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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.

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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.

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Toothache, chicken little, anxiety and the Alexander Technique

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.

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Navigating, journeys and the Alexander Technique

Globe map of worldI 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?”

“Sure!”

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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Fish out of water

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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Pain, fear of moving & The Alexander Technique “Don’t move the way fear makes you move.” –Rumi

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,Stood before getting onto floor
  • 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)getting onto floor half kneeling
  • 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.

 

 

getting onto floor3 (Copy)

now on 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?

Jane Clappison

www.janeclappison.co.uk

01759 307282

#inhibition #activerest #alexandertechnique #kneepain #livinganatomy #fear

The Alexander Technique, mental movies, anger, stress…and change!

film-331553_1920 (Copy)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!

Joy (Copy)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

 

Labradors, snuffle mats, feet & The Alexander Technique

Kyra, our black Labrador retriever puppy

Kyra, our black Labrador retriever puppy

My family got a new member in the form of a black, mercurial, bouncy, crocodile-like Labrador retriever puppy! We called her Kyra and she is now 14 weeks old calmer and less crocodile-like and more the kind of Labrador that melts our hearts!

We have only just been able to take Kyra out for a walk so she is able to burn off her energy instead of being like a coiled spring!

To reduce her puppy energy to a level we could all live with (before we took her for walks) we used quite a few games to keep her occupied such as a “snuffle mat” I made. It is rather like a rag rug in which we hide biscuits and treats that she has to find. Much of the time whilst making the mat I stood over her indoor kennel as it made a great work bench.

 

 

Kyra asleep in her crate

Kyra asleep in her crate

We do spend a lot of time standing whilst being with her and training her and I have used The Alexander Technique throughout the process. I also used it when making the snuffle mat. The key thing I worked on was the direction “UP” combined with an awareness of my feet and crown. People who have attended my workshops and private lessons will be familiar with this “up” (and this is a link to a great article on it by Avi Granit  http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/the-3-ups/) but even if you do not know about Alexander directions such as “up” you might like to try the following when you are sitting, standing or bending over a surface doing something. It  will bring you into the present moment, ground you and help towards reducing unnecessary effort.

Become aware of your feet and simply notice their connection to the floor and then invite your feet to release and rest on the floor. Your foot meets the floor with an equal and opposite force so no need to push, pull or grip with your feet. Then notice how your feet form a tripod i.e. your heel, big toe and little toe and invite each part of the tripod to be in your awareness. Start with noticing one foot at a time and then both together. At the same time, pay some attention to the room you are in. Yes, you can notice your feet and the room at the same time. It might be more challenging at first. Just notice your feet and the room and don’t try to change anything. Doing this will make a huge difference. Try it and let me know how you get on!

If you want to learn more about The Alexander Technique, why not book a lesson or come to one of my workshops?