Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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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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When storm fronts collide

 

“That mindfulness doesn’t work for me, my mind is too full already. I need mind-less-ness.”

Yes, sometimes life is just so overwhelming you want a way out. You want to stop the whole world and get off. It’s just too much. David Whyte, describes it as:

“the meeting of two immense storm fronts, the squally vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside.”

You feel like you are having to run to keep up with your thoughts. They are insisting on a conversation that goes round and round and round whilst you compete in an extreme sports competition. You try to keep up because you don’t feel you have a choice, but you know your legs are going to give out any moment, and you will collapse.

Sometimes it’s not quite so extreme. You always ran on fumes, talked fast, been on the alert, perhaps you physically shake in most of what you do. You’ve maybe had two jobs so you can make finances spread further. You fill your evenings and weekends with things to do. A game of squash usually helps to bring calm, or a long walk in the woods. Then something, almost imperceptible comes along, and that way of being just doesn’t work. Something gives, perhaps you find work becomes stressful or you develop a physical illness, start with persistent pain or  simply you feel like your usual high energy approach just isn’t helpful any more. You crash and burn.

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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.

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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, Smudging & Pain

Pain spreads the longer it lasts. Has that happened to you? It starts with a pain in a small area, like the inside of the knee for instance, and then seems to spread to the whole knee, and up and down the leg. It’s called smudging! The scientific term is disinhibited. It’s something I have known academically for quite a while. I am now observing it in my swollen right knee which has been a problem since February.

The science is there to explain why the pain seems to spread. It’s why my knee often feels “odd” and like it’s much bigger than its neighbour. It explains why I might be tempted to walk with a stiff leg.

Smudging can happen anywhere in the body. A common problem is back or neck pain which often starts in a small area and then spreads up and down, or across the back. It’s a remarkable “extra protection” mechanism that can be great in the short term to reduce movement but most unhelpful in the long term.

So, what can I do about it? What can you do about it if you think you have “smudging” too?  According to David Butler in his YouTube video there’s 3 things to do. One is education and I would recommend watching his video.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QVAY5stO3U

The other two are graded exposure and exploring the “part” in a different context. The Alexander Technique is a fabulous way to help with these two elements and “unsmudge” or re-embody that part that has become smudged.

I am supporting my knee healing by body mapping, thinking about moving, thinking into movement, exploring movement in different ways which are all parts of The Alexander Technique. These all help support the neuroplastic changes needed to unsmudge!

Contact me, Jane Clappison,  if you want to learn how The Alexander Technique can work for you to reduce pain and help you move more freely and easily – 01759 307282.

The next workshop I am giving is “Managing Pain with the Alexander Technique”  on 14th October 2017 if you prefer a group environment to learn. Further details here:- http://www.janeclappison.co.uk/workshops/