Ilan is magical. He is our Alexander Technique teacher, and works with us every week on alignment and relaxation. He is a very calming presence. At the same time, he is like a mischievous child, with abundant enthusiasm and a twinkle in his eye, frequently making us giddy with happiness. We enter his class tired and sore, and we leave beaming from ear to ear. To have class with Ilan is to learn to love life and live in the moment. Here is how we start every lesson:
Ilan: Good afternoon everybody!!!
Class: Good afternoon Ilan!
Ilan: Thats exactly what I wanted to hear!
Then, we would partner up and give one another back rubs, what Ilan calls “shampooing the doggy!”. Or, we would do all these different stretches, like one person putting her weight on her partner’s tailbone and lightly bouncing it, while the partner sits in the child’s pose. Ilan calls this “squashing the froggy!”. Every now and then we do this dragon breath where we breathe in and out with our eyes wide open, our nostrils flared, our mouths stretched in a grin. Like gorillas, we shake our bodies and stamp our feet. We prowl the room with outstretched paws. Sometimes with Ilan, I feel as if I am back in kindergarten. I am five years old, and I can laugh, fall, be completely silly. I let go of my self-conciousness.
Two weeks ago, Ilan told us to observe someone on the street and imitate their way of moving, replicating any tension that they carry in their bodies. I took on a butcher who stood with his head lowered at an angle, his chest tense, his arms pinned to his sides. As we paraded these everyday characters in front of Ilan, he told us to slowly stand up, rebalance ourselves, and put our hands in front of our faces. Then, we opened our hands and our window of vision to its full 180 degrees, seeing far and wide. And it is as if we are shedding year and years of tension from our bodies. We become giants in an infinite world. “Okay now, when I clap, run around and scream “I’m free and I’m happy!!!”” Ilan claps…and we’re off, running around the room, jumping, yelling, screaming, “I’M FREE, AND I’M HAPPY!!!!!”
Last Friday we had a different kind of class, where we did a lot of detailed work with the spine. At the end of it, bundled inside the cuddling limbs of my partner Daniella, I felt safe and relaxed as we lay together on a mat, her hands stroking my hair, my face, my shoulders, gently giving my shoulders a squeeze and then holding me close. She was the “mommy” and I was the “baby”, and under Ilan’s direction we each took turns holding each other this way, like a mother and child, for a long time. I think for most of us, having grown up and left childhood, it is rare to have such moments of physical intimacy with another person without it becoming something sexual, and this brief moment of connection with another person brought such comfort and peace. It was pure bliss.