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Jane’s February 2020 Alexander Technique Project: The Mouth/Jaw and the bone prop

When I trained as an Alexander Technique Teacher I was given a “bone prop”.  We used it for a while on the course and then I shoved it in a bag for a few years to surface about a month and a half ago. I now know, to be correct, it is called a Morrison Bone Prop and it was developed by Annie Morrison LCST ADVS for “vocal resonance and clarity of diction”. To quote her website:

https://www.themorrisonboneprop.com/

Lightly held between the teeth whilst performing articulation drills and vocal exercises – the Prop increases the oral space without the need to bite down to hold it in place.

This month’s project has been to wear and use my bone prop every day.

The prop is a short piece of plastic, with dents at each end that allows it to sit on the teeth easily, attached to a ribbon worn round the neck.  I have been using it (placing it comfortably between my front teeth without biting) several times a day.

My main wish was for it to calm my habit of fiddling with a painful area in my mouth with my tongue. It definitely did that instantaneously and it allowed my jaw to become much more relaxed. I particularly noticed how much influence it had, when I went to the dentist for a check up. I was struck by how easy it was to both open my mouth and also hold it open without strain. My dentist was very happy for me to use it.

I have:

  • experimented with holding the prop between my teeth with my jaw soft, both with my lips open and closed.
  • talking with the prop in situ.
  • used it during all sorts of activities from watching TV, driving to walking on the treadmill at the gym.
  • I have also done the five bone prop exercises that can be found on Vimeo:https://vimeo.com/themorrisonboneprop

During the month I have also done some jaw mapping:

  • looking at anatomical pictures of the jaw
  • feeling where my own jaw is
  • feeling the movement at my temperomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • feeling the jaw in movement
  • placing my hands on the main muscles involved in jaw movement and sensing what happens there

I appreciate that seems like a whole lot of doing when these projects were meant to be about non-doing. However, there’s  a bonus of all this doing, and that is, my mouth and jaw have enjoyed blissful release and lots of non-doing which is becoming more and more accessible without the prop.

I have been using the Alexander Technique all the while in this process. I have used the classic Alexander Technique directions (thoughts about how I want to be)  such as inviting my neck to remain free. I have also used other directions to assist with the release of the jaw, tongue, oral cavity, face and shoulder girdle.

It’s been a bonus for my AT clients who have jaw issues as I shared my experiences with them. We combined it with their AT lessons have found the process helped them too.

A bone prop isn’t necessary to use AT to help release the jaw, however it is a helpful adjunct. Even without it, the process of having the teeth separated with a soft jaw, free neck, and tongue behind the bottom teeth will go a long way.

A washed finger placed between the upper and lower teeth, and a wish to have a soft jaw and lips and not bite down on the finger does give a sense of the process with the prop in situ.

However, a word of caution! Do not attempt to use anything other than a bone prop between your teeth for all the exercises (other than the finger exercise described above), for hygiene and safety reasons.

Bone props can be purchased from Annie’s website in umpteen colour combinations (no I am not on commission):

https://www.themorrisonboneprop.com/shop

If you would like to try a few of these ideas out with support, come and have a lesson!

Jane Clappison
Alexander Technique Teacher
www.janeclappison.co.uk

 

“I think the Alexander Technique is a useful tool for balance.”

Road going off into distanceThis is the 8th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique lessons. This interview is with Alice, who is a retired health professional living on her own.

Here are Alice’s answers to a simple set of questions I asked her about her experience of having lessons.

Firstly I asked Alice about what drew her to have lessons. She told me that she had experienced a few trips and falls where she injured herself. For example she broke her arm and hurt her back. The falls made her feel down and she had become frightened of walking and felt she had to plan every single journey. Alice also noticed  that her posture had become stooped, especially when she compared it to her friends.

Alice had a taster session, of Alexander Technique and liked the session and the advice given. After a while, Alice decided to have  a course of lessons in the hope it would improve her balance and posture. When we had our chat, Alice thought she had been to about 10 lessons over the course of the year.

I asked Alice what impact did having lessons make? This is what she told me:

  • My balance has improved.
  • Learning the technique helped me enormously with my confidence in walking and I am not frightened of falling over.
  • My walking is also quicker.
  • I see more around me. I have confidence when I am walking. I now know I don’t need to look at the ground immediately in front of me because I have already seen it coming up ahead, and unless a hole suddenly opens up in front of me which is unlikely, it will be just the same as it was up ahead.
  • I am not sure it has changed my posture so much as I have osteoporosis.
  • Alice also added that she thought that AT was simple but that it’s necessary to incorporate it in daily routine

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Facial Tension, Alexander Technique and making things simpler

child with eye closed and facial paintThis month’s project started when I realised I was “screwing” my left eye up in response to jaw pain. The project evolved over time but was influenced by the ideas in a new Alexander Technique book written by Alexander Farkas, who is a fabulous Alexander Technique teacher. The book is called Alexander Technique Arising from Quiet.

 

In his book Alex talks about how F.M.Alexander was on an endless search to make the technique simpler. I tried to apply the idea to this month’s project but it got more complicated before simplifying.

 

 

I started off in a minimalistic way by thinking of softening an imaginary ring around my eye (probably influenced by knowing there is a ring of muscles around each eye). As I invited that softening, I noticed it caused a cascade of release involving my jaw, neck, throat and shoulders. I was also aware it re-connected me with the present moment.

 

I continued to invite softening round the eye, marvelling at how screwing up my eye was linked into a swathe of tension and also involved a disconnect with the present moment.

 

I also knew there was a lot going on for me which was likely to be influencing my tension so I began to use a “mindful bell” app as well. It gave me a reminder every 5 minutes to release my eye. By the second day, my shoulders weren’t joining in the habit and I was beginning to feel way calmer.

 

I then wondered how I might apply a more commonly known Alexander direction (or thought) i.e.that of lengthening and widening. Could I apply this to my head? I began by inviting the space between my eye and the back of my head (the occiput) to lengthen. I then applied the widening to the space from ear to ear.

 

Alex’s book then had an influence: things could be much more simple. I also wondered how to draw in the idea of non-doing. So I came full circle, to the wish that the whole of my head, the whole of me, release into the space around me. As I did that I also became aware of all the space around me. A sense of me in the continuum of things. That space where it is a joy to have a body and the sense of effortless in being.

 

I think the journey I went on this month did help in bringing me to a point where the wish to release into the space around me brought overall release (including my head, neck and shoulders). Rather like when someone learns AT the classical way. Traditionally we learn the directions one at a time, and eventually there comes a point when they happen all at once from a place of inner calm and quiet.

 

I have shared this project (the steps below) with a couple of my clients whilst they were doing active rest and they found it very useful. You might like to try the prompts below when you are doing active rest? Or maybe when walking (I found that was really interesting)? Or just before sleep?

 

Invite release around the eye

Invite release between the eye and the back of the head

Invite release from ear to ear

Invite your head to soften and release into the space around it

Invite your body to release in all directions into the space around it

Notice what happens

 

If you give this a go, let me know how you get on?

You might like to book an individual lesson and we can work through it together.

 

Jane Clappison MSTAT

Alexander Technique Teacher

01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

Why do we need to improve our posture Jane? You don’t. Here’s why!

An ex physiotherapy colleague, who I respect greatly, recently saw one of my Alexander Technique (AT) adverts. His response to what I had written was ‘Jane, why do we need to improve our posture?’ The short answer was ‘you don’t,’ but it got me thinking, and thinking…and thinking, about posture. It’s a commonly used word. A simple definition is “the position in which someone holds their body.” We kind-of understand what it means, but do we?

As a child, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me to sit up straight or complaining about my posture. However, young kids don’t usually have a problem with their posture. They have an inherent way of doing things that seems to involve a great, easy, effortless way of being.

When I went through school, almost all my friends were taller than me. I guess at an unconscious level I wanted to be level with them. I wanted to be one of the gang and fit in. I know I wanted to be taller as they shot even further upwards. I suspect it was one of the reasons I didn’t adopt a slumped posture. I probably tried to stretch upwards. The reverse is true for many tall children who slump to meet their shorter friends. Of course it wasn’t really about posture but other things.

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The Alexander Technique and pain (again)

Lean into it

 

I am tired. I keep in mind the phrase “this too will pass” because I spend many hours per night awake. I lie awake because my shoulder pain is still with me. I experiment with many positions in the hopes I will find a spot where my arm pain can settle and thus I can sleep.

Yesterday, I got to lay on the sun lounger and fall asleep in the sun. I am sure I was never happier! The sun lounger is too narrow to find a place of comfort for my arm, which continues to catch my breath with the level of pain at times, and so my husband came up with a solution. He made a pile of several cushions to the right of me, and my arm lay on top of it rather regally, and the pain eased. I drifted off to the garden sounds.

The pain seems to have no pattern, it’s intense one moment, and doable the next. I save the analgesics for daylight hours though they don’t always do the trick. The Alexander Technique, hot packs, ice packs and TENS machine are also supporting me, plus exercise and imagining moving my arm (covert rehearsal).

There is plenty of non-doing in all of this. Sometimes all I can do is release to the pain.

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“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.

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It’s easy to slump. I can even do it stood up.

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

“It’s easy to slump. I can even do it stood up.”

“I notice slumping, I notice my neck position, I notice my feet. I am aware of the automatic patterns in everything I do: how to recognise them, get out of them and avoid them.”

 

Nick started playing the saxophone at the age of eight and plays in a band. Nick is also self employed in I.T. He started having Alexander Technique (AT) lessons because of:

  • Shoulder pain, neck pain and pins and needles in his hand
  • Tension headaches
  • Chronic Fatigue syndrome (CFS) and brain fog

The main benefits he has noticed, if he pays attention and applies AT are:

  • No pins and needles in his hand
  • No depression
  • Less tiredness and brain fog
  • Rarely gets neck or back pain
  • Rarely gets headaches which used to be every week & last for days, and now they might happen every 3-4 months

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Out of fear into the present moment

The cycle to work was heavenly. Warm, filled with the scent of newly mown grass and umpteen flowers and the inevitable exhaust fumes from a city commute.

Walking onto wards I was greeted with clouds of talcum powder and many other  unaccustomed smells. My olfactory system, my lungs, my whole being was being assaulted all day long with new stuff!  It was my first ever job as a qualified physiotherapist and I was also struggling to breath!

I had been working in various NHS settings for the last three years as a student physiotherapist so much of the hospital smells would not have been that new, but somehow it was affecting me differently.

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