She has presented workshops for the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, has been published by Human Science Press and filmed for the PBS NOVA series. She is also on the teaching faculty of Parent Family Education at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
Barry’s unique ability and style of teaching, incorporates the Alexander Technique which was admired by Elisabeth Bing, the cofounder of the Lamaze Method in the United States. She was Bing’s assistant from 1983 to 2003. She served as the Director of the Elisabeth Bing NYC Chapter of Lamaze International until 2011. She maintains Lamaze and Alexander Technique private practices in Brooklyn, New York.
Harriet R. Barry lectures frequently on the physical and psychological benefits of the Alexander Technique as well as the importance in the childbearing experience. The Alexander Technique appears to be one of the few approaches to diminish or eliminate chronic back pain. She makes reference to the 2008 study in the British Medical Journal that “the Alexander Technique supported the hypothesis that it could potentially reduce back pain by strengthening postural muscles, improving coordination and flexibility, and reducing spine compression."
Harriet R. Barry studied at the American Center for the Alexander Technique with the most esteemed Alexander teachers in the country including Judith Liebowitz, founder of the technique in the United States, and Deborah Caplan, both of whom studied with F. M. Alexander. She continues her studies with Barbara Kent.
Alexander lessons awaken “awareness” allowing inhibition of the IMPROPER (old usage habits) “use of self” and replace it with newly acquired movements. It is a process of change: a re-education of the mind and body assisting the student to change body usage and movements (particularly in everyday activities).
Our body is the reservoir for our thoughts and feelings. It is also a body of wisdom. Habitual basic patterns of movement and misuse are stored and become active when movement of any kind is initiated. Through lessons in the Alexander Technique, we learn “inhibition or non doing.” We develop “conscious control” to prevent or inhibit “acquired control” resulting in misuse.
The Alexander Technique allows you to feel better, move and use the body in a more relaxed and comfortable way... the way nature intended. If you keep doing something you know, that becomes the HABIT OF DOING. It is a simple explanation, but difficult to achieve and, for some, difficult to understand until they have had a few lessons. When our body responds to stress, we usually DON’T even notice until symptoms occur later.
The psoas (so-az) muscle is a powerful muscle and spine stabilizer. It is one of the largest and thickest muscles of the body. It runs down the lower mid spine and connects to all the vertebrae. It primarily flexes the hip and spinal column. As time passes, discs can become thinner and there is less flexibility. Results are usually a nagging aching low backache and can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting in pain down one or both legs.
When labor occurs and a woman is in contraction, the muscle can tighten and pull the spine left, right, forward and even twist the pelvis into various distortions. Lessons with the Alexander Technique can give her the ability to inhibit the tension response.
The hormone relaxin is produced by the ovaries and placenta. This causes the ligaments to relax and widens the cervix. This is a perfect opportunity to unlearn old physical habits. The pregnant woman can learn to develop a balanced state of comfort with her body becoming well aligned. This gives her greater relaxation ability allowing her to cope with labor and birth.
Harriet’s integration of The Alexander Technique with Lamaze Childbirth Preparation classes has been part of prenatal and postnatal care since 1971, including working with pregnant women who also struggle with scoliosis.
The Alexander teacher guides the student to release constricting tension and allow easy mobility throughout the body. Our bodies have their own wisdom. With Alexander lessons, ease and lightness is achieved; one looks and feels better. The Alexander teacher observes the student’s basic coordination and helps them identify and let go of harmful habits built up over a lifetime. Through the teacher’s guiding hands, with verbal directions, one becomes aware and begins to experience ease and lightness – a different way of moving and/or use of the body. It is in the process that we find what we are looking for, beginning with visual observations of body usage – posture and movement.
The student may be asked to perform some simple movements – perhaps walking, playing his or her musical instrument, or standing up or sitting down in a chair. The student becomes aware of existing physical habits of movement and usage, which cause fatigue, stress and pain. The newly acquired and improved habits of usage and movement release existing muscle tension, thereby relieving or eliminating existing pain.
There is nothing physically aggressive about Alexander lessons and they are NOT painful. It is a process of allowing the pupil to release tension and the harmful habits that were responsible for it...at the student’s individual’s pace. This approach to movement, and to thinking about movement, is unfamiliar at first and the student may need extra help and time for it to become established.
A lesson usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and, at the beginning, a week apart. An experienced student may continue with weekly lessons, or return for refreshers.
The conlusions from a 2008 study reported in the British Medical Journal stated that one to one lessons in the Alexander technique from registered teachers have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain.
PSYCHOPROPHYLAXIS (Psycho = Mind, Prophyylaxis = Prevention) to pain in labor. Lamaze is a technique based on Pavlovian conditioning. The expanded Lamaze Childbirth Preparation/Education classes are based on a holistic understanding: we are the sum total of all the parts. Definition: you cannot separate the body from the mind. Understanding this helps to develop confidence in the normal process of birth.
Harriet offers telephone labor and breast feeding Doula Services as well as a free 30-minute Alexander Technique consultation.