Busy tongue seeking calm tongue!
After a tooth infection and root canal re-do of a back tooth last year I developed “burning mouth syndrome” which is exactly that: a burning sensation in the mouth, plus a numb tongue and odd sensations in my mouth. Fortunately it is settling but never-the-less I have become obsessed with “fiddling” with my back tooth. It went from fiddling one side, to sucking my cheek one side, to sucking my cheek both sides, to biting my tongue. I was causing sore spots and lots of pain and I felt I wasn’t in charge and I just couldn’t stop!
I have been applying a number of approaches. Holding a pencil between my teeth worked well as I couldn’t actually do all those things with separated teeth, but it’s hard to talk and produces lots of drooling.
Of course I have been applying the Alexander Technique to it all these months in a rather half hearted way. The discomfort of the facial sensations from the nerve irritation kept drawing me back.
One day last week, I got so fed up of the habit, I realised it just had to stop. I set a firm intention to stop. Thus this week’s project has been my tongue & mouth.
I started by doing nothing. Each time I noticed the habit I stopped what I was doing both mentally and physically and noticed the world around me: the kettle, cups and tea ready to pour, the bubbles of washing up liquid and the sink of pots, the office as I was writing an email. Stop, start throughout the first day. It was really enjoyable. Lots of moments of rest. Each time I stopped, my body let go of all the “doing” including my mouth and tongue and became aware of the present moment.
I also added some thoughts/wishes (Directions in AT language) as to what I would like my tongue and mouth to be like. Here’s a few of the things I did. They are rather delicious even if you haven’t got a mouth issue. Try one or two and see what happens?
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Softening the centre
Let your belly soften.
Not a chance!
The Alexander Technique teacher held his hand softly on my abdomen.
Not a chance!
I confessed I just couldn’t do it. We discussed how my years of dancing, and thinking I had to hold my belly in, contributed to the chronic tension. It’s something a lot of dancers do. It’s also what a lot of western women do, conditioned into thinking that a flat belly is more acceptable.
We agreed I would do a few experiments at home to invite it to release. On all fours was one position I tried. However, the one that had the most impact was standing side on to the mirror and letting my belly go and realising it didn’t look any bigger and actually it allowed my ribs, and the area in front of my ribs to soften and rest. I often tell this story to my pupils when they are doing the same thing! I also remind them that if you look at healthy, fit, indigenous populations they often have a softly protruding belly. It’s normal.
This week’s project is tied into the one from last week. Thanks to a recent refresher lesson for myself I noticed that when I did my whispered Ah’s my gut was stopping me from breathing in with ease. There was a pressure at the bottom of my breast bone. It’s one of the places where I feel discomfort when I get IBS. Unfortunately, following a course of antibiotics it has returned! It was also there because my old habit of tightening my abdominal muscles was back! Well, it never went actually, although I had learned to use the Alexander Technique to inhibit it.
If you fancy joining me, here’s what I did to bring about non-doing:
Notice your belly (non-doing, being mindfully present)
Invite it to soften towards the midline (the spine)
Notice how that affects your breathing – for me it usually allows me to instantaneously take a bigger breath, followed by a huge reduction in abdominal discomfort from IBS.
Your belly naturally will rise on an in breath, and fall on an out breath (perhaps with the exception of extreme athletes)
You might like to do it before a whispered Ah and see if that changes things.
Let me know how you get on?
Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
I got back to the present moment.
I know this is a wonderful moment.
(Thich Nhat Hahn)
This week’s “project” has been my breathing. More about why in this month’s blog. However, I was surprised to find, when I paid attention to my breathing, that it was often rapid, and in my upper chest. A deep breath felt difficult because my abdomen was tight and restricting the movement of my diaphragm.
Becoming aware of each breath, and maintaining attention on the breath, is a way into the present moment for many religions and disciplines.
Learning the Alexander Technique does free up the breathing. However, my discovery about my breathing reminded me that breathing can be affected by anxiety, emotion, tension, physical issues: many things.
My breathing has become slower and easier by applying the Alexander Technique. I will share the things I have been doing with you, over the next couple of weekly prompts. They have an indirect effect. They bring me to a place where I can let go of tension and my breathing does itself.
Here’s one of the things I have been doing (to bring about non-doing):
If you have not had any Alexander Technique lessons can I suggest you take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing without changing it?
You may like to think the phrase at the heading as you breath?
I always remember the chapter in Walter Carrington’s book “Thinking Aloud” on the whispered Ah
“just when people need to do whispered ahs most they feel the least inclined to do them. This is always so. You will find this in yourself. I noticed this myself this morning. Before I started work, I did a number of whispered ahs and I just hated every moment of it. I knew, I could tell, that I was in need of doing some whispered ahs.”
If Walter Carrington (one of the first teacher’s trained by F.M.Alexander) thinks whispered ahs are important maybe you might like to try a whispered Ah or two today?
Let me know how you get on?
Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
Finding the present moment
through your feet!
I made my feet, especially my toes, a project this week. Can my feet bring me back to the present moment? It’s a kind of thinking to bring about non doing.
In The Use of the Self, F. M. Alexander talks about taking hold of the floor with his feet. He explains that that habit was part of a bigger picture. It sure is.
During this project I noticed I often try to grip the floor with my toes, sometimes I have a lot of weight on my heels, especially when walking. I got to be re-acquainted with some of the unhelpful habits I have, like standing on the outside of my foot when I dry my other foot. Doing that gives me less stability and area to balance on.
Does all that matter as feet are constantly adapting? What I do know is that I don’t have to do any of that extra stuff. I can do nothing instead. I can let my feet do what they are designed to do. It’s much easier and I get some amazing feedback through my feet for all the movements I do, if I leave them alone.
I was pleasantly surprised as I noticed the sensation of the bedroom carpet in the morning. I am always amazed at finding something new in ordinary, everyday activities. I enjoyed spotting the texture and temperature contrast between the carpet and the wood of the floor in the bathroom.
When I invite my feet to rest on the floor, and release to the floor, everything I do, because it’s part of a whole pattern, becomes easier. It also instantly takes me into the present moment.
Maybe you might like to make your feet a project too? Could be a 5 minute project as you do an activity or a longer term project.
You could focus just on noticing your feet in the moment, notice what happens if you invite them to release.
Notice what around you as you do all of that. Let the images come to you rather than forcing it.
If it seems your feet are illusive – try waking them up with massage, or giving them a wash and dry every nook and cranny, or roll your foot over a tennis ball. There are so many ways, and we do these kinds of things in Alexander Lessons.
If you know about the primary directions like “let the neck be free” add your feet into the picture. Can your feet be free to rest?
Let me know if you have any questions/how you get on?
Alexander Technique Teacher
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
Nowadays we might call it abuse, but back in the mid 70’s I didn’t question it. I was told to drink tea by my teacher Ken Parkinson (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) so I did.
Ken was already in his 70’s when I went to him to learn about gemmology. He was always smartly dressed in a brown tweed suit (including waistcoat) and was mercurial in the way he moved around his office.
Ken usually rang me up before a lesson to get me to bring him some Erinmore tobacco and moustache wax. I suspect Ken must have been a regular at the corner store as they sold both those things.
Our lessons would start with tea. As a coffee drinker that was abhorrent, but Ken insisted as I was British, I had to drink tea. The tea arrived on a tray, with matching tea pot, china cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. I had to drink it with lots of sugar at first to get it down, but that’s no longer the case.
During the tea pouring ceremony (because it was a ceremony with Ken) he also started to fill his pipe with the tobacco I had brought. Padding it down, sucking on the pipe, and taking great care with this ritual. The fact his handlebar moustache was ginger in the middle and white on the ends reflected the years of pipe smoking.
I loved those lessons, surrounded by cases of gemstones, sourced from around the world by Ken. Learning to open gemstone packages and Ken’s rather un- PC mnemonics for Mohs scale of hardness, getting to grips with spectroscopes and refractometers, filters, microscopes and the names and beautiful shapes in which gems grow. It was fascinating. My love of tea began then too.
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Jane’s weekly project.
- Changing thoughts into awareness
I have been noticing a “buzziness” in my body these last few days. It’s my system’s way of saying “There’s something I have to do today. What is it?” Then I gently remind myself that this feeling and these thoughts are as a result of the deadline of writing a blog every day for 21 days. It is a product of busy-ness.
Along with all of that I was thinking “I need to resist the urge to do something”.
I told my husband I felt like I needed to do something and he reeled off a long list of things I could be doing. I thanked him and said I have a similar list. I will always have a “to do” list but some things will have a higher priority than others.
I realised that starting to address those “to do” lists, wasn’t what I needed. Nor is resisting the urge to “do” the way. That’s doing.
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