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The eyes still have it
I have been reminded that what one sees is in the eye of the beholder, including beauty. I gave that some thought and realised how one sees is also the same. Do you notice how you look at things. Do you notice some of the ways that happens? I’ve spotted myself looking for safety, curiosity, pattern recognition, body language. Looking close up with mouse eyes, looking at the big picture with eagle eyes. What do you notice about the way you look. Does it make a difference? How does it affect your body and what you notice as you stay present?
This week I have been marvelling at how thinking about my eyes leading movement has an effect on my neck movement. It started off by doing an exploration described in Elizabeth Langford’s book Mind and Muscle, an owner’s handbook. I am grateful for her explorations of the eyes and have developed another version on similar lines. In the book, one exploration is done on all 4’s and the other is done with walking and changing direction. Both are fun to do. It’s adaptable to all sorts of activities and I have been doing my version in sitting and standing.
For those of you with neck problems might I suggest you do the exploration when you are with your Alexander Technique teacher? Either way, go as far as is comfortable and as few repetitions as is comfortable. You can chose to do only part of the exploration too, instead of all of it at once.
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The eyes have it
When I go out to a restaurant or cafe, I need to sit at the furthest corner to the door, with my back to a wall. Apparently I have that in common with ex service personnel with PTSD. I also prefer to sit at the aisle seat in all sorts of venues. My husband knows this about me and when we go out together he is very happy for me to sit where I feel safe. Yes, it’s about feeling safe.
If the only option is a table in the middle of a restaurant, I can feel the anxiety rising and the dilemma of where to sit at the table. Then I probably chose the spot through gut feeling, though it will be facing the door. I’ve no idea when this need started. I’ve read it’s not a bad thing and that I am security minded. It’s not consistent because I prefer to sit at the front of a classroom, though that might be to do with vision.
Thinking about vision: running the “More Alexander” courses keeps me on my toes. The courses are different every time and are built around the wishes of the group. These opportunities are fabulous as I learn as much if not more than the group in the process of meeting their needs. I am very grateful for them. One of the requests from a course participant this time was to think about eyes and the Alexander Technique.
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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.
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Softening the centre
Let your belly soften.
Not a chance!
The Alexander Technique teacher held his hand softly on my abdomen.
Not a chance!
I confessed I just couldn’t do it. We discussed how my years of dancing, and thinking I had to hold my belly in, contributed to the chronic tension. It’s something a lot of dancers do. It’s also what a lot of western women do, conditioned into thinking that a flat belly is more acceptable.
We agreed I would do a few experiments at home to invite it to release. On all fours was one position I tried. However, the one that had the most impact was standing side on to the mirror and letting my belly go and realising it didn’t look any bigger and actually it allowed my ribs, and the area in front of my ribs to soften and rest. I often tell this story to my pupils when they are doing the same thing! I also remind them that if you look at healthy, fit, indigenous populations they often have a softly protruding belly. It’s normal.
This week’s project is tied into the one from last week. Thanks to a recent refresher lesson for myself I noticed that when I did my whispered Ah’s my gut was stopping me from breathing in with ease. There was a pressure at the bottom of my breast bone. It’s one of the places where I feel discomfort when I get IBS. Unfortunately, following a course of antibiotics it has returned! It was also there because my old habit of tightening my abdominal muscles was back! Well, it never went actually, although I had learned to use the Alexander Technique to inhibit it.
If you fancy joining me, here’s what I did to bring about non-doing:
Notice your belly (non-doing, being mindfully present)
Invite it to soften towards the midline (the spine)
Notice how that affects your breathing – for me it usually allows me to instantaneously take a bigger breath, followed by a huge reduction in abdominal discomfort from IBS.
Your belly naturally will rise on an in breath, and fall on an out breath (perhaps with the exception of extreme athletes)
You might like to do it before a whispered Ah and see if that changes things.
Let me know how you get on?
Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
Finding the present moment
through your feet!
I made my feet, especially my toes, a project this week. Can my feet bring me back to the present moment? It’s a kind of thinking to bring about non doing.
In The Use of the Self, F. M. Alexander talks about taking hold of the floor with his feet. He explains that that habit was part of a bigger picture. It sure is.
During this project I noticed I often try to grip the floor with my toes, sometimes I have a lot of weight on my heels, especially when walking. I got to be re-acquainted with some of the unhelpful habits I have, like standing on the outside of my foot when I dry my other foot. Doing that gives me less stability and area to balance on.
Does all that matter as feet are constantly adapting? What I do know is that I don’t have to do any of that extra stuff. I can do nothing instead. I can let my feet do what they are designed to do. It’s much easier and I get some amazing feedback through my feet for all the movements I do, if I leave them alone.
I was pleasantly surprised as I noticed the sensation of the bedroom carpet in the morning. I am always amazed at finding something new in ordinary, everyday activities. I enjoyed spotting the texture and temperature contrast between the carpet and the wood of the floor in the bathroom.
When I invite my feet to rest on the floor, and release to the floor, everything I do, because it’s part of a whole pattern, becomes easier. It also instantly takes me into the present moment.
Maybe you might like to make your feet a project too? Could be a 5 minute project as you do an activity or a longer term project.
You could focus just on noticing your feet in the moment, notice what happens if you invite them to release.
Notice what around you as you do all of that. Let the images come to you rather than forcing it.
If it seems your feet are illusive – try waking them up with massage, or giving them a wash and dry every nook and cranny, or roll your foot over a tennis ball. There are so many ways, and we do these kinds of things in Alexander Lessons.
If you know about the primary directions like “let the neck be free” add your feet into the picture. Can your feet be free to rest?
Let me know if you have any questions/how you get on?
Alexander Technique Teacher
Jane’s weekly project.
- Changing thoughts into awareness
I have been noticing a “buzziness” in my body these last few days. It’s my system’s way of saying “There’s something I have to do today. What is it?” Then I gently remind myself that this feeling and these thoughts are as a result of the deadline of writing a blog every day for 21 days. It is a product of busy-ness.
Along with all of that I was thinking “I need to resist the urge to do something”.
I told my husband I felt like I needed to do something and he reeled off a long list of things I could be doing. I thanked him and said I have a similar list. I will always have a “to do” list but some things will have a higher priority than others.
I realised that starting to address those “to do” lists, wasn’t what I needed. Nor is resisting the urge to “do” the way. That’s doing.
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