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Reduce eye strain:
Jane’s May 2020 AT Project
My May 2020 project is on the use of screens in relation to how I use my eyes.
Here’s what I have been exploring:
- intensely looking at the screen,
- allowing the subject matter to come to me,
- noticing what’s behind the person or the thing I am looking at and what is behind me. Being aware of the space between my back and the back of what I am looking at,
- looking at what’s around the screen, what’s behind it, what’s to the side of it. Changing my focus from what is on the screen to what is around it,
- flipping from one to the other.
The reason I have been doing all of that is to find out what is more comfortable to sustain and what works best for me. I think it is a little bit of a combination of everything excluding intensely staring.
So, you might want to explore these ways of looking (at an ipad, screen, phone etc) with me right now? Join in with me via the youtube video below? (at 1 min 50 secs)
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This month’s project was about playing with the phrase:
” the knees can go forward and away“
If you have not had Alexander Technique lessons before, in AT terms, this phrase is called a direction. Simply put, directions are thoughts to bring about how we wish to move (prevent what we don’t want to happen).
F. M. Alexander talked about four main “directions” which are:
Let the neck be free,
so that the head can go forward and up,
so that the back can lengthen and widen,
so that the knees can go forward and away.
As I mentioned, directions are thoughts. They are preventative wishes. In this case, the latter direction is to prevent your knees/legs fixing, holding, gripping and any other manner of things they get up to.
Here’s the process I went through during this exploration:
I started using the direction. The thought of knees going forward and away. I gave the direction (had the thought) in as many positions and situations as I could,
Before I gave the direction (had the thought) I did nothing. It’s important to be in a neutral state (inhibit in AT terms) before giving directions.
I became aware of the present moment. Sights, sounds, sensations,
ready for something and nothing,
I then noticed where I needed to do less, though the simple act of noticing brings about less effort.
In stopping, coming to neutral, preparing to think knees forward and away, my hips, pelvis and legs released. That release continued up my spine, whole back, head and breathing! I was surprised at how much I was doing unnecessarily and how it affected my whole system.
I reflected on my awareness of the way the leg moves. How the leg is a unit, and combined with the trunk, moves rather like an angle poise lamp, in many activities. It is a complex activity when broken down.
Also that the leg spirals unlike an angle poise lamp! The spiral is an important element of knees going forward and away. Released hips/thighs/knees spiral away from each other as the knees and hips bend.
This direction needs release in the hips/pelvis. It prevents the legs from doing what you don’t want them to do. It allows them to spiral following their inherent anatomical/physiological function. You might not notice the spiral happen, but it is happening, from a present moment neutral state.
I invited my knees to go forward and away: For me that is forward and away from each other and away from the back,
invited the thighs to lengthen into the movement,
the back to release away from the knees,
the knees away from the back,
invited the knees go away from each other like off-set headlights,
knees releasing and flowing into the movement.
These invitations can all happen before movement occurs.
Movement happens with ease using the Alexander Technique. To allow this direction to happen with ease, the hips are released and the knees start in neutral ( not bracing back), and the spiral has freedom to happen. It is important to be mindful that the movement arises rather than is “done.” It arises from a thinking process.
Doing the movement is counterproductive. Of course this non-doing movement takes a bit of getting one’s head around it. It is a fundamental element of the Alexander Technique but it takes some practice and it helps to have the support of a teacher.
The exploration reminded me that knees forward and away is an important direction in that it feeds into so much of our system.
- Do nothing, notice the present moment, notice your legs
- Soften, release any perceived tension in the body
- Ease in the pelvis/buttocks
- Ease in the hips
- Soft knees
- Flow through the legs
- Think “knees forward and away”
- Choose to move (or not) allowing the knees to go forward and away
“You have to have the overall intent of going up. And you have got to make sure that you are not bracing the knees, not tightening the adductor muscles, not tightening the muscles at the pelvis and so on. You’ve got to take care not to do those things. Now it will probably help you to think of the knees going forward and away, but do watch out because if you’ve got a yen to do it, to force the knees forward and away, then you will be in trouble. So, remember, the knees forward and away is a preventative, preventative, preventative order.”
“The Act of Living” by Walter Carrington
If you would like to explore what having ease in your legs both in stillness and movement can be like, prevent doing the wrong thing, come and have a few Alexander Technique lessons! Happy to help!
Jane’s January 2020 Alexander Technique Project
I’ve been playing with “negative directions” which, Missy Vineyard first described in her 1997 book, How you stand, how you move, how you live.
Robert Rickover wrote a blog about negative directions, if you want to know a bit more about them. There are also links on that page to various podcasts if you want to really immerse yourself.
This is a brief description of them, from Robert’s blog, for your information:
Alexander Technique directions of any kind are self-instructions designed to improve the quality of our posture and the way we move as we go through life. Alexander Technique teachers often teach their students to use “positive directions” such as “I am letting my neck be free,” or “I am lengthening and widening.”
Negative directions, on the other hand, are statements that say “no” to habits that you have (or possibly have) which you would like to stop. They typically begin with the phrase “I am not” – for example, “I am not tensing myself.”
Grammatically, they are negative statements, but they are a positive affirmations that you want to stop doing things to yourself that are harming you.
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This is the 6th interview in a series of interviews with people who have had Alexander Technique lessons. Here are Jocelyn’s answers to a simple set of questions I asked her about the technique.
Jocelyn is in her late 60’s and had about 20 lessons when she did this interview.
What drew you to the Alexander Technique?
I had heard about it as I am interested in complementary medicine. Also a friend talked about Alexander Technique (AT) and posture. Then an orthopaedic surgeon mentioned my problem was posture related so I looked into AT and found a teacher.
Was there anything unexpected about having Alexander Technique lessons?
The body awareness
It is like having a massage but it’s not massage
I do see the sessions as lessons, not passive therapy
It is harder than what I thought it would be.
It is contradictory – “You’ve got to think and it’s non-doing”
I always feel really good when I have a lesson
I didn’t think that thinking about parts of the body can be so relaxing
What impact did you hope for by having lessons?
(At first) not a lot
I do Active Rest daily and the directions “ease, space, release” are very helpful (especially ease and space).
AT has helped me release tension in my body. It has got me more interested in the mind-body and how anxiety started off the tension. Conventional medicine cannot help with this.
I believe it is “all about tension” of body, mind and spirit.
I think I might be overdosing because I could do active rest, meditation and exercise all day.
I have had physiotherapy, exercises, massage, ultrasound, medical acupuncture. It helped and also helped in understanding of chronic pain. However, the benefits did not last.
The Alexander Technique makes me more aware. I notice my pain (when I am out and about) and then I become more body aware (of what I am doing), then I use inhibition (stopping and thinking) then I use directions (neck free, head forward and up.)
What differences have you noticed through doing the Alexander Technique?
I think there is less pain.
I think I can work on the pain.
I feel more in control of the pain.
I feel more optimistic.
It has given me back control.
Anything else about the “thinking” in learning the technique.
Not yet got my head round it.
I think my thinking has changed.
I thought Alexander Technique was posture and now: thinking and the brain = decreased tension.
I can incorporate Alexander Technique into everything I do e.g. I use direction and inhibition in exercise.
I originally learned to do exercises with tension. I am concentrating on no tension – Alexander Technique has helped.
I still do not understand it – this ‘thinking and not doing.’ I am an over-thinker and Alexander Technique says think.
I can feel energy – I need to understand it…and yet do I need to understand it?
Alexander Technique fits with energy work
And anything else?
I am less tense with Alexander technique.
Active rest – brings about a state to do meditation, it is calming and settles my body and mind and I can do exercises in a less tense state.
It is changing me.
It is making me healthier.
I believe it is a way of looking after myself.
Interested in having lessons? Contact me?
Jane Clappison MSTAT
I was so excited! My fella was home at last! I was madly in love and thought he was the most handsome man on the planet and he could do no wrong. We were at Manchester airport and we needed to get back to Hull. Basically West across the UK till you can’t go any further. We got in the car and I threw him my map (it was before the days of sat navs).
“Navigate us home will you?”
Despite being in a “caring profession” for the latter part of my working life, in certain ways I have a very analytical brain. It’s probably towards the “masculine” end of the spectrum, and especially where map reading lies. I had navigated for a few road rallies, so I knew how to plot routes and read maps, and I presumed it was common to most human beings, and especially to the male of the species. Consequently I had no doubts the love of my life would get us home via the shortest route. However, this was not to be the case! I discovered he wasn’t perfect and we had our first relationship challenge! I won’t call it an argument, because it wasn’t, in the classical sense.
A few moments passed and I was given my first instructions as to where to go. I was driving, he was the navigator. All was good. I could just point the car in the directions he gave me. So I did.
When we were driving through leafy suburbs, of goodness knows where, I finally said I thought we were going the wrong way. I pulled over. He didn’t know where we were on the map. That was a bit of an alarm bell. I suggested we ask someone, but that didn’t go down well. I regained my confidence when he seemed to know where we were on the map after all. We set off again.
When we were in the middle of a very seedy part of Manchester, next to a row of shops, I again decided to bring up the possibility that we were lost. (Just to clarify, Hull has lots of seedy areas too). We stopped again. This time I decided to check out where we were on the map, but I needed to know where he thought we were. Rough ball park figure? It wasn’t long before I said “You don’t know how to read maps, do you?” and, yes, you guessed, the reply was “No.”
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