Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

The Alexander Technique – Inhibition

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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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Labradors, snuffle mats, feet & The Alexander Technique

Kyra, our black Labrador retriever puppy

Kyra, our black Labrador retriever puppy

My family got a new member in the form of a black, mercurial, bouncy, crocodile-like Labrador retriever puppy! We called her Kyra and she is now 14 weeks old calmer and less crocodile-like and more the kind of Labrador that melts our hearts!

We have only just been able to take Kyra out for a walk so she is able to burn off her energy instead of being like a coiled spring!

To reduce her puppy energy to a level we could all live with (before we took her for walks) we used quite a few games to keep her occupied such as a “snuffle mat” I made. It is rather like a rag rug in which we hide biscuits and treats that she has to find. Much of the time whilst making the mat I stood over her indoor kennel as it made a great work bench.

 

 

Kyra asleep in her crate

Kyra asleep in her crate

We do spend a lot of time standing whilst being with her and training her and I have used The Alexander Technique throughout the process. I also used it when making the snuffle mat. The key thing I worked on was the direction “UP” combined with an awareness of my feet and crown. People who have attended my workshops and private lessons will be familiar with this “up” (and this is a link to a great article on it by Avi Granit  http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/the-3-ups/) but even if you do not know about Alexander directions such as “up” you might like to try the following when you are sitting, standing or bending over a surface doing something. It  will bring you into the present moment, ground you and help towards reducing unnecessary effort.

Become aware of your feet and simply notice their connection to the floor and then invite your feet to release and rest on the floor. Your foot meets the floor with an equal and opposite force so no need to push, pull or grip with your feet. Then notice how your feet form a tripod i.e. your heel, big toe and little toe and invite each part of the tripod to be in your awareness. Start with noticing one foot at a time and then both together. At the same time, pay some attention to the room you are in. Yes, you can notice your feet and the room at the same time. It might be more challenging at first. Just notice your feet and the room and don’t try to change anything. Doing this will make a huge difference. Try it and let me know how you get on!

If you want to learn more about The Alexander Technique, why not book a lesson or come to one of my workshops?

The Alexander Technique, Directions & Cooking chutney

The tension had built up in almost all of my body before it reached a level that I noticed (but then I applied The Alexander Technique.)  You see, today is “Pear Chutney” day. It is a ritual that happens for a day, once a year, except for last year when the tree produced 4 pears and I thought I would leave them for the birds!Pears and oranges on 2 chopping boards with knife

It’s a labour intensive job that is shared with my husband as we peel, chop, squeeze, & de-core our way through pounds of fruit and onions with the outcome of 12 jars of popular chutney.

So that tension I noticed! At first I marvelled at how “end gaining” i.e. producing the jars of chutney in the quickest possible time, can suck me into all sorts of habits that result in discomfort! Then I noticed where the tension had built up! My feet were gripping, my legs were rigid, my hands were holding on tightly to the knife, the back of my neck was doing way more than it needed! Then I remembered that I can enjoy the journey, by applying The Alexander Technique, as well as produce 12 jars of chutney!

Jane standing chopping in monkey positionI stopped chopping for a moment. I noticed the warmth of the oven on my leg (the cooking chicken for our cat). I invited the tension in my body to release and for my feet to rest, instead of grip. I also noticed the coolness of the floor!

Over the next few hours, I took time to notice sights, sounds and yummy smells and I gently gave myself a “direction” every now and again.

Directions are an important part of The Alexander Technique. They are rather like wishes in a fairy tale. I just need to say these directions to myself, to ask, and my body knows what to do. I gave “directions” to my hands to hold the knife softly, to my ribs to float freely with each breath, to my neck to allow my head to rest on the top of my spine, for my back to widen. I invited my calves to soften and release my heels to the floor. I invited my crown to release away from my feet. I invited flow through my legs as I stood in a monkey (with my knees releasing away from my back). I was less machine like and the process became more of a dance.

My husband (who has had Alexander Lessons) noticed what his neck was doing. As he is much taller than me we got a box so he could continue cooking at a better height for him. He too stood in a monkey position to put much less pressure on his spine.

Man stood at kitchen counter with bad posture  Box on kitchen counter with chopping board on top     Man stood at kitchen counter in monkey position

We took time out to have a coffee, we went out and enjoyed the garden, and we even caught up on Dr Who! We paced the task and we got the chutney made with no discomfort. Actually I really enjoyed it and took some pictures too!

pan on stove for web

Interested in the Alexander Technique and how do things mindfully, with much less effort? You will learn how to use directions and how they can benefit you in daily life! Use my contact page, or give me a ring on 01759 307282 to book a lesson.

With thanks to all my Alexander Technique teachers, but  in particular to Walter Carrington (who I met through his books and through his pupils) for the fairytale wishes.

www.janeclappison.co.uk

 

Copyright – All photographs – by D J Clappison.

 

The Alexander Technique and Slippery Elm!

I recently discovered with delight how one of the main principles of The Alexander Technique i.e. inhibition, became a godsend to me in relation to taking a herbal remedy .

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