Mindful Alexander Technique (MAT)

Becca Ferguson, Alexander Technique teacherAlexander Technique teacher Becca Ferguson developed
Mindful Alexander Technique (MAT), which is a unique fusion of evidence-based mind/body wellness practices.

MAT is based in Alexander Technique (AT) evidence-based, wellness/performance improvement methods. The AT’s practices for releasing excess muscle tension, and improving posture, body mechanics and breathing are used worldwide by Integrative Medicine and Behavioral Health providers and physicians, including Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN has an AT teacher on staff, teaching in the
Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, and in diverse departments that include:
Neurology and Women’s Health.

Best known in the performing arts for poise, presence and performance improvement, the AT is taught world-wide in drama, music and dance departments at colleges and universities, and at schools such as Juilliard, London’s Royal Academy of Music, and Yale School of Drama.

Performing artists who practice the AT include: Hugh Jackman; Victoria Beckham; Cate Blanchett; Lupita N’yongo; Paul McCartney; Sting, and
Madonna.

Other celebrities who have practiced the AT include: Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and Marlon Brando.

The AT is used by corporations such as IBM and JP Morgan Chase for improved presentation, speaking and performance.

Both the AT and MAT are types of “embodied mindfulness” practices.   MAT utilizes core AT practices, with extra focus on the mindful awareness of mind and body that is central to the Alexander Technique.

Mindfulness practices are used world-wide by Integrative Medicine and Behavioral Health providers for issues such as: stress management, pain, and treatment of addiction and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety.  Mindfulness practices are also effective for addressing underlying trauma disorders that often co-occur with substance abuse, and are frequently masked by drug and alcohol use.

Both the AT and MAT are taught in lessons, classes and workshops by certified Alexander Technique (AT) instructor Becca Ferguson, for a diverse range of specific applications.  These applications are described in the following sections, and on the Lessons/Classes page of this website.

The AT and MAT require no skill or prior experience, and are accessible for all ages and abilities. What sets the AT and MAT apart from all other mind/body practices such as yoga is a gentle hands-on teaching method using subtle, guided touch and simple verbal directions.

MAT was designed specifically to offer AT-based practices to clients who typically might not have access to AT lessons and classes, such as
cancer survivors, or persons in treatment for drugs, alcohol and co-occurring disorders. .

Clients often quickly experience benefits when using MAT practices, including: relaxation; mood elevation; calming and increased sense of self-awareness and engagement. Clients are provided with easy, self-directed practices they can immediately use on their own.

MAT provides easy, in-the-body mindful movement practices for:

  • Lowering stress hormone levels and stress reactivity in our body by learning to recognize/release patterns of excessive muscle tension
  • Learning to keep muscles more relaxed and “expanded” in our posture and daily movement
  • Developing mindful awareness, ease in movement and less pain and fatigue by improving posture, body mechanics, and breathing
  • Changing habits and behavior by pausing/stopping our habitual responses and movements, and choosing to re-direct into new actions;
  • Improving our bone health, balance, and “Gravity Health” with easy, weight-bearing, whole body movement practices that help restore the “Paleo Poise” and movement that the human body was originally designed to use.

MAT practices for lowering stress hormone levels in our bodies help us to better handle physical and mental stressors, and can promote reduction of symptoms of: pain, depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD disorders; migraines, fibromyalgia and other issues.

MAT offers empowering inner tools for changing addictive and habitual behaviors by learning to mindfully pause and stop our initial, habitual  reactions and responses.

MAT is a fusion of evidence-based mind/body practices, and research:

  • The Alexander Technique
  • Power Poses research and wellness methods developed by
    Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy
  • Gravity Health research and work of former NASA Life Sciences Director  Dr Joan Vernikos
     

MAT  incorporates elements of Power Poses research, and the famous mind/body postural wellness methods developed by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy.

  • Cuddy’s research indicates that when we use tensed muscles in Contracted postures and movements, within 2 minutes our levels of the stress hormone Cortisol are raised, and our Testosterone levels go down.
  • Higher Cortisol levels cause more stress/pain reactivity and anxiety, and affect performance and other issues.
  • Expanded, more postures and movements with more relaxed, not tensed muscles raise Testosterone levels and lower Cortisol within 2 minutes. 
  • Higher Testosterone levels help us feel more confident and perform better, and reduce stress responses.

Read more about Amy Cuddy’s work in this summary of her compelling research about stress hormone activity in humans and this New York Times article.

The 3rd element in the “MAT fusion practice” are the Alexander Technique’s weight-bearing movement practices that incorporate the work of Gravity expert Dr. Joan Vernikos, former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division.

  • Dr Vernikos was one of the first NASA scientists to study the health effects on astronauts (such as John Glenn) after being in “zero gravity” environments on outer space missions for extended amounts of time.
  • Dr Vernikos’ years of research shows that better “Gravity Health” helps our whole body, from our bones, to balance and brain function.
  • Bone loss and impaired bone health is an often overlooked global health issue, particularly with all types of chronic drug and alcohol use and abuse.

Becca teaches fun, dynamic customized classes, workshops and programs based in core MAT practices, including:

Mindful Recovery Practices (MRP)

  • MRP has been taught since 2012 in customized classes for young adults through seniors in US treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction, and co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, trauma and PTSD.  MRP incorporates 12 Step recovery principles, and complements standard Behavioral Health programs such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and addiction treatment medication regimens such as Suboxone and Naltrexone.
  • MRP is also taught in alternative sentencing programs and a corrections facility.
  • MRP was presented in an experiential workshop at the 2015 Illinois Drug and Alcohol Dependency Association (IADDA).
  • Becca Ferguson is a guest lecturer on addiction and recovery at the U of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.

For more information, please go to “Mindful Recovery Practices“, under the MAT Specialties” sidebar on the right side of the website.

Mindful Labyrinth Walks and “Walking with Intention” Mindful Walking Practices

  • Mindful Walking, Mindful Labyrinth Walking and labyrinth art have been part of Becca Ferguson’s spiritual and personal development since college.
  • Becca developed MAT-basedMindful Labyrinth Walking” and “Walking with Intention” Mindful Walking Practices that are an integral part of her ongoing recovery from opioids, tranquilizers and alcohol, as well as provide empowering “embodied tools” for dealing daily with pain and PTSD issues.
  • Certified as a Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator, Becca teaches MAT Mindful Labyrinth Walking and Walking with Intention classes and workshops for issues such as addiction,  and co-occurring disorders, especially trauma and anxiety.
  • Mindful Labyrinth Walking and “Walking with Intention” Mindful Walking Practices classes and workshops are customized for group of all sizes, and often incorporate MRP practices and 12 Step principles.

For more information, please go to “Mindful Labyrinth Walks“, under the MAT Specialties” sidebar on the right side of the website.

 Mindful Ergonomics (ME)

  • Mindful Ergonomics provide a form of “Low Intensity Physical Activity” (LIPA) that Inactivity Physiology studies show boost metabolic functions, for combatting “Sitting Disease”.  
  • Mindful Ergonomics practices teach improved posture and body mechanics for reducing stress, pain and fatigue when sitting, and/or working at a standing workstation.

For more information, please go to the “Mindful Ergonomics” page on the website.

MAT for Cancer Survivors & Patients

MAT offers easy “Mindful Moves” mind/body self-care and wellness practices for cancer patients and survivors wherever they are on their journey: post-surgeries such as mastectomy and reconstruction,  and/or during chemotherapy and radiation.

For more information, please go to the “Survivor Wellness” page on the website.

Becca teaches in the Chicago and Central Illinois areas in private lessons, classes and workshops.  Specialties include: Addiction, trauma, bone loss/bone health; Womens’ Health, jaw issues; and Survivor Wellness.

Clients include: Urbana’s Carle Hospital Addiction Recovery Center and Mills Breast Cancer Institute.  Becca is a Provider with Evanston, IL- based Heartwood Foundation Women & Cancer Program, and has also taught cancer survivors at Gilda’s Club, Chicago.

Other clients include: University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria; and  Urbana’s Prairie Center Behavioral Health for residential and outpatient clients in an alternative sentencing program.

She is available to teach elsewhere in the US, and in other countries. For more information please go to the “Lessons/Classes” page.

Note: Mindful Alexander Technique (MAT) practices, Alexander Technique, Power Poses and the “Gravity Health” work of Dr Joan Vernikos are wellness practices, not medicine or treatment.

No portion of this webpage may be copied or used without permission.  © 2015-2016  Becca Ferguson  All rights reserved.
Design & Illustration: Peter Cybulski Design  Chicago