40th person to graduate from the course. He will be a great asset to the Alexander community as well as the music community in general as he is an extremely accomplished viola player.

It has been wonderful to have Seamus' thoughtful and insightful presence at the training course over the last four years, and we look forward to him visiting the college often.


Ever thought of becoming an Alexander teacher? To find out more about this very rewarding career please go to

There are two places available on the Alexander Technique Training Course, starting in January 2017, and three places coming up in April 2017. You can apply for either term anytime.

Special Offer for 2017

Thinking of training, but not sure? Then you can sample three weeks of training for the price of two, effectively saving €200! If you decide to continue, those weeks will count towards your qualification.

Visiting the Training Course

Informal group at Alexander Technique Training Centre, Galway, Ireland

Although the Training Course is primarily for those who wish to train to become Alexander Technique teachers, we do welcome those who wish to visit for a day, a week or even a whole term, by arrangement, to improve their own understanding of the Technique. It is an ideal environment for those who enjoy learning the technique in a group. You will receive individual sessions as well as join in group sessions on various subjects including standing, walking, sitting and breathing.

Open Week in Galway, 28th February - 3rd March 2017 (free)

Alexander Technique Centre, Ireland, open session

If you have ever considered doing further training in the Alexander Technique, either for you own personal interest, or with a view to becoming a teacher of the Alexander Technique, then you may be interested in the open week at the college. During this week people can come to the college for a day or a week and join in on the sessions.

This week is completely free to those who have never been to the college before, and half price (€95) to those who have visited before.

It is open to all those who have already had some lessons or who have been to an introductory workshop. Please see for more information about the training.

Early booking advised as there are only 5 places for this week. To book a place please call 091 555800 or email

Three month Postgraduate Diploma Course starting in January 2017 in Galway

Anyone who has completed a 3 year Alexander Technique teacher training course is welcome to apply. The course will include one hands-on lesson each day for yourself; working with people who have had little or no experience of the technique; how to start and sustain a successful practice teaching the Alexander Technique; and many other related topics such as neuroscience and how to read MRI reports.

Cost: €995

Please contact Richard for full details 091 555800 or email

Term Dates 2017

Spring Term 2017

Start and end of term: Tuesday 10th January – Thursday 23rd March
Mid-term break: 13th - 17th February

Visiting teachers: Jule Gartzke (Germany) and Francien Schoonens (Holland)

Summer Term 2017

Start and end of term: Tuesday 25th April – Thursday 29th June
Mid-term break: 4th - 10th June

Visiting teachers: Vivien Mackie (Scotland) and Alexander Farkas (USA)

Course hours: Tues 2.30–6.30pm, Weds 9.30am–4pm, Thurs 9.30am–1.30pm, Fri 9–12 noon

For full details please visit:

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Short Courses with Richard Brennan

Richard Brennan, director of Alexander Technique Centre, Galway, Ireland

Forthcoming Introductory and Intermediate short courses led by Richard Brennan are given below.

For booking information and further details about the short courses below, please visit our short courses page. Please note that you are also welcome to visit the college for intermediate training.

Esker Retreat Centre, Athenry, Co Galway
3rd - 5th February 2017
Back In Balance: Residential Weekend Workshop
€165 (€90 non-residential)

Emmaus Centre, Lissenhall, Swords, Co Dublin
11th - 12th February 2017
Change Your Posture, Change Your Life: Residential Weekend Workshop

Emmaus Centre, Lissenhall, Swords, Co Dublin
22nd - 26th May 2017
Alexander Technique Immersion: Residential Five Day Course

Chrysalis, Co Wicklow
27th May 2017
One Day Workshop
Further details will shortly be available on our short courses page

Cortijo Romero, Orgiva, Granada, Spain
3rd - 10th June 2017
Change Your Posture, Change Your Life:
Residential week-long workshop in a beautiful holiday centre in southern Spain
£665 (discount price before 3rd March 2017, later £695)

Emmaus Centre, Lissenhall, Swords, Co Dublin
7th - 8th October 2017
Back In Balance: Residential Weekend Workshop
€195 (non residential €145)

National University of Ireland (Adult Education), Galway
14th + 21st October 2017
Change Your Posture, Change Your Life: Two day introductory workshop

Esker Retreat Centre, Athenry, Co Galway
24th - 26th November 2017
Back In Balance: Residential Weekend Workshop
€165 (€90 non-residential)

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