Jane’s April 2020 Alexander Technique Project: using screens
The coronavirus has meant that much of the world is operating far more online and that includes many Alexander technique teachers. For some of them, online work has been their main source of income. For some, like me, the virus has meant my face to face work has had to stop and I have needed to do some training to grow my online work. Mio Morales and Jennifer Roig-Francoli generously provided this training.
In the process of exploring online work, I have been practicing giving online lessons with a fellow AT teacher. This month’s project emerged out of that.
When I use “screens” I tend to, very slowly, inexorably, get drawn into the screen. I hinge at the hips and move my throat towards the screen, lift my chin, and look down my nose. My shoulders and shoulder blades move backwards and together! I have a very old photo of my Dad and I doing exactly that as we both peered at the screen of his newly purchased BBC machine (very old computer from the 1980’s). So I know it is my default if I don’t engage some other strategy. I also get visual and vestibular migraine (strange gorgeous zig zags before my eyes and feeling dizzy) if I use a screen too much.
This habit is not the only one! There are so many ways to lose sight of “good use” when looking at a screen. My version might be like yours, but it may be very different. My colleague noticed they have a similar tendency but the emphasis for them is on the upper chest moving towards the screen and tightening in the lower back.
The project began by reminding myself that the part of my brain that processes the things I see is at the back of my head at the occiput. That’s the area that protrudes, at the back of the skull, roughly level with the ears.
I used a variety of methods to wake up the back of my head behind my ears like:
- extremely gentle tapping and rubbing of the occiput area and my upper neck
- laying in semi supine and rolling my head from side to side
I have also been placing a hand on my occiput to invite my occiput to stay back, like I might with a pupil during a face to face lesson. That involved my arm to be “non doing” – resting, soft, effortless, and my non-doing hand to be a receptacle for my occiput to release towards. The palm a presence to invite the occiput to it. The action is non-action. It’s a thought that my head can rest back. I don’t move it back.
My hand does not need to be there. I can imagine it being there.
- I invite my occiput to release backwards, to stay back,
- I invite my head to be poised on top of my spine.
As I do that the front of my neck softens, the back of my neck releases and lengthens, chin drops, shoulders widen, I take a deep breath.
- I start screen time with an awareness of the present moment, what is behind me, the wish that my head stays back, a soft imaginary hand accepting my head, my head and back staying back.
I don’t know how it will work with you. I don’t know how it will work if you have a very different habit to mine.
Please remember, the Alexander Technique is first a thought process. Do not try to push your head back as it may well start to tip back too. This project was about a thought to prevent my head from coming forward. The head rests where it is, and doesn’t go back. It has permission to “stay back” and not move towards the screen. If you have had AT lessons allow the head to go forward and up and stay back.
Perhaps you might like to try it (maybe follow me whilst watching the video) and see what changes? Let me know? I am now offering lessons online. Perhaps you might like to explore what you can do from an Alexander Technique point of view with your screen habit? Get in touch.
Here’s a video describing the process:
Meanwhile, may you be happy, may you be well, may you be safe, may you be peaceful and at ease.
Alexander Technique teacher