Instructor: Julie Rothschild, of Boulder, a certified Alexander Technique teacher (a 1,600-hour course), professional dancer and certified personal trainer.
She also has a background in yoga, Nordic skiing, running, volleyball and other sports.
She discovered the Alexander Technique after undergoing three surgeries on her right knee, after ACL injuries.
What is the workout? Rothschild blended her dance, Alexander Technique and personal training background to create this mind-body approach to fitness: integrated movement training.
The Alexander Technique is designed to help people eliminate unnecessary tension in their bodies and make their movement more conscious, efficient and balanced. Often, it's this tension that leads to injury.
This technique is all about developing awareness about how we move and practice, and asking the questions to improve awareness around that. What do you need for this moment? Are you doing more than you need to be doing? You may be surprised how often the answer to the latter is yes. While sitting at the computer, do you really need to be tensing up your shoulders and jaw to type?
In Rothschild's private sessions, she helps you rethink your movements and posture and improve your performance. We did most of our work lying down, but she also helps people work on balance, sitting and standing.
What's different: This class is not about pushing yourself. It's not about reps or exhaustion. It's about quality, efficiency and ease.
The class does not isolate muscles or address specific problems. It gives attention to the whole body.
"We put ourselves into these habitual positions that bring even more tension into the body than we are aware of, and by becoming more aware, we get to choose how we respond in the moment," Rothschild says.
Unlike Feldenkrais, which repeats a series of movements to help repattern the brain, this class has less repetition. Lying on the floor, she helped me relax entirely (by sort of pressing and shaking different body parts -- in an almost Thai massage way, except with no massage) and then she asked me to do certain movements by only using the necessary muscles, not extra. For example, can you lift your arm without squeezing your shoulder, neck and back?
"We're very often told, 'We need to fix your posture,'" Rothschild says. But what often happens is people overcompensate the opposite way --which just moves you from one pattern of tension to another.
What does it cost? Varies with the different packages, but as an example, a one-month package with three private lessons and one online or phone meeting, plus weekly assignments, is $300.
When: Because the work in individualized and involves changing patterns, Rothschild's packages are in one-, three- and six-month increments. There is no one-time drop-in. By appointment only.
She also offers various workshops, such as a "Rethinking Posture" class at The Dairy Center for the Arts, 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 9. She also offers a workshop called "Alexander Technique and the Dancer."
Level: The point of this class is to "do less to do more" and develop efficient strength. It's good for anyone, although many of her students are dancers or people healing from injuries. I found the class itself a one on a 10-point scale of intensity -- definitely not physically challenging, but it did challenge my brain and habits.
"When you learn to move with less effort you can go farther and faster," Rothschild says.
What to prepare: Comfortable clothes, no shoes or socks necessary. Equipment provided, although all we used was a yoga mat.
Muscles worked: The focus is on the whole body and how it works as one unit -- not isolating or pinpointing specific muscles. Rothschild calls it "dynamic muscle recruitment."
"Let everything be at its natural resting state so the appropriate muscles engage," she says.
What I loved: Efficiency is one of my favorite concepts. It surprised me how these simple, gentle movements made a big impact on how I was thinking about moving my arms. I was surprised to learn how much I unnecessarily enlist the work of my left shoulder to do pretty much everything -- which explains why it's always tight and exhausted.
I also liked that Rothschild insisted I stop "trying" to change anything but simply pay attention to what I'm doing.
Awareness is the most powerful tool out there.
I also liked how many questions about my personal needs and health that Rothschild asked before we got down to work. Although I am not working through any injuries, it feels comforting to work with an instructor who is informed.
What I didn't like: I have never been a fan of working out in people's houses, and although Rothschild's house felt peaceful and private, there's always a feeling of invasion and awkwardness when you are rolling around on someone's floor.
How I felt after the class: A little more aware. As I write this, I keep noticing tension sneaking up into my left shoulder and rib cage, and I keep releasing it. I wonder how much more energy I will have at the end of the day if it's not all going toward tightening my shoulders for 18 hours straight.
Also, when I went running today, I noticed how much energy I was holding in my shoulders and arms. I relaxed those muscles and was able to run farther than I usually do. Interesting.