Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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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.

Having an Eco friendly bath is no way to undertake this soak, but it was the only one available to me. The overflow is strategically placed so that I can only be covered by 2/3rd’s of water even when it is full. The bath is short, narrow and I can lay on my back with my knees bent without drowning. Happily, I was able to practice Alexander Technique active rest, releasing into width as much as the bath allowed whilst laying in the Epson salt infusion. I also enjoyed listening to the ocean liner-like central heating noises from underneath the water. A couple of flannels, for warmth, topped off the event: sorry if that’s too much detail!

Bath over, having already been applying the Alexander Technique to laying in an extremely narrow bath, I was pondering on applying it to the unique issue of putting my clothes on. It’s the same problem as dressing after going swimming. How to do this with ease? Hot atmospheres, damp, warm skin and clothing just don’t work well together. There’s that Velcro effect where clothes weld to the skin wherever they touch.

We need another detour here, onto how Flamenco dancing, Madonna and lack of confidence play a part.

Picture a flamenco dancer with their hands spiralling round their body, then take yourself back to 1990, and Madonna’s song, Vogue, and striking a pose.  I recommend you follow the link and watch the video first. It’s a great song and you might enjoy striking a pose? Have fun. I just did! I feel so energised now.

Anyhow, where does lack of confidence fit in? Back in my N.H.S. days I had to go to the occasional meeting. Usually in a stuffy room, sat around a table with other health professionals, at the end of a long week. Picture yourself there as the most senior consultant makes a point. From his position of power he luxuriously floats his hands up and over his head in an arc, palms coming to rest behind his head, elbows wide. He draws a breath, and with confidence, slowly begins to make his point. A while later, a junior doctor speaks out but he just can’t pull off the whole hands behind the head thing. A tiny shadow movement, half going there, and then giving up, happens instead. The effect on the group, and his lack of seniority means his message doesn’t land in the same way at all. To get the full effect try both arm movements yourself, then try going from one to the other. It’s a bit like voguing but less fun.

Back to the sports bra: my usual method looks more like one my Dad used in his motor cycle repair days when all else failed: rive it! After my Epson salts bath, and my Eco friendly chilling out with the Alexander Technique, I was up for exploring what happens if I don’t rive my sports bra on? What happens if I use the Alexander Technique?

Back to Flamenco, voguing and lack of confidence. Well, putting a sports bra on and applying the Alexander Technique looks like a cross between all of those! The up side, is I was laughing my head off by the time I finished and I wasn’t at all flustered like I normally am. The down side was, I took ages to get dressed and I would have been mortified if anyone had walked in on me.

I started by releasing my usual rive-it approach tension. I stopped several times during the process and thought about having a free neck. In those moments of stillness you might have thought I was dancing, but more likely, if pressed, you would have described me as a trussed up turkey.  Sports bras have a unique property of rolling themselves up and becoming extremely rigid and rope like, despite their elastic content. I needed to take a Sun Tzu, Art of War, indirect approach.

What I did learn was a sports bra goes on (and off) much more smoothly when applying the Alexander Technique. However, another tip, if this is available to you: partners come in very handy. Get someone else to help!

 

Alexander Technique can be applied in all sorts of ways, including dressing! If you fancy finding out how, get in touch and book a lesson!

Jane Clappison MSTAT

01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

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.

My news avoidance does not mean I don’t care. My nuclear family do try to save the planet in their small way. I am also grateful for the ordinary things in life and to the extraordinary people whose work brings light to my darkness and positive things into my awareness. The Alexander Technique, is as always a bedrock in my life, as it does help with this tooth pain and minimise my inner Chicken Little.

Here’s something Alexander-ish that’s helping me to calm my thoughts and accept all the messiness and uncertainty.

You might read and say the words and phrases, below, to yourself or

you can listen to me saying them via the MP3, available on You Tube.

These thoughts change how I feel. Each idea would describe learning the Alexander Technique or how it feels to be truly immersed in its effects. It helps settle my anxieties. Invite the words to work with you. It may help you too?

Find yourself a comfy spot. You may be laying down with your knees bent, head on books, or resting gently back on a chair.

In your comfy spot, do nothing, absolutely nothing. Give yourself permission to do nothing.

Sit dear heart and rest.

You may notice thoughts and feelings tossing you in all directions but observe them and let them be. Choose not to follow their path.

Let go of all the doing, trying and striving. Oh! The endless trying. Feels great to let it go, doesn’t it?

Be.

Be, here, doing nothing.

Begin to notice your breathing but don’t try to do anything with it. Open up the possibility of giving up control.

Be willing to not know where this is going.

No need to anticipate what will happen next. Just for a while be rudderless, no landmarks, nothing to guide the way. Nothing to achieve.

Stop.

Where you are going is unrecognisable. Yet part of you already knows you are not going anywhere. It will be such a non-event from here to there.

Trust.

Be still and wait. Feel how liberating the release of seeking is.

Let information come to you. Sounds, sights, sensations, vibrant life goes on.

Rest.

Release the habit of wanting to control, to know what will emerge. Decide not to do a single thing. Decide to be perfect just as you are.

Wait.

Wait without waiting for anything.

Nothing matters here in this void as nothing is matter. Permeate into this nothingness that is everything.

Nothing to seek as everything is already enough. Everything is here in the stillness.

No desire, just pure expanding awareness, deep in the ocean, where all is still.

Time ceases to be past, future or linear. This is outside time, yet time passes unpredictably. Rest in this limitless, timeless presence.

Rest.

As you move on with your day, presence is always there for you in the stillness. If you find yourself feeling anxious and agitated, remember:

The stillness is always present.

Sit dear heart and rest.

 

If you fancy finding out how learning the Alexander Technique is like this, book a session!

Jane Clappison

Tel:- 01759 307282

www.janeclappison.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Learn from failure

“We learn from failure, not from success!”         

Bram Stoker

 

Dear Alexander Technique students,

 

I want you to drop your standards (and me, mine). Here’s why:

 

I was sat in a great cafe, here in Pocklington. They have a tiny table, just for people like me. It’s right next to the cakes, so I can enjoy all their gorgeousness without taking on a single calorie (could inhaling the smell do that?). I was sipping my cappuccino, trying not to get a “joker” smile from the chocolate. I was also writing about my challenges to simply sit down and play my harp.

 

In came a young woman wrestling with a huge guitar case (you know, the type that withstands almost everything), music books and full hessian bags. Before she sat down at a table, the guitar reverently went on the seat next to her, one of her bags got another seat and the floor and table the rest. She gave her order and proceeded to open up a music book and play the air with her fingers. She was humming in her head (I could tell) and tapping her foot too. I knew she was playing that piece, I could almost hear it. Here was a musician, through and through.

 

Intuitively I knew she had the experience that would really help me with my harp playing issue. I sat there feeling a bit nauseous at the thought of going over and starting a conversation. Never before had I attempted that. Then she looked up and smiled at me. The warmth of it gave me courage, to ask her if she still found practising a challenge. Yes, was the answer. She also shared so much more. It gave me hope for my musical adventure.

 

What’s this got to do with standards? What’s it got to do with the Alexander Technique?

 

One of the other things that lovely young woman said, was that she records her playing, and listens to it for mistakes. It’s the mistakes she learns from.

 

Mistakes to her are what help her excel at what she does. They are part of her deep practice. They are her tool to getting better at her craft.

 

So, when we realise we have not “inhibited” when we are applying the Alexander Technique, when we lose the present moment and dive into life without a pause: it’s not a failure to meet a specific standard. It’s simply another bit of information to learn from. We will have the opportunity to grow from those moments, review what it is we want, choose what we might do next time, how we want to be next time, and play with it!

 

Perhaps the standard should be to make as many mistakes as possible?

 

Fancy making some mistakes with me? Take lessons in the Alexander Technique!

 

Jane Clappison

01759 307282

 

www.janeclappison.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parapets and whistling

Penguin on rock

My Dad had quite a few “War stories” he told but the one that I want to tell today is about when he stuck his head above the parapet. A parapet is a low protective wall for concealing troops. It’s a very short story and involves my Dad behind a parapet, his commanding officer, and a random third party doing shooting practice. Apparently his commanding officer bellowed out “Clappison” and my Dad lifted his head up above the parapet, and said “Yes, Sir” and got shot! Fortunately it hit him at the very edge of his forehead. All his kids, and anyone else listening, got to feel the dent in his skull, and the outline of the bullet underneath his skin every time he told the story. He carried the bullet for the rest of his life. I’m guessing it wasn’t a live bullet but a practice round.

My best friend also has a very similar wound from sticking his head above the parapet, but this one happened at school. It happened when he was very young, but he didn’t ever forget it. His body tries to protect him from ever being wounded again, every time he is in company.

Apparently, when he was at school, the teacher decided to tell the class about penguins. As my friend had been reading about penguins, with his mum, the night before, he got really excited. He knew all about penguins and they were from the south west coast of Africa, and even had islands named after them: the Penguin Islands. Unfortunately the teacher had only read about penguins from Antarctica. So when the teacher asked “Where do Penguins come from?” and my friend shot up his hand quicker than anyone else in the class, he got picked to answer the question. The answer made the teacher, and then the whole class, laugh. That bullet landed very deeply and is still felt: everywhere.

My friend hates being at parties. He doesn’t mind sitting on the edge of a group of people. He likes listening to conversations, but it is very unlikely he will join in. He is terrified of being asked a question, and would much prefer to avoid going to parties all together. It has been a habit almost all his life.

So, today we decided to see what would happen if we applied the Alexander Technique to this habit. We talked about what happens when he goes to parties and I could see his face change: his jaw tightened, he wasn’t going to talk, his eyes tightened up, he didn’t want to see, his breathing almost stopped, no air was going to pass his larynx, no sound was ever going to come out, and perhaps if he was really still he wouldn’t be noticed.

We then worked together, respecting the habit was there for a good reason. Firstly we talked about the thoughts, and that they were causing the tension. He wasn’t at a party. The tension remained. I invited him to notice the garden out of the window, and the birds on the bird table. Then I invited him to release his jaw which softened. Then to soften his ribs, so he could take a breath: that took a little while longer, but suddenly a full breath happened and he smiled. We continued working for a little longer. He said he would check in with his jaw when he was next at a party.

I noticed him whistling a little later on. He never does that unless he is really happy! I feel privileged to work with people in this way. To see the person, with their wounds, able to whistle because there is more than one choice on how to react. Perhaps it’s ok to look over the parapet now?

 

Fancy finding out how to feel more comfortable over the parapet, at parties or when you are in company? You don’t have to like parties, but you can feel more at ease. Why not book a lesson?

Tel:- 01759 307282

Jane Clappison MSTAT

 

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.

I was met by a lovely gym instructor, and we chatted about my knee problem and what I was hoping for. The instructor set me up on an inclined bike so it wouldn’t be so painful on my knee, and I reluctantly cycled for three minutes. It was a big deal for me. My world had become very restricted by the repeated swelling of my knee which often flared up with exercise. I continued to feel very shaky inside and cautious about everything I was asked to do, but I felt supported and confident in the gym instructor’s ability. I began to enjoy the workout.

About half way through the session the gym instructor said “Do you know you lift your shoulders up when you do some of the exercises?” I thought ” R-e-a-l-l-y? What on earth…?” and then I remembered habits don’t go away. And, that everything I do during the day, every thought, every action, has the potential to trigger that habit. However, the gym session was a stronger stimulus than normal. I was also nervous, and I wasn’t applying the Alexander Technique to what I was doing. I was trying to speedily comply with the instructor’s requests (to please, to end gain). I was well ahead of myself.

What have I learned from that?

1. Habits do not go away. With all movement, the body prepares outside of conscious awareness, before we move. My habit is there outside of my conscious awareness, in its lifelong way, unless I do something different, which is where the Alexander Technique comes in. It is a conscious process.

2. My pre-gym attempts to push my knee (also a habit) and return to running and dancing were not what it needed. I know improving tissue health is essential and the regular gym attendance has helped this to happen. My knee pain has reduced, strength and balance improved, and I feel more confident and can rely on my knee more. I also know my knee responds to a steady, gentle, paced increase in activity. My knee is not yet ready to run, but I am much more confident that, in time, I can run again without it swelling up.

3. Don’t get complacent, stay present and conscious. Recently the gym instructor suggested I try to stand up, off a bench, using one leg (instead of two). Immediately, all I thought was that I couldn’t do it. I worried about being unable to get my bum off the seat. I could also see, in the mirror, that my shoulders were already trying to help, so I applied the Alexander Technique. I decided not to do the exercise and invited my shoulders to rest. Then I thought “up” and the movement happened smoothly and easily.

4. Be patient with swipe cards

To wonderful gym instructors everywhere (but especially at Francis Scaife Sports Centre in Pocklington, E. Yorks, UK)

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

Want to reduce pain? Try the Alexander Technique.

I am going to join the list of Alexander Technique teachers who admit to this…I have persistent pain!  It has been a part of my life for a few years.

Pain abstract picture

Pain abstract picture

I was diagnosed with “polyarthropathy” (multiple joint pains) though I knew that already. It’s one of those conditions that doctors tell you to “live with” whilst prescribing painkillers, or suggesting heavier drugs that have even more side effects. I opted to see how things go.

Having been a pain management physiotherapist for many years I have a lot of tools to help me with it. However, the most useful “tool” to help me with the pain is the #alexandertechnique.

The intention of this blog is to share what works fantastically well to ease (and often get rid of) the pain. It’s great to do first thing in the morning. It works well for other people I have shared it with. It’s really simple! I don’t start moving until I have done these steps…

One – I know I want to move but I think “stop”. I let go of the thought of moving (not so easy especially with a bathroom visit on my mind!)

Two – I invite my body (via thought only) to let go of unnecessary tension.

Three – I move.

Four – If I find myself walking like a weeble or other unwanted ways to move to avoid pain (habits),  I stop again and repeat steps one and two, and I might also pay attention to my feet and surroundings!

There are other steps in between you would learn if you came for #alexandertechnique lessons BUT these steps are brilliant all on their own. Try it and let me know what happens!