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This is the 10th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique (AT) lessons.
This interview is with Dorothy, who is in her mid 70’s, retired, lives with a partner and leads a very full and active life. Dorothy has been having face to face Alexander Technique lessons with me for a few years.
Each time Dorothy comes for a lesson she tells me about something new that the Alexander Technique has helped her with. Since doing this interview, one of the things she told me was that she used to dread filling and emptying the washing machine. She told me the problem wasn’t so much getting down to the washer but getting back up. She used to need to pull herself up on the washer. Now, she doesn’t even need to think about it.
AT has influenced Dorothy’s life profoundly. She no longer rushes through life, ticking off everything on her “to do” list, but instead, experiences the richness of being in the present moment. Here’s her thoughts about that:
I would like to know a little bit about what impact having Alexander Technique (AT) lessons has had for you.
What drew you to the Alexander Technique?
I began having lessons in May 2017. Up to the onset of the pandemic I was having lessons every month.
Although I started lessons in 2017, I found out about the Alexander Technique about 25-30 years ago, when I was on a complementary therapy course. Back then, I noticed a lady on the course and thought there was “something about her”. I discovered this person was a teacher of the Alexander Technique and I remember thinking “I must do something about that.”
Later, I was on another holiday and the leader of the holiday, whom I had met a year earlier, looked totally different. I remember thinking “Wow!” I discovered she had learned Alexander Technique for swimming but, actually, I felt it had changed her whole persona.
I finally was prompted into having lessons for myself because my yoga teacher told me about a local teacher, you.
What impact did you hope Alexander Technique lessons would have?
I wanted to learn AT for posture. My posture was not very good and I felt if I improved my posture it would help me in other ways too.
Was there anything you expected about learning the Alexander Technique? Did that happen?
I had no other expectations, other than improving my posture, which has happened via lessons.
I have changed the way I sit and I am more upright. It’s much more comfortable and I have adapted my furniture by using cushions, and moved furniture to sit square on to the TV & kitchen table.
Was there anything unexpected about learning the Alexander Technique. If so what was it and what impact did it have?
Learning the technique has transformed everything.
My confidence is much improved and I am so much more aware and in “control” of my body.
The AT has affected every single thing I do.
I noticed I am now as tall as my partner. I know that because I can see myself in the mirrors whilst dancing. Previously I spotted that I was stooping/smaller. I now spot other dancers stooping and it encourages me to be more up and use AT. Also, I don’t get tired like I used to do after lessons.
I always struggled to get my feet to the floor in sitting. They used to dangle. It was a particular problem when a passenger in a car. I used to do all sorts of things before to manage the discomfort, such as putting my feet on the dash board. I can put my feet flat on the floor now and it is way more comfortable.
In the car, I can now sit back, chill and enjoy it.
I cycle a lot and this too is less effort when I apply the Alexander Technique. I also have a different mindset towards my cycling and I do not push myself so much, which makes it more enjoyable.
This is a pleasure now and I allow time for it. Previously I would do 20 lengths and want it over with. Now I find it no effort and I can get into the zone and keep going. I feel “as one” with the water. I can be in the water up to an hour, and I don’t feel I need to get out. I do, simply because the next session is starting.
I recently read a book by Alexander Technique teacher, Malcom Balk called “Master the Art of Working Out“ and it helped me to notice different parts of my body when moving and exercising. For example when swimming, I no longer think of the lengths as being important, but the way my body moves is more in my focus.
Learning the Alexander Technique turned swimming into being very meditative.
I regularly go walking and now walking is easier, more enjoyable, comfortable and a better experience.
I used to use walking sticks but now I find them a nuisance apart from on really difficult terrain.
AT has made an incredible difference to my walking. I used to treat it like a race, but now I don’t think of it like that and I can go for longer and I feel less tired. Before AT I used to be all about getting through the next 500yards. I pushed myself to be the first one up to the top of the hill but now I enjoy the process. I don’t think I have slowed down, but I am no longer rushing and finding walking boring.
Even “waiting for others” when I got “there” was a problem, but now, even if I do need to wait for others, it is not a hassle. I use AT principles, like directions, or noticing what is around me. There’s so much I can use from AT in this situation.
Recently when walking I got pain in a muscle, I think I may have pulled the muscle. When I noticed the pain, I paid more attention, slowed down, became more mindful and became aware of my body and the discomfort went.
I also listened to a CD, done by Joan Diamond, about AT and walking and I found the directions on that very helpful.
What impact does all this make?
I find that I notice “something is not right” or “not comfortable” and then I pay attention to what I am doing and change my position to something that is comfortable.
Sometimes I make a choice to go fast (which was a habit before) but mostly I do not race through things.
I notice other people’s posture and that informs me to pay attention to mine.
I feel I am much fitter now for not “pushing through.”
I do not over do it and I really enjoy it when doing exercise.
I learned to understand my body and know how it works by learning the living anatomy during AT lessons. Recently I broke my wrist and found the living anatomy and directions really helpful as I recovered.
I have a DVD on active rest and I find this is very relaxing and it helps me to sleep.
Is there anything else about learning the Alexander Technique?
Touch in lessons
I feel that touch from an AT teacher helps my awareness and helps me release tension. I feel the touch has a longer term impact after the lesson as the memory of how to do things stays with me better.
I feel the hands on of a lesson are not the same as AT learned from a book or video (which I have done).
I feel there is a healing energy from my teacher, and I enjoy the warmth of her hands in a lesson
I feel I am more aware of my surroundings and I put this down to AT. I enjoy colours, light, shadows, reflections. I saw a reflection of clouds on a coffee table at my home and found this fantastic, fascinating and amazing. It’s often like that with this new found awareness.
I feel more confident in my memory. I used to write things down to remember them. I always needed a note book. Now, I write things down much less. I think it may be due to AT.
My partner is into birding and he asked me to remember when I see red kites. Before I wouldn’t remember exactly where they were. Now, I remember exactly where they are. It’s easy, and I don’t have to write it down.
Visit to York Alexander Technique School (YATS)
I loved this, and appreciated it because AT has opened up the possibility of meeting other people. I had a session at YATS with Alex Farkas and whilst I was waiting for the lesson I began to read. Lena Schibel-Mason showed me a way to read with more ease: books on a cushion on my lap. I’ve continued to do it that way. Lena did all of it without speaking but it felt just right. “I felt Lena’s presence radiated”.
I feel my confidence has increased. I am able to use my body to maximum potential.
I am not afraid of dying like I used to be. I know I have all sorts of things to do and I am so grateful I can still do them.
I am not as tense as I used to be. I am calmer and can pay more attention to things, which means I do not get as angry, and can relax more. I feel my brain has more time to process things before reacting (like happens in road rage).
The Alexander Technique
There are so many things I could think about from learning the technique. It’s not a hardship. I can choose what to focus on. I also think it adds many dimensions because I can notice how I move in the present moment. It is so interesting. It opens doors.
If you would like to discover how Dorothy gained all these benefits, why not try some #alexandertechnique lessons? Get in touch?
Tel: 01759 307282 OR
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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