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Posted by: janec | on November 17, 2018
Putting a sports bra on at any time can be a challenge! Here are some thoughts about that, and some Alexander Technique (AT) ideas that might help. For those of you that don’t wear them, you might find an AT nugget in here somewhere.
To get to the sports bra we need a few detours. The first is about bath bombs and Epson salts.
I am a Lush bath bomb gal. I love watching the effervescing ball dance around the thundering bath water as it releases colour and scent, and luxuriating in all of that. So the suggestion from a friend, of soaking in a bath of Epson salts, wasn’t that appealing. I was assured it would be good for my health. Plus, a huge tub of Epson salts arrived, as a present, and thus, I gave it a go.
Warning – do not try this bit at home! I have no idea if Alexander Technique in the bath will work for you! I could end up with my readers drowning in the attempt. Please don’t.
Having an Eco friendly bath is no way to undertake this soak, but it was the only one available to me. The overflow is strategically placed so that I can only be covered by 2/3rd’s of water even when it is full. The bath is short, narrow and I can lay on my back with my knees bent without drowning. Happily, I was able to practice Alexander Technique active rest, releasing into width as much as the bath allowed whilst laying in the Epson salt infusion. I also enjoyed listening to the ocean liner-like central heating noises from underneath the water. A couple of flannels, for warmth, topped off the event: sorry if that’s too much detail!
Bath over, having already been applying the Alexander Technique to laying in an extremely narrow bath, I was pondering on applying it to the unique issue of putting my clothes on. It’s the same problem as dressing after going swimming. How to do this with ease? Hot atmospheres, damp, warm skin and clothing just don’t work well together. There’s that Velcro effect where clothes weld to the skin wherever they touch.
We need another detour here, onto how Flamenco dancing, Madonna and lack of confidence play a part.
Picture a flamenco dancer with their hands spiralling round their body, then take yourself back to 1990, and Madonna’s song, Vogue, and striking a pose. I recommend you follow the link and watch the video first. It’s a great song and you might enjoy striking a pose? Have fun. I just did! I feel so energised now.
Anyhow, where does lack of confidence fit in? Back in my N.H.S. days I had to go to the occasional meeting. Usually in a stuffy room, sat around a table with other health professionals, at the end of a long week. Picture yourself there as the most senior consultant makes a point. From his position of power he luxuriously floats his hands up and over his head in an arc, palms coming to rest behind his head, elbows wide. He draws a breath, and with confidence, slowly begins to make his point. A while later, a junior doctor speaks out but he just can’t pull off the whole hands behind the head thing. A tiny shadow movement, half going there, and then giving up, happens instead. The effect on the group, and his lack of seniority means his message doesn’t land in the same way at all. To get the full effect try both arm movements yourself, then try going from one to the other. It’s a bit like voguing but less fun.
Back to the sports bra: my usual method looks more like one my Dad used in his motor cycle repair days when all else failed: rive it! After my Epson salts bath, and my Eco friendly chilling out with the Alexander Technique, I was up for exploring what happens if I don’t rive my sports bra on? What happens if I use the Alexander Technique?
Back to Flamenco, voguing and lack of confidence. Well, putting a sports bra on and applying the Alexander Technique looks like a cross between all of those! The up side, is I was laughing my head off by the time I finished and I wasn’t at all flustered like I normally am. The down side was, I took ages to get dressed and I would have been mortified if anyone had walked in on me.
I started by releasing my usual rive-it approach tension. I stopped several times during the process and thought about having a free neck. In those moments of stillness you might have thought I was dancing, but more likely, if pressed, you would have described me as a trussed up turkey. Sports bras have a unique property of rolling themselves up and becoming extremely rigid and rope like, despite their elastic content. I needed to take a Sun Tzu, Art of War, indirect approach.
What I did learn was a sports bra goes on (and off) much more smoothly when applying the Alexander Technique. However, another tip, if this is available to you: partners come in very handy. Get someone else to help!
Alexander Technique can be applied in all sorts of ways, including dressing! If you fancy finding out how, get in touch and book a lesson!
Jane Clappison MSTAT
Posted by: janec | on October 17, 2018
I used to believe that if I was ill, and in hospital, I would sit by the side of my bed, dressed: until I got real.
Being ill sometimes means my nightwear gets changed because it’s been worn 24/7, and it’s beginning to smell.
Being ill means my sick-bed multi-tasks as a library, of books I want to read, but don’t have the concentration for. A roving dog bed, as snoring Kyra and I dance round the space. An observatory, as I delight at the wind blowing through the neighbour’s pine tree, it’s jostling branches playing a frantic game of tag. It also becomes a rubbish bin for tissues and other detritus.
Being ill is a challenging process on all levels, it’s different every time and we all navigate that as best as we can.
I am not in hospital, but I am ill.
I thought I would share some ideas, including Alexander Technique ones, that are helping me. They are not earth shattering. They come into my full focus and then wane. I do what I can. It takes perseverance. They are not a panacea but they bring me joy. They help me remember there’s more to life than feeling ill. They may give you some ideas to try out when you are ill? Even one will change the experience.
The root of my problem (literally) has been a tooth infection that spread and is ongoing. Sometimes all I can manage is to let my body get on with it. Other times:
- I notice myself in my environment, what is around me, sensing what is behind me (without looking) and that helps me be in the present moment. It calms me and placates my need to be well.
- I observe my body, where it is attempting to brace and hold against the unknown invader . My teeth, jaw, face and neck regularly take on a defensive role. Softening my eyes reduces strain and pain. Releasing the inside of my mouth into length and width ripples through my body, my shoulders drop and I breathe more deeply.
- Noticing pain free areas rather than painful areas also helps break a cycle that feeds the pain.
- I am remembering to balance rest with activity. I regularly take a walk round the house and garden. I have been exploring a few things as I do that such as:
Noticing my breathing as I move.
What happens if I breathe out when I stand up?
What happens if I take a breath in?
What happens when I don’t change my breathing and think crown away from feet as I stand?
What differences can I feel under my feet as I move from one surface to another, from carpet to wooden floor to stone to lawn?
I observe my reluctance to lay down in the day time. I remind myself of my niece as a baby, when she had not yet learned how to sooth herself to sleep, and she struggled with that transition from wakefulness to rest. However, through resisting rest, on laying down, I discover I have created pain. I rest, letting go of the effort of being upright, and as I release into semi supine it brings ease and relief from pain. My body thanks me. There’s a work in progress for me here as I challenge beliefs around this resistance and honour the need to sleep.
- When the energy rises I tackle the accumulating pile of dirty items that won’t go in the dishwasher. I enjoy the contact of my feet on the floor, the view of the changing colours in the garden, the sounds the water makes in the sink as I work. I also notice my gradually wrinkling hands and a growing tiredness as I sense the whole of me in this space.
- I am thankful for my husband’s suggestion to sit outside. Somehow I forget that simple things can be a blessing. I can enjoy how the delightful autumn sun gives life to the Acer’s vibrant feathery red leaves against the electric green garden. I have a special fondness for the shadows on the patio, especially the dancing butterflies. I even saw a Red Admiral yesterday, in October!
- I can laugh at myself. This morning before my husband went to work he came to see me in bed, to say goodbye. Wryly he said “New brooch?” gesturing to my top and grinning. I looked at it with puzzlement and there was a purple, lint covered, firmly glued, partly used, throat lozenge! Well, it had obviously done its job of calming my coughing and helping me get off to sleep! Being ill can be very messy, and amusing.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller
Perhaps these ideas might help you towards overcoming suffering? I wouldn’t recommend the brooch.
When you and I are well, perhaps we could work together to explore these ideas? Contact me or phone me to book a lesson or workshop.
Posted by: janec | on September 9, 2018
This is the second in a series of Alexander Technique (AT) student interviews I carried out. You will discover, as I share these interviews with you in my blogs, how unique each person’s experience of having Alexander Technique lessons is. Yet there are common threads you may also begin to discover.
These are highlights of Cathy’s experiences during and after Alexander lessons. They:
- helped bring mental, physical & spiritual calm,
- confidence, and pain relief,
- comfort and alignment and understanding of her body,
- balance on all levels,
- appreciation of the present moment.
I have changed some personal details of Cathy’s story for confidentiality reasons.
Like many others, Cathy turned to AT, many years after originally learning about it. She was in her 40’s and had experienced a number of bereavements, plus pain and anxiety. She felt she was living in her head and running away from her body. Cathy felt sure AT would help with these issues as it addresses the whole person.
When we started working together Cathy was keen to read up on AT and other related areas. Despite taking a scholarly approach, Cathy said she had to embrace the mystery of AT: until she experienced AT, she didn’t really know it.
Initially she noticed a comfortableness in her own body which she could not recall ever experiencing. Cathy felt recalibrated after lessons, that her posture improved and everything felt in alignment. Cathy wondered if this was like her body was as a young child.
Cathy noticed that some lessons brought up emotional issues and she felt she had to be a bit brave and see where the lesson took her. Despite this, Cathy said that lessons were mentally, physically and spiritually calming.
Cathy previously used a variety of techniques to help with pain, but now includes AT, and often notices that the pain isn’t actually there.
Cathy describes AT as a fast track to sensing her body. It helps her to own her body and see it as a good thing, when she used to be fearful of it. She said AT helped her inhabit her body and all its senses and be open to its messages.
Through lessons Cathy feels connected to herself (no longer alone) and that AT helps her balance and orientate herself to the world around her. It has improved her confidence and belief in herself. Cathy feels with AT she can be bold.
Cathy can now really appreciate the present moment, and a weed growing through tarmac can fill her with awe just as much as a beautiful sunset can.
Cathy taught active rest (an AT procedure) to her young child: combined with breathing, it helped them to ease tummy ache/indigestion.
AT helps Cathy on a daily basis to not act in a reflex way as she did before. She has learned how to stand back, wait and be still. With that, she feels she can make better choices and has balance in her life on all levels.
Fancy finding out about what you will gain after Alexander Technique lessons? Calm? Confidence? Balance? Pain relief? Appreciation of the present moment? Give me a ring or contact me.
Further individual interviews to follow in future blogs.
Alexander Technique Teacher
Posted by: janec | on August 7, 2018
I don’t know when I decided not take any notice of TV news. Nor do I remember when I consciously avoided reading the daily papers, but it was before the days of the internet. I imagine I was in my late teens. I just didn’t want to know how bad things were.
As I therefore knew less about the world at large, I marvelled at how my maternal Grandmother kept up with current affairs. One phone call got me up to speed. I am sure it kept her keenly aware into her 90’s and also extremely grumpy.
Despite an aversion to bad news, I did develop a liking for the Scottish Post as they seemed to be more about good-news stories. Their cartoons like the mischievous Oor Wullie and the family life of The Broons made for a hilarious treat. I now love a very un-PC paper for its brain teasers and TV guide, but my love of newspapers and bad news in general (isn’t it almost always bad now) and current affairs, ends there.
Maybe you feel this sense that most news reports are bad news?
Nowadays I can’t avoid death, destruction, vandalism, global warming, not global warming, air quality, plastic floating islands, mass extinctions, deforestation, wars, starvation, discrimination and on and on. As a result, I find myself being pulled into a state of irritation and anxiety. Like a nagging tooth pain, for which there is no cure. The internet, and particularly social media, seem to have got to me in ways my paper/TV news avoidance could not. Perhaps a remote cave might help, but I enjoy being in and of the world. So, I can’t avoid knowing some of the heartbreaking news we are bombarded with from all sides, today.
At times I feel like Chicken Little, crying out that the sky is falling in. Except he discovered it wasn’t falling in, and that all was well. My conclusion is that we are finely balanced at a point where we don’t know whether the sky will fall in or not.
My news avoidance does not mean I don’t care. My nuclear family do try to save the planet in their small way. I am also grateful for the ordinary things in life and to the extraordinary people whose work brings light to my darkness and positive things into my awareness. The Alexander Technique, is as always a bedrock in my life, as it does help with this tooth pain and minimise my inner Chicken Little.
Here’s something Alexander-ish that’s helping me to calm my thoughts and accept all the messiness and uncertainty.
You might read and say the words and phrases, below, to yourself or
These thoughts change how I feel. Each idea would describe learning the Alexander Technique or how it feels to be truly immersed in its effects. It helps settle my anxieties. Invite the words to work with you. It may help you too?
Find yourself a comfy spot. You may be laying down with your knees bent, head on books, or resting gently back on a chair.
In your comfy spot, do nothing, absolutely nothing. Give yourself permission to do nothing.
Sit dear heart and rest.
You may notice thoughts and feelings tossing you in all directions but observe them and let them be. Choose not to follow their path.
Let go of all the doing, trying and striving. Oh! The endless trying. Feels great to let it go, doesn’t it?
Be, here, doing nothing.
Begin to notice your breathing but don’t try to do anything with it. Open up the possibility of giving up control.
Be willing to not know where this is going.
No need to anticipate what will happen next. Just for a while be rudderless, no landmarks, nothing to guide the way. Nothing to achieve.
Where you are going is unrecognisable. Yet part of you already knows you are not going anywhere. It will be such a non-event from here to there.
Be still and wait. Feel how liberating the release of seeking is.
Let information come to you. Sounds, sights, sensations, vibrant life goes on.
Release the habit of wanting to control, to know what will emerge. Decide not to do a single thing. Decide to be perfect just as you are.
Wait without waiting for anything.
Nothing matters here in this void as nothing is matter. Permeate into this nothingness that is everything.
Nothing to seek as everything is already enough. Everything is here in the stillness.
No desire, just pure expanding awareness, deep in the ocean, where all is still.
Time ceases to be past, future or linear. This is outside time, yet time passes unpredictably. Rest in this limitless, timeless presence.
As you move on with your day, presence is always there for you in the stillness. If you find yourself feeling anxious and agitated, remember:
The stillness is always present.
Sit dear heart and rest.
If you fancy finding out how learning the Alexander Technique is like this, book a session!
Tel:- 01759 307282
Posted by: janec | on October 5, 2017
If I believe I can do something I have more likelihood of having lower pain levels and disability (according to research). I think that the Alexander Technique helps with this in lots of ways…here’s one way…and whether you have pain or not you can practice moving in this way and it will make moving easier.
If I have pain and I do a task, like getting on the floor, and I continue to do it, and I continue to have pain when I do it, I will begin to expect to have pain when I do it, and all that attention on the pain means I will probably have more pain. It’s a vicious circle. Also because I avoid things I can get muscle wasting and become less fit. This is perfectly understandable, after all when I have pain…I try to avoid it!
So, here’s a way to apply the Alexander Technique, with a bit of living anatomy, to getting on the floor! You could try it too?
I want to get on the floor, maybe to do my Alexander Technique practice of active rest. I have right knee pain (but it’s the same principle without pain).
- I decide I am going to do active rest,
- I am stood thinking about doing it,
- Then I decide not to do it! I release all unnecessary tension and apprehension. In Alexander Technique terms I inhibit. All the thoughts about the pain (or increased pain) that might happen, and fear around it go away. After all I am not going to do it.
- I enjoy standing, looking out the window at the autumn colours in the garden (you could enjoy looking at what is around you). Even thoughts of being fed up of pain have gone because I am enjoying being aligned with the present moment, and the autumn sun. The other thing that has reduced or even gone, are the physical things happening outside of my awareness in response to going on the floor, like my muscles tensing up, or even bracing in anticipation of the activity. Fabulous! It’s like stepping out of one world into another. Fear of pain world (with its body responses) into gorgeous autumn world.
Then I decide I will do it…
- I remind myself I don’t know if this activity will hurt or not until I do it,
- I remember where my knee is (because I learned my knee joint is lower than I think with Alexander Technique lessons and living anatomy)
- I could move to the floor in any number of ways but I choose to transfer most of my weight onto my left foot as I also think my crown up away from my foot (I direct in an Alexander Technique way),
- I have decided to move to the floor with the support of a chair and my right hand is on the chair…yes it’s the left one in the photo! (this is not essential but is especially useful if you have balance issues)
- I can invite (think it/direct it) a mobile left knee and release my left knee forwards
- At the same time as my left knee releases and bends I slide my right foot straight behind (feet are hip width apart like on parallel tracks) and my right knee gently bends as my foot slides back,
- I think about my crown releasing “up” all the way and I notice things in the room as I do it,
- I stop once I am kneeling on one knee (my right knee is on the floor) and I decide to be there and just enjoy the moment in a mindful way. My crown continues to release upwards. It helps to rest my right knee on a cushion (but that is not essential)
- Here, I could continue to move further to the floor…I could get up again or I could stay where I am,
- Again I let go of the thought of going to the floor and my body too lets go of any unnecessary tension associated with the activity,
- Then I decide to move further to the floor, and eventually to the floor, with exactly the same principles, moving, stopping, enjoying each stage with no agenda. I enjoy the process of moving and I don’t focus on the end point or task (I don’t “end gain” in Alexander speak). I can apply the same principles to get up off the floor.
In an individual Alexander Technique lesson, or group, you can practice this with a teacher who can support you in finding ways to move that are efficient and full of ease (which may be slightly different to the above mechanics/description of getting onto the floor). You will also learn about living anatomy/body mechanics. It does break the fear habit (stops the anticipation of pain), it allows muscles to work more efficiently and build their resilience to movement, it builds confidence that you can do something with ease. You also learn to do this in a way that flows so there are less pauses on the way to the floor. You begin to realise you can do the activity, and you experience less and less pain which may go completely!
A client recently told me they had read one of my blogs about the Alexander Technique and decided to apply it to their pain problem…and it made their pain go away when they walked! Wow! It was such a wonderful thing to know that my blog had helped. Let me know if this one helps you?
#inhibition #activerest #alexandertechnique #kneepain #livinganatomy #fear