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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
I was so excited! My fella was home at last! I was madly in love and thought he was the most handsome man on the planet and he could do no wrong. We were at Manchester airport and we needed to get back to Hull. Basically West across the UK till you can’t go any further. We got in the car and I threw him my map (it was before the days of sat navs).
“Navigate us home will you?”
Despite being in a “caring profession” for the latter part of my working life, in certain ways I have a very analytical brain. It’s probably towards the “masculine” end of the spectrum, and especially where map reading lies. I had navigated for a few road rallies, so I knew how to plot routes and read maps, and I presumed it was common to most human beings, and especially to the male of the species. Consequently I had no doubts the love of my life would get us home via the shortest route. However, this was not to be the case! I discovered he wasn’t perfect and we had our first relationship challenge! I won’t call it an argument, because it wasn’t, in the classical sense.
A few moments passed and I was given my first instructions as to where to go. I was driving, he was the navigator. All was good. I could just point the car in the directions he gave me. So I did.
When we were driving through leafy suburbs, of goodness knows where, I finally said I thought we were going the wrong way. I pulled over. He didn’t know where we were on the map. That was a bit of an alarm bell. I suggested we ask someone, but that didn’t go down well. I regained my confidence when he seemed to know where we were on the map after all. We set off again.
When we were in the middle of a very seedy part of Manchester, next to a row of shops, I again decided to bring up the possibility that we were lost. (Just to clarify, Hull has lots of seedy areas too). We stopped again. This time I decided to check out where we were on the map, but I needed to know where he thought we were. Rough ball park figure? It wasn’t long before I said “You don’t know how to read maps, do you?” and, yes, you guessed, the reply was “No.”
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Entrance swipe card poised in my hand, dressed in perfunctory work out gear, terrified, heart thumping, on the edge of the abyss…I swiped! It didn’t work! Failed at the first hurdle. Panic now rising because I couldn’t even get through the door. If that was difficult then how would I manage whatever awaited me in the gym?
I did get in when someone else came out. I felt helpless, floundering like a fish out of water and yet gyms, just like this one, had been my working environment (my pond) for many years as a Physiotherapist. On this day, I was attending the gym (and still am attending regularly) because I had developed a persistent problem with my right knee and had requested an “exercise on prescription” course which my GP had agreed to.
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For years, mornings started with my own mental daily movie examining absolutely everything I had done the day before. I looked for mistakes rather than successes e.g. when I was dieting the movie was about food eaten, and spotting “mistakes” so I could lose more weight. Teaching session movies were about perceived faults and how I could improve them. Meetings with people were replayed to work out how I could do them “better!” This mental marathon happened before getting out of bed and meant I started off the day with an incredibly “wired” brain! It didn’t change anything that had happened and started the coming day with rules about how I should be different! No opportunity to be in the moment, flexible and go with the flow!
However, I have discovered a few Alexander Technique based steps which make these morning “replays” either non-existent or at least very much shorter and more positive! I’d like to share some of my experience with you!
“When you know better you do better.” Maya Angelou
The change came in when I started to have Alexander Technique lessons. I learned to notice things in the present moment with no pressure. Over a few lessons I became less ridged in my thinking, less angry and anxious. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, with my own emotions and thoughts. I began to know myself much more. I now understand that I did my morning mental check (and maybe you do too) to “keep myself safe”. If you want to know more about struggling with unwanted thoughts, read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris as he explains this kind of thinking in more detail.
Lessons taught me I didn’t, and don’t, have to vigilantly work out how to do things differently. I can make mistakes (and learn from them) and it’s ok. I can be loved for who I am exactly as I am! I am safe. This has not happened overnight. It has evolved over the last 27+ years! I learned to stop bracing myself and let my muscular armour soften and dissolve into a more fluid, responsive state.
However, old habits die hard! So, when I found myself replaying the workshop I had taught at the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique AGM in 2016 I took a different approach to the one I might have done previously. I applied The Alexander Technique to it.
- I noticed my thoughts from a place of curiosity – “Oh, there are those thoughts again!”
- I knew I didn’t have to change anything.
- I became aware of where I was, what I was hearing, seeing and doing which released all sorts of tensions. I knew I was safe in that moment.
- Knowing I didn’t have to change anything, and that I could just BE IN THE MOMENT also had the paradoxical effect of breaking the old pattern.
- Then I applied further “Alexander Technique” in the form of invitation/s (directions) to my body – “Let my neck be free” and ” I invite my shoulders to do less and widen.”
- Now I was feeling much more blissfully in the moment and could breath and know I didn’t need to change anything!
Some of these behaviours may be familiar? If you want to learn how to change tense muscles to responsive muscles, cyclical thoughts to ones that have choices, feel happier in your own skin being uniquely you…do get in touch! Contact me! Jane – 01759 307282