My Dad had quite a few “War stories” he told but the one that I want to tell today is about when he stuck his head above the parapet. A parapet is a low protective wall for concealing troops. It’s a very short story and involves my Dad behind a parapet, his commanding officer, and a random third party doing shooting practice. Apparently his commanding officer bellowed out “Clappison” and my Dad lifted his head up above the parapet, and said “Yes, Sir” and got shot! Fortunately it hit him at the very edge of his forehead. All his kids, and anyone else listening, got to feel the dent in his skull, and the outline of the bullet underneath his skin every time he told the story. He carried the bullet for the rest of his life. I’m guessing it wasn’t a live bullet but a practice round.
My best friend also has a very similar wound from sticking his head above the parapet, but this one happened at school. It happened when he was very young, but he didn’t ever forget it. His body tries to protect him from ever being wounded again, every time he is in company.
Apparently, when he was at school, the teacher decided to tell the class about penguins. As my friend had been reading about penguins, with his mum, the night before, he got really excited. He knew all about penguins and they were from the south west coast of Africa, and even had islands named after them: the Penguin Islands. Unfortunately the teacher had only read about penguins from Antarctica. So when the teacher asked “Where do Penguins come from?” and my friend shot up his hand quicker than anyone else in the class, he got picked to answer the question. The answer made the teacher, and then the whole class, laugh. That bullet landed very deeply and is still felt: everywhere.
My friend hates being at parties. He doesn’t mind sitting on the edge of a group of people. He likes listening to conversations, but it is very unlikely he will join in. He is terrified of being asked a question, and would much prefer to avoid going to parties all together. It has been a habit almost all his life.
So, today we decided to see what would happen if we applied the Alexander Technique to this habit. We talked about what happens when he goes to parties and I could see his face change: his jaw tightened, he wasn’t going to talk, his eyes tightened up, he didn’t want to see, his breathing almost stopped, no air was going to pass his larynx, no sound was ever going to come out, and perhaps if he was really still he wouldn’t be noticed.
We then worked together, respecting the habit was there for a good reason. Firstly we talked about the thoughts, and that they were causing the tension. He wasn’t at a party. The tension remained. I invited him to notice the garden out of the window, and the birds on the bird table. Then I invited him to release his jaw which softened. Then to soften his ribs, so he could take a breath: that took a little while longer, but suddenly a full breath happened and he smiled. We continued working for a little longer. He said he would check in with his jaw when he was next at a party.
I noticed him whistling a little later on. He never does that unless he is really happy! I feel privileged to work with people in this way. To see the person, with their wounds, able to whistle because there is more than one choice on how to react. Perhaps it’s ok to look over the parapet now?
Fancy finding out how to feel more comfortable over the parapet, at parties or when you are in company? You don’t have to like parties, but you can feel more at ease. Why not book a lesson?
Tel:- 01759 307282
Jane Clappison MSTAT
Entrance swipe card poised in my hand, dressed in perfunctory work out gear, terrified, heart thumping, on the edge of the abyss…I swiped! It didn’t work! Failed at the first hurdle. Panic now rising because I couldn’t even get through the door. If that was difficult then how would I manage whatever awaited me in the gym?
I did get in when someone else came out. I felt helpless, floundering like a fish out of water and yet gyms, just like this one, had been my working environment (my pond) for many years as a Physiotherapist. On this day, I was attending the gym (and still am attending regularly) because I had developed a persistent problem with my right knee and had requested an “exercise on prescription” course which my GP had agreed to.
I was met by a lovely gym instructor, and we chatted about my knee problem and what I was hoping for. The instructor set me up on an inclined bike so it wouldn’t be so painful on my knee, and I reluctantly cycled for three minutes. It was a big deal for me. My world had become very restricted by the repeated swelling of my knee which often flared up with exercise. I continued to feel very shaky inside and cautious about everything I was asked to do, but I felt supported and confident in the gym instructor’s ability. I began to enjoy the workout.
About half way through the session the gym instructor said “Do you know you lift your shoulders up when you do some of the exercises?” I thought ” R-e-a-l-l-y? What on earth…?” and then I remembered habits don’t go away. And, that everything I do during the day, every thought, every action, has the potential to trigger that habit. However, the gym session was a stronger stimulus than normal. I was also nervous, and I wasn’t applying the Alexander Technique to what I was doing. I was trying to speedily comply with the instructor’s requests (to please, to end gain). I was well ahead of myself.
What have I learned from that?
1. Habits do not go away. With all movement, the body prepares outside of conscious awareness, before we move. My habit is there outside of my conscious awareness, in its lifelong way, unless I do something different, which is where the Alexander Technique comes in. It is a conscious process.
2. My pre-gym attempts to push my knee (also a habit) and return to running and dancing were not what it needed. I know improving tissue health is essential and the regular gym attendance has helped this to happen. My knee pain has reduced, strength and balance improved, and I feel more confident and can rely on my knee more. I also know my knee responds to a steady, gentle, paced increase in activity. My knee is not yet ready to run, but I am much more confident that, in time, I can run again without it swelling up.
3. Don’t get complacent, stay present and conscious. Recently the gym instructor suggested I try to stand up, off a bench, using one leg (instead of two). Immediately, all I thought was that I couldn’t do it. I worried about being unable to get my bum off the seat. I could also see, in the mirror, that my shoulders were already trying to help, so I applied the Alexander Technique. I decided not to do the exercise and invited my shoulders to rest. Then I thought “up” and the movement happened smoothly and easily.
4. Be patient with swipe cards
To wonderful gym instructors everywhere (but especially at Francis Scaife Sports Centre in Pocklington, E. Yorks, UK)
Writing my notes, late afternoon, low sun beaming into the clinic room, I noticed a brilliant star of light radiating from a glass on the window ledge. I marvelled at how beautiful it was. I appreciated how being in the moment, being present, via the Alexander Technique, gave me this gift.
A client recently told me how AT had helped them enjoy being in the moment, laying on the sofa, feeling ill, content, in awe at the amazing colours of their Christmas cards. These “present presents” are what I want to give to you!
Back to uncompleted tasks which in this case is my January 2018 newsletter and it’s blog which is now weighing heavily on my mind. This month, I have written loads of virtual blogs, and made many virtual videos but they have not yet made it into reality. I have been procrastinating!
- What pearls of wisdom can I offer you in the form of a blog?
- What would you want to know, that would be useful to know, that I can offer without us meeting face to face?
- What might entice you to want to know more about the Alexander Technique?
- Or if we have met before, what would encourage you into knowing more?
At the age of 13 I started working in the family antique clocks & jewellery business and continued there until I was 29. Back then we just had to show up at the shop although my Dad and Grandmother could sell ice to Eskimo’s, me not so much. There wasn’t the competition there is now. We didn’t need to think about advertising and internets. Blogs and online social media didn’t exist. The foot fall on the high street was sufficient to keep us in business. That, and lots of customer satisfaction and word of mouth. I helped customer satisfaction by expertly un-knotting chains and putting puzzle rings together for free!
Skip forward to my 60th year and the world, including advertising, has changed drastically and I am self-employed again and want to promote what I do. I don’t have a shop on the high street and mostly work from my clinic at home. There are many therapeutic approaches available so I want to help you choose the right one for you.
- How do you decide if Alexander Technique lessons are worth spending your hard earned cash on?
- How do you get to know me, to trust me, if you have never met me before?
- How do you find the path to my door? How do I make this so interesting you keep coming back?
- What’s the equivalent of a chain without knots and a puzzle ring you can put on your finger?
So, I wonder if you could help me? Please would you consider…
a) filling in a short questionnaire,
which should take no more than 2 minutes, about what you want to know about via my blogs/the newsletter HERE ?
b) write a review…
about your experiences with me. You can do that via…
- email me with a comment that you would be happy for me to use in advertising?
- Interview – I ask you a few questions over a cuppa. This takes up to an hour and can help your learning process of the technique. We can meet “virtually” too via skype or phone if face to face isn’t possible.
I look forward to your replies to set me up for blogs in 2018,
HAVE A SLUMP
“Have a slump” was something that Marjorie Barstow (an Alexander technique teacher trained by FM Alexander) used to advise her pupils did during her classes.
Sometimes we try too hard to “sit upright” and end up over using our back muscles to the point where they hurt. We think we are doing the right thing, but we are “doing”, and sitting does not need to be effortfull.
So…if you are sitting, stop everything. Don’t slump just yet. Don’t try to do anything. Just notice your body, notice your surroundings, and then let your body release into a slump! It might feel uncomfortable. It might be exactly what you do all the time. If it is, release into your slump! It might feel quite a relief! Do nothing except enjoy being in this position, breathing, noticing what is around you. Then…with the thought of flow through your neck, gradually allow your crown to move away from your feet, to move upwards, maybe just a couple of inches. Stop again, and release any tension that you notice has happened by doing that. Then repeat the process, little by little. If you notice your back muscles beginning to “do” then invite them to soften. Stop at a point that doesn’t feel effortful and doesn’t feel like you are having to do anything to be there. It might feel like you are not in a military upright position. However, your spine is designed for sitting to be easy and free from effort. You may also be aware of your sitting bones in this position. Let me know what happens if you have the occasional slump?
01759 307282 – Contact me if you want to learn how to sit with ease (and move and live with ease!).
I love that practicing the Alexander Technique brings new information, new ways of seeing things all the time.
A recent Alexander Technique lesson I received started something like this…
Teacher – What’s happening with your foot?
Me – Oh it’s forward of the other, it’s often like that.
Teacher – What else is happening, take a look!
Me – Oh it’s becoming windswept! It’s been going that way since I broke my ankle.
Teacher – What about if you release into the windswept way it wants to go…?
Me – OH! Wow!
“If we can just let go and trust that things will work out they way they’re supposed to, without trying to control the outcome, then we can begin to enjoy the moment more fully. The joy of the freedom it brings becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself.” – Goldie Hawn
The release felt like my foot was softening, expanding, spacious, opening, beautiful, limitless, effortlessly yielding and it had a ripple effect, through my whole system, opening out into the world. It sounds profound and it was.
I wouldn’t say I am a control freak where most things are concerned. Yet, with many years dancing, teaching movement & working as a Chartered Physiotherapist, I do keep falling into the trap of trying to “control” my body and wanting it to be other-than-what-it-is! I was doing that same thing with my ankle and my foot. I was releasing them the way I wanted them to go. I was trying to control them, despite all my Alexander training (habits can be so deep they go unnoticed) and despite that (mostly unconscious) effort to control them my balance was getting worse and my foot was stuck in the middle, going two ways.
So, back to the lesson …we spent it thinking about releasing into the direction that my foot, and my body wanted to go. I marvelled about how “releasing into the direction something wants to go” had such a profound effect and I knew that the same process could be applied to life. Google defines release as…
“allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free.”
It is not about collapsing, or admitting defeat but involves ceasing trying to change things in-the-moment, accepting things as they are, setting things free to be just as they are. Releasing into an unknown outcome.
I have been lovingly acknowledging and embracing my windswept foot (which probably evolved as a result of a fall and broken ankle) as being part of me. Accepting that this is how it is.
The paradox is that by witnessing it and allowing it to be, giving up the control, things have changed and my foot is already less windswept and my balance has improved.
Sometimes I come back to a thing over and over before I take a different path. I may be back here again in the future! I suspect release is rarely a one- time thing especially where habit is concerned. I do know that “releasing” can feel utterly impossible if one does not know how, and it can be challenging as well as breathtaking. The Alexander Technique is a wonderful tool to support this process.
FM Alexander described his technique as conscious control of the individual. Yes, it is about “control” but of a different kind. One where we can react differently to our patterns.
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is! – unknown
Jane Clappison MSTAT (with gratitude to Lena Schibel-Mason MSTAT)
Pain spreads the longer it lasts. Has that happened to you? It starts with a pain in a small area, like the inside of the knee for instance, and then seems to spread to the whole knee, and up and down the leg. It’s called smudging! The scientific term is disinhibited. It’s something I have known academically for quite a while. I am now observing it in my swollen right knee which has been a problem since February.
The science is there to explain why the pain seems to spread. It’s why my knee often feels “odd” and like it’s much bigger than its neighbour. It explains why I might be tempted to walk with a stiff leg.
Smudging can happen anywhere in the body. A common problem is back or neck pain which often starts in a small area and then spreads up and down, or across the back. It’s a remarkable “extra protection” mechanism that can be great in the short term to reduce movement but most unhelpful in the long term.
So, what can I do about it? What can you do about it if you think you have “smudging” too? According to David Butler in his YouTube video there’s 3 things to do. One is education and I would recommend watching his video.
The other two are graded exposure and exploring the “part” in a different context. The Alexander Technique is a fabulous way to help with these two elements and “unsmudge” or re-embody that part that has become smudged.
I am supporting my knee healing by body mapping, thinking about moving, thinking into movement, exploring movement in different ways which are all parts of The Alexander Technique. These all help support the neuroplastic changes needed to unsmudge!
Contact me, Jane Clappison, if you want to learn how The Alexander Technique can work for you to reduce pain and help you move more freely and easily – 01759 307282.
The next workshop I am giving is “Managing Pain with the Alexander Technique” on 14th October 2017 if you prefer a group environment to learn. Further details here:- http://www.janeclappison.co.uk/workshops/
I am going to join the list of Alexander Technique teachers who admit to this…I have persistent pain! It has been a part of my life for a few years.
I was diagnosed with “polyarthropathy” (multiple joint pains) though I knew that already. It’s one of those conditions that doctors tell you to “live with” whilst prescribing painkillers, or suggesting heavier drugs that have even more side effects. I opted to see how things go.
Having been a pain management physiotherapist for many years I have a lot of tools to help me with it. However, the most useful “tool” to help me with the pain is the #alexandertechnique.
The intention of this blog is to share what works fantastically well to ease (and often get rid of) the pain. It’s great to do first thing in the morning. It works well for other people I have shared it with. It’s really simple! I don’t start moving until I have done these steps…
One – I know I want to move but I think “stop”. I let go of the thought of moving (not so easy especially with a bathroom visit on my mind!)
Two – I invite my body (via thought only) to let go of unnecessary tension.
Three – I move.
Four – If I find myself walking like a weeble or other unwanted ways to move to avoid pain (habits), I stop again and repeat steps one and two, and I might also pay attention to my feet and surroundings!
There are other steps in between you would learn if you came for #alexandertechnique lessons BUT these steps are brilliant all on their own. Try it and let me know what happens!