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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
As you know I write a blog a couple of times a month.
It has been very difficult to find the appropriate words for the second one of the month. So I did a video and wrote some of my thoughts around why I did a video:
I can’t say it will be alright due to the coronavirus. I can’t say I am coping amazingly well despite all my expertise of relaxation, meditation, Alexander Technique and so on.
What I can say is that I have been anxious, distressed, frightened, calm, peaceful, happy and every other emotion possible. It feels my life was thrown up in the air like confetti and it’s falling down around me. I’m watching it land. Some bits are blowing away. Some bits I have already picked up again and hold close. Some bits I hope I find even though they are out of sight.
Read the rest of this page »
Santa didn’t leave a sack at the end of my bed! He had always left the sack at the end of the bed. Was I that bad this year? I was panic stricken and so was my sister who I shared the room with. We rushed out of the bedroom, meeting our brother on the way towards “the front bedroom” i.e. Mummy & Daddy’s room. The tsunami of us anxious kids shot into their room and almost all at once we began a traumatised chorus of “Santa hasn’t been”. Fortunately panic was soon over when we discovered he had “been” and left our sacks with Mummy and Daddy.
We were not the only one’s affected as years later my Mum still tells us about that day and the “hasn’t been” chorus which happened because they wanted to see us opening our presents. She doesn’t recount or remember my other traumatic experience on the same day which was the Land Rover.
One of the presents in my sack was a toy Land Rover. I was over the moon. It would pull an imaginary horse box for my herd of plastic horses. I can remember the tyres to this day. Big, knobbly, black tyres, white centres and the grey and green paint job. I zoomed it round my other presents and our slowly emptying sacks…until my Mum & Dad realised the toy I was playing with actually belonged to my brother, who was looking on enviously. I don’t remember how they explained it to me, or the way I parted company with it. I am fairly certain I won’t have given it up without a fight and it would have involved tears, and most likely not all mine. I have never forgotten the toy that I wasn’t actually given.
Christmas and the festive season can be overwhelming for many reasons, for all ages and all walks of life. It can be overwhelming in a pleasurable way as well as painful. A mixture of emotions, highs and lows and challenges of all kinds. From what I have heard in the last couple of days, food shopping is currently high on the list of people’s challenges, for those lucky enough to be able to afford that.
This year has held quite a number of challenges for me, especially latterly. Sometimes with all the wisdom I imagine I must have gathered over the years, including my Alexander Technique skills, I struggle to hold onto what might bring some calm and peace. Latterly, all I can offer myself, and perhaps you, is to come into the present moment by focussing on one thing. Hands, jaw, breathing, whatever takes your attention. My feet are often my “go to” place for that. I reconnect with my feet and the earth. I notice everything I can about the sensations coming from them. They ground me. Maybe they will you too? A moment of centering in the whirlwind of life events.
Jane Clappison MSTAT
Alexander Technique Teacher