Finding a way to escape the unending stress of divorce can be a very real issue. The stress begins to take a toll on your body, creating mental and physical impacts. A couple glasses of wine might be an easy fix, but that's temporary, and doesn't solve the problem. Then along comes Morgan Rysdon, our guest today on the Modern Divorce Podcast who tells host Billie Tarascio about who she became a practitioner of The Alexander Method and why this century-old technique can teach you how to unplug effectively from the strain divorce.
Morgan, a nationally certified Alexander instructor, demonstrates 4 free techniques in her video here. She's suggests using the Alexander Technique to manage and reduce anxiety, and stay present with your body with ease and comfort during even the most difficult of times. Having accessible skills to better manage one's stress levels in the midst of (the chaos that is) divorce can be life-saving.
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Billie Tarascio: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Modern Divorce podcast.
I am your host, Billie Tarascio, family law attorney owner of Modern Law, and part owner of Win without Law School, and today I am joined by a very special guest to talk about a topic that I think is going to be relevant to
each and every one of [00:01:00] you. Morgan Rysdon, welcome to the show.
Morgan Rysdon: Thanks for having me.
Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Welcome, welcome. So you, we're gonna talk
about the Alexander technique, which as far as I understand, is something that's really going to be able to improve absolutely everyone to reduce their stress, to move better, to feel better in their bodies. Like, who doesn't want that?
Morgan Rysdon: Yeah, so it's funny because I always am curious how many people even know what the Alexander technique is, and anytime I introduce it, people are always saying to me, oh my gosh, I could use that.
However, as you know, just because we could use something, whether it's. Something with weight loss or something with changing our life or quitting smoking or you know, maybe even getting a Divorce. Sometimes we don't do the things we know we need to do because it might be hard and we don't want to necessarily do it.
And Alexander technique is something that people learn over time. So it is something that once you get started, it's not a quick fix. It's definitely something that over [00:02:00] time you get better at and then you can apply to different areas in your life.
Billie Tarascio: Sure. Like every, like all good things, right? Yes.
Practice application. But before we get into those details, can you give us a little bit about your background?
Morgan Rysdon: Oh yeah, I'd be happy to. So my background is actually in theater. I have a degree in acting specifically performance, and when I was in my college, I was exposed to this work in a movement class.
So I had a stage combat teacher who was doing my movement class, and he was getting certified as an Alexander technique teacher. And I remember going to a class with him. And he took the class through an exercise. It was very simple, but there was a series of mirrors in front of us and he talked us through it.
And I just remember one of my arms was significantly longer than the other one, and my mind was just kind of blown away. And I was like, what is going on? What is this about? You know, why is this happening? So he didn't touch us. He just talked to us and had us go through this exercise. [00:03:00] And so that piqued my curiosity and my interest.
So I started to work with him. I think it's probably worth noting that. Previous to me going to college, I had experienced two significant events in childhood. Mm-hmm. And one of which I was molested by a family member when I was very young. Mm-hmm. And then when I was 15, three days after my 15th birthday, my only brother died.
Oh. So he meningitis, he died very quickly on a family reunion. And within I think eight hours he had passed away. So it was a very tragic, dramatic event that even now I kind of reflect and I think to myself, oh yeah, in college I was probably still experiencing a lot of P T S D around a lot of these things.
Yeah, right. So fast forward into this class and the work I started to do with my teacher with regard to the Alexander technique. Just gave me an experience in my physical body that I was not used to. Mm-hmm. And essentially he [00:04:00] was calming down my nervous system mm-hmm. And getting me into a state of rest and digest.
People might know that as the relaxation response or your parasympathetic nervous system. Mm-hmm. And I, I didn't understand it at 18. But I just knew how it felt and Billie, it felt amazing. You know, if you are somebody who's stuck in a sort of constant state of stress or fight or flight mm-hmm. And all of a sudden be relieved of that mm-hmm.
Is a huge weight taken off of you. And so, Even with my work with my teacher, I don't think I understood or appreciated what was happening in the moment. Mm-hmm. It just was a physical experience that my teacher was helping me live, and then when I discovered that I could learn how to do that more often.
Yeah. I became addicted, so to speak. So that was sort of my, my dive into it. Of course, I had gone into the world thinking I was gonna be an actor, but when I trained to be an Alexandra Technique teacher, I just realized this is actually my love. I'm very good at it. I love [00:05:00] helping people and getting them the same results and benefits that I've enjoyed for so long.
Billie Tarascio: Wow, that's that's amazing. That's really amazing. How did he do that?
Morgan Rysdon: That's a really good question. So it's a series of hands-on, it's a gentle hands-on method, and that's how it's traditionally taught. However, it could also work. I teach a lot of people online, which is how FM Alexander the man himself discovered it.
He did it on his own. This work is self work. Mm-hmm. But the teacher works with the student. To raise their awareness of themselves. So what you do might be different from somebody else or from myself. And sometimes there's similarities, right? Some of us have similar habits, but for the most part, we have to know what does Billie do in her day-to-day life?
How are you responding to certain things? What happens physically to your body? Then we start to interrupt that with what we call inhibition, which is basically a long, ginormous pause, and then we give you directions or another way to [00:06:00] approach those things. So getting you to choose responses versus being reactive.
Mm-hmm. And that is something that, again, that's why it's called a technique and it's a practice to your point earlier. Mm-hmm. So you get better at it as you do it. And at this point, yes. If I were to share my before pictures, I had horrible posture. Like I said, I was 18, so I didn't have enough misuse of my body to contribute to any chronic pain or injury.
You know, all my pain was sort of inside. It was emotional. Mm-hmm. But I definitely, I got better posture, I felt better, and my teacher would help me organize my body in a way that was more efficient, and then I would practice on my own.
Billie Tarascio: Got it. Okay. So it sounds amazing. But also very, very theoretical.
So would you mind sharing some examples?
Morgan Rysdon: Yes. For example, okay, I just came from an amazing girl's trip with some of my middle school friends [00:07:00] in Austin, and my girlfriend, I said, oh, let me show you this picture, my kiddo. So I pulled my phone out and then she cranked her neck all the way forward in order to look at my phone, which I was in the process of bringing closer to her face.
This is something we all use our devices all the time, and she had just been telling me earlier that morning about seeing the chiropractor for her neck pain and her chronic migraines. So I said, wait. This is what I'm talking about. So instead of waiting till you've already caused the problem, know when and how you're causing it.
So I said, you can stay there. The phone will come to you because my hand works. My hand will come to you. So it's also, for example, we're putting our hair up because it was Austin. Why we picked it in August. Don't ask me. It was hot. Hot, hot. And so then when you put your hair up, do you pull your head to your hands or do you let your hands come up to your hair?
So finding ways in which you re reorganize yourself so that you're not misusing your head, your neck, your back. Right? [00:08:00] Many of us think about only bending from the ankles, knees, and hips when we pick up a heavy object. And I would argue that even if you drop your keys, you should also be squatting to pick them up versus bending at your imaginary waist, which just injures people's lower backs.
So it's really getting, you can even think of it as more ergonomic. Mm-hmm. Thinking about the way that you do things, how does that apply in other situations that might be stressful? You know, you of course work with a lot of people going through Divorce. Mm-hmm. Which is. One of the top five stressors in life.
Mm-hmm. You know, I often look at that list 'cause I think it's like death, Divorce moving injury or illness, like a major illness or injury. And then it's, you know, job loss. Mm-hmm. And I think to myself, usually when people are getting a Divorce, they're also moving. Right. Sometimes they're, they're in pain like, And then I think to myself, oh my gosh, they've got lots of those stressors.
Right? Right. So how do we respond to those things? And in a lot of cases, people's bodies respond to stress. Mm-hmm. So you might [00:09:00] be getting a phone call from your attorney waiting to hear something, and chances are, if you are not paying attention to your body, your body has entered fight or flight, your neck muscles are tight.
You've probably stopped breathing. Your shoulders are up to your ears. You've already got some chronic issues going on maybe with some of these areas, and now you're just exacerbating it. So it's becoming even more of a problem. Got it. Not just physical, but it's also emotional because the body responds to emotional things that are going on.
Right. And whether or not you're actually running from a tiger, your body does not care. It's an email from a lawyer or a call from the the ex or what have you. Your body will respond the same. Your heart rate will increase, your blood will start to pump, the faster adrenaline goes. And then what also happens is your body shuts down, right?
It says, oh, your digestive system's not important, Billie, your immune system is not important. Mm-hmm. We're gonna shut down reproductive organs. So all those non-essential. You know, automatic things [00:10:00] that usually our body takes care of goes on, on pause, and then we're in this fight or flight response. And a lot of people don't even recognize that they haven't gotten out of it and their body is constantly responding.
Billie Tarascio: Well, it makes sense. I mean, certainly I, I know you work with a lot of lawyers. I'm a lawyer. Like we we're in constant, our whole job is battle. For anybody going through a Divorce, you are in a battle. You're, you're not safe. Any moment, any text you get could be, you know, an attack on you or you know, a play or, and you're not sure how you're supposed to respond.
And so of course that's gonna affect your body and all of those other processes that you talked about. So, How do you teach the Alexander method? What does that look like?
Morgan Rysdon: So for example, there's different ways I can [00:11:00] approach. So each individual comes to me with a specific goal in mind. Typically, maybe they say, I have horrible posture.
Maybe they say, I'm getting these chronic, I. You know, t m j things that keep happening every day, or I've got, you know, air hunger, you know, I mean, the list is pretty big of, of the things that people deal with. So I usually address the, the thing that they're trying to fix. And what that looks like is becoming aware of when is it happening, what is triggering it, and can we stop?
Can we stop having that reaction? So we start in my studio, which is a neutral space, and then we start adding on things to that. So we call them stimuli, things that would trigger you. And it looks like me teaching your body how to relax because a lot of people don't know how to relax. They think that it means going on a vacation or you know, but you could be in a grocery store, you know, waiting line, and you can train yourself to be present.
Enough to [00:12:00] notice that your shoulders are still hiked up after you got off the call with a client. Mm-hmm. Or after you got off the, the phone with an ex about something that was supposed to go the way you wanted it to, but it didn't. Mm-hmm. Right. And now I'm in the grocery store, I'm holding my breath.
Mm-hmm. And so it's it. So I teach people to notice the tension that they're carrying, and then I show them with my hands and my words. How do you let that go? Mm-hmm. I give them the, the track, so to speak, how to, okay. First you're gonna think about the width that you have, the space that you have, the length that you have.
Notice where your head is on top of your spine. Oftentimes people don't even recognize, oh man, I'm gripping the, the grocery cart handle. It's like you don't even have to have your hands on the handle because you're waiting in line. Or you could relax your hands enough that you're not carrying so much tension, especially if you're somebody who's dealing with repetitive stress injury or carpal tunnel.
Mm-hmm. That's not helping you, so, I look at the area specifically that usually people come to me about. Mm-hmm. And we start from [00:13:00] there. And once people see benefits, they usually, you know, it gets, it's like, oh, I can apply this to this situation, I can apply this to this situation. Oh, my running has gotten better and I never realized I've gotten more flexible and more mobile.
And I didn't realize how I wasn't actually listening to people. Oh, my roommate. Oh, my sister-in-law. Oh, my mom. I've been realizing that when they talk, even before they've said something, Morgan, I hold my breath because I'm feeling defensive. And then I say, okay, so I'm gonna notice that I noticed it, Morgan.
So what I did is I let my breath go. I relaxed my shoulders, my butt cheeks were super tight. I let those go. And when your body starts to relax, your mind starts to relax. Sure. You know, and I think about when we were, you know, younger and we took the SATs and you'd have the answer, but in those settings, you're so stressed.
There's no real estate. For cognitive thinking, so you can, even if you knew the answer, because you're looking at the clock, you're so stressed, you can't think [00:14:00] clearly. Right. Why do we have the best answers to, or the rebuttals to the lawyer, the ex the ex that we're dealing with, or the judge when we're in the shower?
That is not helpful to us. Yeah. Yeah. We have those great ideas because we're more relaxed.
Billie Tarascio: Right. Right. I love this. It makes a ton of sense. It's very useful. It's, I guess, you know what we, what we're understanding more and more, and I don't know how old the technique is, how old is it?
Morgan Rysdon: So the FM Alexander, he actually began this like in the late 18 hundreds, 19 early nineties.
Billie Tarascio: Oh my gosh.
Morgan Rysdon: It's been over for over a hundred years. It's just that it's not very popular. You have things like yoga. Mm-hmm. You know, mindfulness meditation that have come in, even Feldenkrais mm-hmm. Alexander technique. It's, you know, it's, it's not a quick fix, which I think people nowadays like things to be faster.
Faster, you know, they want better posture, so they put the sticker on them that just beeps at them. That's not what this work is. This is self work. That takes a lot of mindfulness, but nobody, [00:15:00] nobody is gonna do the work for you. Nobody is going to do the hard things that you need to do or going to learn the things that you need to learn in order to improve your everyday life.
Nobody cares. Honestly, you know, we care about ourselves at the end of the day. When we close our eyes at night, we're thinking about our problems and our situation. But what if when you go to bed. You know how to help your jaw that's been hurting all day, or you know how to relax enough that you can fall asleep quicker and hopefully avoid some of that insomnia, right?
Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Amazing. That's really great. So how, how do you work with people? I.
Morgan Rysdon: So most students will come one-on-one. They will come for private lessons because that, of course is the best way to see results. Mm-hmm. Because I can deal just with Billie, right? Billie comes and she says, oh, I've got this issue.
Can you help me? Some people for financial reasons, will, will come for group lessons. Mm-hmm. Which then it's in a group setting and more work is done without the use of the hands. Mm-hmm. And that, of course, a lot of actors, I teach a lot of performers in this [00:16:00] sort of way because it's. You know, they're used to observing actually is the the truth.
Actors have been trained, musicians have been trained to pay attention to other people while they're learning something, and they're able to observe and apply that maybe a little bit better than the average individual who doesn't have that same training of observing people. So I'll teach group classes, I'll teach private lessons, and then I teach a lot online, which, you know, it's funny, I was telling a friend recently who I had worked with online and then I had seen in person and she said, oh, I didn't realize you were gonna touch me because online you, we worked only this way.
And so when I was with her finally, after the pandemic cleared up, she said, oh, it's a really different experience. But the students who work online, Actually they learn faster because they don't rely on the teacher for our hands. Mm-hmm. They are actually more responsible, I've found.
Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm. [00:17:00]
Morgan Rysdon: And a perfect, in a perfect world, it would be hybrid.
Mm-hmm. 'cause you get some of the tactile kinesthetic from the teacher. But also I could see, okay, I'm looking at Billie on her zoom screen. I see where you are in the chair that you're using, in the space that you have, how your computer's set up. I can see your home. Mm-hmm. So that's also really helpful from a teacher's perspective.
Mm-hmm. Because we can teach to you with the things that you're doing in your everyday life. Okay. Show me your kitchen. Oh yeah. Let me grab this. Show you my countertop, right? Yeah. Where are you located? I. I'm located in Atlanta, Georgia. Okay. So I, I do have a practice in New York City as well, so I go back up to New York about once a month mm-hmm.
Where I see students and but primarily now I'm in Atlanta. Okay.
All right. And then if somebody wanted to work with you virtually or in person, how does the pricing work?
So the pricing is, there's an initial cost which you have for like, you know, you come and you see how it, it is. If you like it, if you like me, [00:18:00] sometimes, you know, you gotta find a good fit.
It's like a therapist or a piano teacher, you know, you wanna make sure that there's good chemistry. Mm-hmm. So I, I always have a higher price when you come for one. Consultation versus if you decide to study, then I break it down into a series of 10 lessons. Mm-hmm. And I teach an hour. I think most teachers.
Tech. I think that, from my memory, I think most of them usually teach 45 minute lessons. Mm-hmm. But I ask a lot of questions for my student. I do more talking at the beginning and the end, I think, than my teachers ever did with me. Mm-hmm. So I do 60 minutes and I found that 10 consecutive weeks at the very beginning is, Very important.
So I've played around with the number. Mm-hmm. How many could you use in order to get people the, you know, right results and after 10 lessons consecutive, whether they space it out once a week or twice a week? Sometimes three times, depending on their situation and how quickly they wanna see results.
Mm-hmm. They usually, after 10 weeks, will [00:19:00] continue. Now whether they continue every single week, every other week, or even every month. Varies, but in my experience, once people start this work, it's with them for life. It's like if you learn Spanish, you know, a little bit of Spanish, but maybe if you haven't spoken in a long time and your son-in-law is Spanish and, and you're like, oh yeah, I wanna take a couple classes to brush up.
People will call, you know, oh, I took lessons 15 years ago, Morgan, I'd like to revisit. Wow. I had a hip replacement and I, people will come back. Typically when there's like life changes that they're dealing with or they've gotten a little older, or they just have the time and the means, people will revisit.
But in my experience, this work is a few people either. Love it. Or they're like, yeah, I'd rather just a steroid shot. Like, I don't wanna think, you know, and there's no judgment from my part. It's just that typically speaking, people either really there's, there's very few people I find that are indifferent to this work.
They either really love it or they're like, yeah, [00:20:00] it required too much thinking and I didn't wanna have to think that much, which is fine too.
Great. Great. Wow. Okay. Well, I have absolutely loved this episode. Thank you so much for coming on the program, for teaching me new things. I'm sure this is gonna be new for a lot of our audience, and we will make sure that people know how to reach out to you and how to get a hold of you.
So thank you so
much for your time. Yeah. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Billie Tarascio: If you all have enjoyed this episode, make sure to download it, like it, share it with your friends, and contact us if you have someone who would be a great guest on the Modern Divorce podcast. That's all for today.
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