Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

“I think the Alexander Technique is a useful tool for balance.”

Road going off into distanceThis is the 8th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique lessons. This interview is with Alice, who is a retired health professional living on her own.

Here are Alice’s answers to a simple set of questions I asked her about her experience of having lessons.

Firstly I asked Alice about what drew her to have lessons. She told me that she had experienced a few trips and falls where she injured herself. For example she broke her arm and hurt her back. The falls made her feel down and she had become frightened of walking and felt she had to plan every single journey. Alice also noticed  that her posture had become stooped, especially when she compared it to her friends.

Alice had a taster session, of Alexander Technique and liked the session and the advice given. After a while, Alice decided to have  a course of lessons in the hope it would improve her balance and posture. When we had our chat, Alice thought she had been to about 10 lessons over the course of the year.

I asked Alice what impact did having lessons make? This is what she told me:

  • My balance has improved.
  • Learning the technique helped me enormously with my confidence in walking and I am not frightened of falling over.
  • My walking is also quicker.
  • I see more around me. I have confidence when I am walking. I now know I don’t need to look at the ground immediately in front of me because I have already seen it coming up ahead, and unless a hole suddenly opens up in front of me which is unlikely, it will be just the same as it was up ahead.
  • I am not sure it has changed my posture so much as I have osteoporosis.
  • Alice also added that she thought that AT was simple but that it’s necessary to incorporate it in daily routine

During the course of lessons, Alice’s teacher gave her a CD on active rest (where you lay on the floor with your knees bent and head on books) to complement the activity taught in the lesson. Alice said that she finds active rest relaxing and that it helps ease her back pain when she gets it. Initially she did it every day but now does it from time to time, sometimes daily, but especially if her back is painful.

I also asked Alice if there was anything unexpected about her lessons and learning AT?

  • Alice said she didn’t expect to learn things to do when she was sitting down, such as being on her sitting bones.
  • Alice also found the lessons on going up and down stairs using the Alexander Technique very useful because she has a lot of stairs to go up and down where she lives.

The final question I asked was what do you know, now you have had AT lessons? Alice replied:

  • I think it is a useful tool for balance and falling.
  • I think it would suit most people.

 

 

Facial Tension, Alexander Technique and making things simpler

child with eye closed and facial paintThis month’s project started when I realised I was “screwing” my left eye up in response to jaw pain. The project evolved over time but was influenced by the ideas in a new Alexander Technique book written by Alexander Farkas, who is a fabulous Alexander Technique teacher. The book is called Alexander Technique Arising from Quiet.

 

In his book Alex talks about how F.M.Alexander was on an endless search to make the technique simpler. I tried to apply the idea to this month’s project but it got more complicated before simplifying.

 

 

I started off in a minimalistic way by thinking of softening an imaginary ring around my eye (probably influenced by knowing there is a ring of muscles around each eye). As I invited that softening, I noticed it caused a cascade of release involving my jaw, neck, throat and shoulders. I was also aware it re-connected me with the present moment.

 

I continued to invite softening round the eye, marvelling at how screwing up my eye was linked into a swathe of tension and also involved a disconnect with the present moment.

 

I also knew there was a lot going on for me which was likely to be influencing my tension so I began to use a “mindful bell” app as well. It gave me a reminder every 5 minutes to release my eye. By the second day, my shoulders weren’t joining in the habit and I was beginning to feel way calmer.

 

I then wondered how I might apply a more commonly known Alexander direction (or thought) i.e.that of lengthening and widening. Could I apply this to my head? I began by inviting the space between my eye and the back of my head (the occiput) to lengthen. I then applied the widening to the space from ear to ear.

 

Alex’s book then had an influence: things could be much more simple. I also wondered how to draw in the idea of non-doing. So I came full circle, to the wish that the whole of my head, the whole of me, release into the space around me. As I did that I also became aware of all the space around me. A sense of me in the continuum of things. That space where it is a joy to have a body and the sense of effortless in being.

 

I think the journey I went on this month did help in bringing me to a point where the wish to release into the space around me brought overall release (including my head, neck and shoulders). Rather like when someone learns AT the classical way. Traditionally we learn the directions one at a time, and eventually there comes a point when they happen all at once from a place of inner calm and quiet.

 

I have shared this project (the steps below) with a couple of my clients whilst they were doing active rest and they found it very useful. You might like to try the prompts below when you are doing active rest? Or maybe when walking (I found that was really interesting)? Or just before sleep?

 

Invite release around the eye

Invite release between the eye and the back of the head

Invite release from ear to ear

Invite your head to soften and release into the space around it

Invite your body to release in all directions into the space around it

Notice what happens

 

If you give this a go, let me know how you get on?

You might like to book an individual lesson and we can work through it together.

 

Jane Clappison MSTAT

Alexander Technique Teacher

01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

Why do we need to improve our posture Jane? You don’t. Here’s why!

An ex physiotherapy colleague, who I respect greatly, recently saw one of my Alexander Technique (AT) adverts. His response to what I had written was ‘Jane, why do we need to improve our posture?’ The short answer was ‘you don’t,’ but it got me thinking, and thinking…and thinking, about posture. It’s a commonly used word. A simple definition is “the position in which someone holds their body.” We kind-of understand what it means, or do we?

My machinations grew to me wanting to write a blog about posture and how it relates to the Alexander Technique.

I thought it would be useful to link it to a story from my past about posture and I came up short! Literally. As a child, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me to sit up straight or complaining about my posture. However, young kids don’t usually have a problem with their posture. They have an inherent way of doing things that seems to involve a great, easy, effortless way of being.

When I went through school, almost all my friends were taller than me. I guess at an unconscious level I wanted to be level with them. I wanted to be one of the gang and fit in. I know I wanted to be taller as they shot even further upwards. I suspect it was one of the reasons I didn’t adopt a slumped posture. I probably tried to stretch upwards. The reverse is true for many tall children who slump to meet their shorter friends. Of course it wasn’t really about posture but other things.

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Alexander Technique project October 2019: Finding Spaces

A few weeks ago I learned a trick that birdwatchers use to find birds in trees. They don’t look for the bird outline, they look for the spaces that they can see in a tree and are much more able to spot a bird outline.

I hear birds in my garden but many times I wonder what kind of bird is producing such a beautiful song. I generally search in vain for the answer. With this new superpower, looking at the spaces, it was a joy to spot the Robin amongst the branches, following me from bush to bush, eagerly waiting for worms, as I worked in my garden.

I got the tip from a fabulous piece written on the 9th September 2019 on a Facebook page called The Feldenkrais Guild UK.  They have been writing regular pieces which I have often shared to my Facebook page. The pieces made me aware of how similarly Alexander & Feldenkrais saw their work.

The topic for my “project” this month grew from reading that piece because the writer offered a way of applying the birdwatchers trick to the body.

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I like the spread of how the Alexander Technique works

 

There’s a kind of Spiritual side to it:

the joy of moving my body that I had not noticed before

and thinking ‘that’s quite good’.

 

This is the 7th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique lessons. Here are Seb’s answers to a simple set of questions I asked him about his experiences.

 

What drew you to the Alexander Technique (AT)?

 

I found out about the Alexander Technique via an acquaintance and following our discussion decided to try it for migraine. I have now had a year of lessons and think I am just scratching the surface of the technique.

 

What impact has doing AT had?

 

On daily activities:

 

Seb has begun to question and to notice things that he previously had not. Now, he says things to himself like: Why is my face is so tense?  Why am I holding my shaver so tight when shaving? I can do it with less effort, I can do it differently.

 

 

 Instead of standing in a queue for tea at work and distracting myself with thoughts/getting irritated that the queue is so long/looking at mobile, I notice standing. I “play around with it.”

Conference calls at work often got me irritated. I now realise I can sit back and notice other things, not just the irritation about the call but what is around me, so I don’t get sucked in.

I no longer feel, when I wake up in the night, that I have got to get up and read. I used to. Now I can enjoy just laying down and noticing things about laying down.

 

 

There is a joy in noticing.

It’s not like a huge “wow” but rather like noticing a robin in the garden.

 

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Alexander Technique and standing still

Stand Still

Recently, I rediscovered a poem called Lost by David Wagoner. When I came across it, I remembered that I had read it out to a group of my students when we were thinking about being in the present moment, something that is an essential part of the Alexander Technique. I am so glad I found the poem again:

 

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner
(1999)

This time as I read it, I thought it would make a perfect subject for my AT topic this month. The bits that stood out when I read it were:

Stand still.

The forest knows where you are.

Let it find you.

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Alexander Technique and Blood Pressure

I have no fuse. At least it feels that way. I imagine myself as a huge round black cartoon bomb but without a fuse. That’s me. I can be pushed and pushed and pushed…and then BOOM, I EXPLODE. I often feel shame when that happens. I learned that response from my childhood. I learned to suppress anger. My history informs me that anger brings rejection and calm doesn’t, so it’s understandable I have these habitual responses. I didn’t learn to use the feeling of anger effectively.

I’m learning to accept and embrace my anger. I am learning to be compassionate about it and be curious when it erupts. It’s a work in progress. Some of the process is about accepting what is and not changing it.

The Alexander Technique is about being in the present moment, accepting things as they are, releasing into it, and not “doing” something to change it. I like that it takes me into calm. However, I am using it to explore my anger. It doesn’t mean I have to explode, shout, scream, deny it, suppress it, just let it be what it is, a feeling that informs me. I can then choose what I do.

It’s coming in very handy whilst I wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor. I want to rip it off my arm almost every time it beeps. That heralds the machine starting up. Frequently it pumps up, and fails, and starts again but with more pressure. It takes my breath away. My arm feels alien, like it’s turned into one of those rubberised fake arms. I think it might pop. I feel panic. I am irritated that I am having to go through this. My genetics are catching up with me despite years of healthy choices and oodles of relaxation and ways to find calm. Also, years of suppressing and denying anger and wanting to stay in a calm, peaceful state. My thoughts are wandering towards what the night is going to be like. Will I have bloodshot red eyes through lack of sleep in the morning?

I am observing what happens to me. How I tense up and brace. How the cuff restricts my movements which irritates me. How my thoughts are going towards tonight and the possibility of lack of sleep and the future possibility of medication. In this instance it’s not helpful. It will show higher readings as a result! I am choosing to stay in the present moment, notice my feet, stay grounded, notice my neck, invite it to have flow, notice my muscular response and choosing to invite ease and calm. I am not jumping over the reactions but I am responding to them appropriately.

The Alexander Technique is a tool. It can be a lifestyle as well. In this instance it is an extremely helpful tool. I am glad I can use it.

If you are interested in exploring how the Alexander Technique can help with anger, reactions you don’t know what to do with, overwhelm get in touch.

 

Jane Clappison MSTAT

Alexander Technique Teacher

01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

Alexander Technique: Endgaining or present moment?

The bottom half of my parent’s enormous garden was always looked after by my Dad, and since he passed away it has gradually become neglected. The clematis took over the lilac tree and pulled it down, the saplings, brambles and bind weed invaded everywhere. It became a wildlife haven. However, it had to be tamed as it was invading the neighbours gardens too. We also had to tame a lot of the saplings before they became trees too wide and high to manage.

So, my husband, sister and I all converged on the unruly garden last Sunday. We started at different points and hacked our way towards each other. It reminded me a lot of the Sleeping beauty story. Eventually we began to see glimpses of each other through the undergrowth and despite the rain, we kept going and met in the middle. We were surrounded by devastation, sweaty and wet, but had a great feeling of achievement.

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