Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

Alexander Technique

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Hell for leather or all the time in the world? The choice may be yours?

The instructions said the cream would take 30 seconds to absorb. The way I was doing it, you would think I was determined to get that time down. If I had entered a fire lighting competition, I am sure I would have won.

Then I remembered, I had time. I could take all the time I wanted. I had nowhere to be, in any rush. I was probably going to be doing this every day for much if not all of my life. Perhaps there was another way of getting the medication into my system other than creating excess friction between my fingers and thigh?

I stopped what I was doing. I left my foot on the stool. I noticed the foot that I was standing on, was gripping the floor. I let go of that grip. The foot on the stool was poised and I let the weight of my leg release to the chair, my hip area dropped. My arms that had been in “get the cream in quick” mode transformed softly into rest and my shoulders dropped, shoulder blades sliding down my back. My neck released and chin dropped.

Ahh! Much more delicious a state to be in.

I remembered I knew many, many massage techniques and I could try a few to see what I enjoyed the most. Turned out just gently stroking, using my full hand, softly,  in big circles was what was needed. Simple, meditative.

I took in the room, the sounds, the sensation of the massage, the ease I could do it with and I enjoyed the thought that this pace felt right. I felt right. No rushing, no stressing, no force. I discovered a delightful space that I rejoice in, every day.

What if every time you applied any cream you lovingly take time to apply it with all the time in the world? Perhaps you will find a pace that turns out to be calm, gentle and mindful?

It’s very easy and learning the Alexander Technique will help you chose how you do it. I would love to share my thoughts with you? Try a lesson?

 

Jane Clappison

Alexander Technique Teacher

01759 307282

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Birthday presents & doing less with the Alexander Technique

Pandemic focus purchasing: Order completed over the phone. Smart walk into town, mask on, quick flash of my card to buy the flowers and a swift hand over of two huge bouquets.

I hadn’t expected them to be so big.

After about 5 minutes of brisk walking I realised I needed to carry these bouquets for at least another 10-15 minutes and I predicted my arms would probably ache. I was tightly gripping them in front of me, elbows at 90 degrees. I had hoped to put them in a large carrier bag I had brought with me. They were far too big to fit into it. I remembered I had studied the Alexander Technique for over 30 years and smiled.

What if these bouquets were actually two huge balloons and they weighed nothing, in fact they were holding my arms up? Immediately I let go of the strangled grip I had on all the flower stems. My hands felt so much better! My wrists and arms released, my neck and jaw released. I looked around me as I walked. I had a spring in my step. I enjoyed the mass of colour in those bouquets in front of me. I revelled in the late autumn air. The walk was a pleasure.

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“Through learning the Alexander Technique I am able to use my body to maximum potential.”

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?

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Simple Pleasures, home cooked food & agenda-less days.

An earthenware vintage bowl

 

 

My place of refuge, for many years, was snuggled up on my grandparent’s  high backed two seater sofa between nanny and either the dog, Tiny (who wasn’t that tiny) or my granddad Joe (when he was home from sea).

The sofa would be pulled in front of the glowing fire on these occasions. We would be waiting for bread dough to do it’s magic. It’s receptacle, the wide mouthed red clay earthenware pot, would be sat on the hearth. The inner yellow glaze hidden by a damp white tea towel. I still have that vintage pot and I have made bread with it many times.

Nanny always gently patted the yeasty white mound, as if that sealed a secret agreement to rise, just before covering it in the towel.  The memory is extremely clear in my mind, as are her gnarled hands which she believed resulted from stretching material over wings of planes during the first world war.

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Jane’s April 2020 Alexander Technique Project: using screens

Two people looking at screen with poor postureThe coronavirus has meant that much of the world is operating far more online and that includes many Alexander technique teachers. For some of them, online work has been their main source of income. For some, like me, the virus has meant my face to face work has had to stop and I have needed to do some training to grow my online work.  Mio Morales and Jennifer Roig-Francoli generously provided this training.

In the process of exploring online work, I have been practicing giving online lessons with a fellow AT teacher. This month’s  project emerged out of that.

When I use “screens” I tend to, very slowly, inexorably, get drawn into the screen. I hinge at the hips and move my throat towards the screen, lift my chin, and look down my nose. My shoulders and shoulder blades move backwards and together! It is an old habit. I have shared a very old photo of my Dad and I peering at a computer screen screen of his newly purchased BBC machine (very old computer from the 1980’s) to show you how bad it can get. So I know it’s always there if I don’t engage some other strategy. I also get visual and vestibular migraine (strange gorgeous zig zags before my eyes and feeling dizzy) if I use a screen too much.

This habit is not the only one! There are so many ways to lose sight of “good use” when looking at a screen. My version might be like yours, but it may be very different. My colleague noticed they have a similar tendency but the emphasis for them is on the upper chest moving towards the screen and tightening in the lower back.

The project began by reminding myself

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On doing nothing in East Yorkshire, and during the pandemic!

Easington, a tiny coastal village. A few houses and caravans. It wasn’t a seaside village like we know of today. It was, however, where I spent my summers when I was very young.

I sat, protected on three sides by chocolate coloured, East Yorkshire coastal clay enjoying it’s cool windbreak quality. I now know this coast is eroding faster than anywhere in Europe and the North sea I was looking at, covers many lost villages. I didn’t know or care about any of that. All I knew was my bum was cool, the skylarks were serenading me in the fields behind, and I was hidden from my family and friends at the campsite, and I felt safe. I felt more than safe, I just was. No school, no timetable, no agenda, no pull, no expectations. I had little experience of school at that point anyhow and those other words meant nothing to me. It was blissful.

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Calm is where you make space for it (even if you feel life is completely upside down)

As you know I write a blog a couple of times a month.

The first blog this month was a project on “knees” and the Alexander Technique.

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.

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Jane’s March Project. The Alexander Technique Direction: “Knees forward and away”

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,

BUT,

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.

In summary:

 

  • 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 Clappison

 

01759 307282

 

www.janeclappison.co.uk