Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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I didn’t expect it would work, but it did.

This is the third interview, in a series of interviews with students of the Alexander Technique (AT) about their experiences of learning the technique.

Students of the technique often come with a specific problem they want to address but then find that they gain a lot of other benefits they had not envisaged.

The following are some of the highlights of Judy’s experiences of applying the principles of AT in her daily life. Judy says it helps to:

  • make her walking easier,
  • help her manage stairs and slopes easier,
  • release into her meditation practice,
  • make sitting easy,
  • feel she can work out how to do challenging tasks with more ease,
  • help her to be calm and feel peace.

Judy is in her 30’s, lives alone and has a number of physical issues which involve both traumatic injuries that became longstanding problems and hyper mobility.

When Judy started learning AT she hoped the technique would have an influence on her posture and help with the pain that occurred with everyday activity. She admits, she didn’t expect it to work, but found out that it did.

Judy decided to learn AT after exploring a number of routes including internet searches, book reading and her physiotherapist’s suggestion to have lessons.

Judy used a number of ways to learn AT including workshops, individual lessons with me and reading more about AT.

Through AT, Judy has learned how powerful her thoughts are in influencing her daily life and she now has a more expansive way of moving in various tasks. Judy says AT is an easy process, not one that requires her mind to churn over.

Judy has found that AT acts as a trigger to release old habits like bracing before an activity (common to many of us).

Learning AT means the technique can be applied to all life activities. It gives a way of thinking about the process of doing activities so that you easily arrive at the most appropriate way to do it and find ease and efficiency. Here’s a few ways in which Judy has applied AT in her life:

Sitting:

Judy said she now knows sitting is easy but before AT she used to kill herself trying to sit upright. She said she was trying to hold a good posture and tried to be good whilst she sat but now she knows about softening and letting go in sitting and as a bonus it improves her posture.

Meditation:

Judy says AT helps  with both her meditation practice and general awareness. Judy says she can now sink into meditation. Judy did point out that she also sees AT as a form of meditation.

Awareness:

Judy described a pattern of behaviour that she has become more aware of since learning AT. It happens when she becomes less mindful, less aware. She finds she enters a cycle/circle where she drops things,  knocks into things, loses her balance and falls because she has lost her body awareness. She arrives in a room and forgets why she’s there. She  rushes, becomes anxious, makes mistakes, and her muscles become tight. Judy told me when she is like this her thoughts are more intrusive and repetitive and she becomes exhausted and experiences fear, pain and tiredness. In the past she couldn’t see a way out of the cycle.

When Judy is like this her only option is to stop. She finds the pain can build even more at that point and describes it like entering a field of hell.

Nowadays she can swing back into this cycle of bad habits but they come less often, and last for a much shorter period. It is in this state she has found she can use the AT and meditation tools. She notices her cyclical thoughts. She notices her fear and she uses AT to come back into awareness of her body.

Stairs:

Judy told me about how she applied AT to a task that she finds challenging: going down stairs. She noticed her usual habit was to brace/hold herself together and take the activity extremely carefully. However, Judy realised AT was a counterbalance to this. She now asks herself what would be the most efficient, least gripped, least stressful way of doing it instead of gripping.

Psychological trauma:

Judy talked about how her 1:1 AT sessions helped connect to the trauma of her original injuries which are still in the background. She feels AT helped her accept and acknowledge that trauma, though she is not sure the psychological effect of the trauma will go completely but each time it comes up, it gets less.

Judy says she is now aware of her body through AT. She felt she was out of her body before (avoiding and ignoring it to try to distance herself from the physical sensations) and AT put her mind back into her body. She also feels AT allowed her to feel safe in her body instead of fearful of it.

Judy now feels that if everyone gets the opportunity to have AT lessons at the time of an accident, any injuries need not become chronic problems.

“It’s a tool that helps me reconnect to my body. Now I see things clearer, everything is ok, I am the person I want to be.” – Judy

 

If Judy’s story has got you interested, and you would like to learn the Alexander Technique, telephone me on:

01759 307282 or use the contact page on my website www.janeclappison.co.uk

Jangling Nerves, cafe culture and the Alexander Technique

Photo of a messy desk

I shared a bedroom with my sister until I was about 10. There were lots of pluses to our cohabitation. Excitedly standing at our bedroom window together, on Christmas Eve, trying to spot Santa on his sleigh, was one of them.

On the minus side, I was absolutely challenged by stuff all over the bedroom floor. I still remember the visceral reaction to the chaos. To my sister, the floor was her playground and storage space. It was bliss when I got my own room, though it was extremely tiny. My Dad built cupboards in the room for me. Essentially it became a cupboard from floor to ceiling, with a window and a bed in a recess. It wasn’t hard to keep it tidy.

Somehow, I coped with my sister’s chaos, and over the years I became tolerant to “excessive-to-me” sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, touch, movement: all stimuli. However, if you saw my desk right now you would not think I liked things to be ordered and calm, nor that I still panic when things get too messy. My husband describes my desk filing as a “sedimentary” system and when it gets to full height he describes it as shale.  There is a logic in the chaos as the heap consists of things I am challenged to categorise and thus store,  jobs pending, and things at the ready. I can tolerate the mess up to a point. When I have completed a job, or when I work out where they belong, they are filed away, A-Z style.

Lately,  my tolerance to life seems to have shifted. Visiting cafes (a beloved pastime of mine) is a challenge. It has been gradually changing, but became really obvious last week, when I visited a local cafe that has just been re-furbished. It has huge windows, and the bustling street beyond is in the experience. They have opted for a wooden floor and wooden tables which all scrape and bang, and culminate in unique background percussion. They have lovely twinkly, bright lights, and the sun streams into the windows: it’s a bright environment. They also fitted an extractor fan in the open kitchen and its noises, plus the focused, pressured, yet light-hearted kitchen atmosphere, pervades the whole space. Add to that, the background music, which isn’t really background, customers who turn up their volume to be heard, hissing espresso machines, serving staff darting around. I had ordered, paid, and was sat there realising that it was just-too-much-for-me. I felt every cell in my body was vibrating and I wished for more calm than that cafe could offer.

I gained a better understanding of why things have changed for me when I read an article by Kate Wagner, in The Atlantic (an American magazine):

How-restaurants-got-so-loud

It’s an interesting read. Essentially the sparse modern decor increases noise, whereas the older style cafes had more noise absorbing furnishings. Therefore cafes are generally louder.

So, what did I do when I received my parsnip soup, focaccia, and berry tea? I decided to just be with the whole nerve jangling experience. I used the Alexander Technique to stay present, grounded, and get to know what this experience was really like for me, rather than brace against it and escape from it. I could then nurture myself with the food, luxuriate in the warmth of the radiator next to me, and even enjoy the cacophony. I also pondered on the merits of noise-cancelling headphones.

Do you notice if you brace against excess stimuli or too much chaos? Do you notice the effect it has on your body? Would you like to explore a way to be more aware of your reaction to these things and choose what to do about it? Get in touch! Have a few Alexander Technique lessons. We could even explore the process in a cafe together!

Jane Clappison MSTAT

01759 307282

 

Vogue your way into clothes

Flamenco groupPutting 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

01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

Sick bed musings

Sick bed detritus

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.

Jane Clappison

01759 307282

Contact

Embrace the mystery of the Alexander Technique: bring balance to life on all levels.

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.

 

Jane Clappison

Alexander Technique Teacher

Tel:01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk