Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

Inhibition

now browsing by category

 

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.

Read the rest of this page »

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

 

Under pressure & the Alexander Technique

Light bulb being plugged into socketJane’s December 2019 Alexander Technique Project

Mio Morales, Alexander Teacher, posted a quote, on Facebook, this month. It was about inhibition written by Marjorie Barlow. It reminded me of the ideal way I might have tackled a project, but didn’t. Never-the-less, I did survive the project with inhibition and the Alexander Technique:

 

Inhibition

 

It’s a very active thing! Very, very, active. When you’re passive, nothing’s happening.

No, you’ve got to be very much on the spot to inhibit. For one thing you’ve got to be sufficiently awake to see the stimulus coming. Otherwise it’s too late and you’ve reacted.

Inhibition is further back than people think. Everybody thinks they are inhibiting getting out of a chair or going into monkey or making a movement of some kind.

It isn’t. It’s inhibiting your first reaction to that idea, whatever it is. Whether it comes from within or without. And you’ve got to be all present and correct to be able to do that, to be able to catch it.

 

Marjory Barlow

An Examined Life

 

 

The stimulus, that I wasn’t on the spot to inhibit was the effect of a very small house fire/explosion. It kicked off a huge chain of events that have recently culminated, satisfactorily, in the rewire of a large Victorian house.

The biggest task was clearing and sorting 56 years of “stuff” there through keeping every sentimental object from a family of six and everything that might “come in handy” (broken or not).

It was a huge stimulus. A mental and physical challenge. My days and dreams were full of moving items. I felt like I was in a nightmare. A real life game of Tetris.

The job started off quite calm and measured. However, even though many things went to plan, some things did not. We realised we needed to spend much more time clearing the house. It made me try to do things even faster. Pushing myself to physical and emotional exhaustion. The sleepless nights, full of worrying about the job, just made it all worse.

I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I couldn’t stop. The stimulus, that I didn’t spot too well, that I didn’t catch because I had my eye on the end, whipped me along towards completing the first part of the project in time for the electricians arrival.

Paradoxically I had to stop and apply the process of inhibition. It’s the most fundamental element of the Alexander Technique. It felt extremely counter intuitive because my habit is to fire-fight and to push myself to keep going.

Read the rest of this page »

Alexander Technique and standing still

Stand Still

Recently, I rediscovered a poem called Lost by David Wagoner. When I came across it, I remembered that I had read it out to a group of my students when we were thinking about being in the present moment, something that is an essential part of the Alexander Technique. I am so glad I found the poem again:

 

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner
(1999)

This time as I read it, I thought it would make a perfect subject for my AT topic this month. The bits that stood out when I read it were:

Stand still.

The forest knows where you are.

Let it find you.

Read the rest of this page »

Alexander Technique: Endgaining or present moment?

The bottom half of my parent’s enormous garden was always looked after by my Dad, and since he passed away it has gradually become neglected. The clematis took over the lilac tree and pulled it down, the saplings, brambles and bind weed invaded everywhere. It became a wildlife haven. However, it had to be tamed as it was invading the neighbours gardens too. We also had to tame a lot of the saplings before they became trees too wide and high to manage.

So, my husband, sister and I all converged on the unruly garden last Sunday. We started at different points and hacked our way towards each other. It reminded me a lot of the Sleeping beauty story. Eventually we began to see glimpses of each other through the undergrowth and despite the rain, we kept going and met in the middle. We were surrounded by devastation, sweaty and wet, but had a great feeling of achievement.

Read the rest of this page »

Alexander Technique & Resistance

Resistance

I have a very painful right shoulder. It’s been brewing for over a year. It’s been something and nothing until about 6 weeks ago when it became very stiff and painful and now involves my arm up to my wrist. It has meant I have had to ask for help when dressing and undressing. The challenge of asking for that is another issue!

This week I have been thinking about my resistance to that pain. I don’t want it. It’s a nuisance. Yet it’s there. I try to ignore it but I can’t. It’s just on the edge of unbearable, but of course it’s always bearable because there’s no other option. I try to be independent but I need help. Yes, I also need sympathy and understanding and even that’s hard to accept when I have crazy rules like “I should know how to sort this pain”. I’m irritated and pissed off with it. The resistance to the whole thing, the attempts at being angry with it, ignoring it, fighting with it, bring me a painful shoulder and a lot of inner turmoil and tension. It got me thinking of The Borg (a fictional, alien race: you have to be a Star Treck fan) .

A Google search on The Borg phrase “Resistance is futile” resulted in: “resistance: the refusal to accept or comply with something. futile: incapable of producing any useful result; pointless. So “resistance is futile” means that refusing to accept what is happening is pointless, and you should just give up.”
If you are being assimilated by The Borg then maybe giving up is the option. I’m not Jean-Luc Picard either. I’ve discovered the way is not giving up, giving in or resisting the pain. I have found a more zen like, Alexander Technique approach: I am releasing into what is happening. Releasing into my reaction to the pain or thoughts of future pain.

Movements can be so painful that I unconsciously brace before I move. The bracing is in anticipation of pain, but that often results in more pain when I do move. How do I know that? When I don’t brace I have much less pain. Often it’s still very uncomfortable but I am not adding to it.

Read the rest of this page »

Alexander Technique and Acceptance

When I worked as a physiotherapist I used a process called Motivational Interviewing. One of the key elements to the process, which is about helping people change, is termed “rolling with resistance”. It basically is about not attacking and confronting someone directly. It’s a compassionate way of working with someone who is not yet ready to change.

Despite having years of working with people where I rolled with their resistance, my own habit, applied to myself, is often to go for the cure: attacking and changing something before I have accepted the reality of the situation. It doesn’t work, and it hasn’t worked in a specific instance and the habit is still there. There’s obviously some unconscious resistance. I am not ready to change. I am creating conflict by trying to change something that is not ripe to change. Thus, I have been working with acceptance this week.

I have been gently accepting this habit I thought I had changed, really wanted to change, but had not.

I have been using the Alexander Technique and inhibiting my urge to change the habit. Instead I have been accepting it’s presence and releasing to it. I have learned a lot more about it by doing that.

This same process can be applied to all habits of thought and action, to pain and discomfort. To anything that you want to change. First comes acceptance: doing nothing to change it but, by doing nothing, it’s doing everything. It’s being in the present moment, with it, just as it is, not as you want it to be. Being at peace with where you are.

Read the rest of this page »

“I was totally pain free, having been in pain for years, that was something!”

 

This is the 5th in a series of interviews with people who have had Alexander Technique (AT) lessons. Katherine is in her 60’s, lives with her husband and works from home. Katherine has had a course of several AT lessons over the period of a year and now has the occasional lesson. I asked Katherine a few simple questions about AT and here are her answers:

 

What drew you to the Alexander Technique (AT)?

I have a friend who is also a neurosurgeon who said it would help with my low back pain.

I was using strong pain killers or I was in pain, and I was not as active as I could be.

What differences, having learned AT, have you noticed?

Before, I was in pain or discomfort almost all the time.

Now it is rare and I know more or less what to do about it.

Read the rest of this page »