Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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Jane’s March Project. The Alexander Technique Direction: “Knees forward and away”

This month’s project was about playing with the phrase:

 

” the knees can go forward and away“

 

If you have not had Alexander Technique lessons before, in AT terms, this phrase is called a direction. Simply put, directions are thoughts to bring about how we wish to move (prevent what we don’t want to happen).

 

F. M. Alexander talked about four main “directions” which are:

 

Let the neck be free,

so that the head can go forward and up,

so that the back can lengthen and widen,

so that the knees can go forward and away.

 

As I mentioned, directions are thoughts. They are preventative wishes. In this case, the latter direction is to prevent your knees/legs fixing, holding, gripping and any other manner of things they get up to.

 

Here’s the process I went through during this exploration:

 

 I started using the direction. The thought of knees going forward and away. I gave the direction (had the thought) in as many positions and situations as I could,

BUT,

Before I gave the direction (had the thought) I did nothing. It’s important to be in a neutral state (inhibit in AT terms) before giving directions.

I became aware of the present moment. Sights, sounds, sensations,

ready for something and nothing,

I then noticed where I needed to do less, though the simple act of noticing brings about less effort.

 

In stopping, coming to neutral, preparing to think knees forward and away, my hips, pelvis and legs released. That release continued up my spine, whole back, head and breathing! I was surprised at how much I was doing unnecessarily and how it affected my whole system.

I reflected on my awareness of the way the leg moves. How the leg is a unit, and combined with the trunk, moves rather like an angle poise lamp, in many activities. It is a complex activity when broken down.

Also that the leg spirals unlike an angle poise lamp! The spiral is an important element of knees going forward and away. Released hips/thighs/knees spiral away from each other as the knees and hips bend.

This direction needs release in the hips/pelvis. It prevents the legs from doing what you don’t want them to do. It allows them to spiral following their inherent anatomical/physiological function. You might not notice the spiral happen, but it is happening, from a present moment neutral state.

 

I invited my knees to go forward and away: For me that is forward and away from each other and away from the back,

invited the thighs to lengthen into the movement,

the back to release away from the knees,

the knees away from the back,

invited the knees go away from each other like off-set headlights,

knees releasing and flowing into the movement.

These invitations can all happen before movement occurs.

 

Movement happens with ease using the Alexander Technique. To allow this direction to happen with ease, the hips are released and the knees start in neutral ( not bracing back), and the spiral has freedom to happen. It is important to be mindful that the movement arises rather than is “done.” It arises from a thinking process.

Doing the movement is counterproductive. Of course this non-doing movement takes a bit of getting one’s head around it. It is a fundamental element of the Alexander Technique but it takes some practice and it helps to have the support of a teacher.

The exploration reminded me that knees forward and away is an important direction in that it feeds into so much of our system.

In summary:

 

  • Do nothing, notice the present moment, notice your legs
  • Soften, release any perceived tension in the body
  • Ease in the pelvis/buttocks
  • Ease in the hips
  • Soft knees
  • Flow through the legs
  • Think “knees forward and away”
  • Choose to move (or not) allowing the knees to go forward and away

 

 

“You have to have the overall intent of going up. And you have got to make sure that you are not bracing the knees, not tightening the adductor muscles, not tightening the muscles at the pelvis and so on. You’ve got to take care not to do those things. Now it will probably help you to think of the knees going forward and away, but do watch out because if you’ve got a yen to do it, to force the knees forward and away, then you will be in trouble. So, remember, the knees forward and away is a preventative, preventative, preventative order.”

 

“The Act of Living” by Walter Carrington

 

If you would like to explore what having ease in your legs both in stillness and movement can be like, prevent doing the wrong thing, come and have a few Alexander Technique lessons! Happy to help!

 

 

 

Jane Clappison

 

01759 307282

 

www.janeclappison.co.uk

 

“The Alexander Technique has been an eye-opener and I wish I had done it sooner.”

This is the 9th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique (AT) lessons. This interview is with Tanya (real name changed for confidentiality).

Tanya started out with weekly lessons and gradually spread them out and at the time of our interview was having them monthly. Tanya has also attended two workshops on running.

Here are some of the benefits Tanya told me she gained through learning the Alexander Technique:

Decreased pain

Improved:

sleep,

digestion,

breathing,

posture,

horse riding,

running and

stamina.

Tanya also said she improved mentally, which she did not expect.

 

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Jane’s January 2020 Alexander Technique Project: Negative directions

Jane’s January 2020 Alexander Technique Project

I’ve been playing with “negative directions” which, Missy Vineyard first described in her 1997 book, How you stand, how you move, how you live.

Robert Rickover wrote a blog about negative directions, if you want to know a bit more about them. There are also links on that page to various podcasts if you want to really immerse yourself.

This is a brief description of them, from Robert’s blog, for your information:

Alexander Technique directions of any kind are self-instructions designed to improve the quality of our posture and the way we move as we go through life. Alexander Technique teachers often teach their students to use “positive directions” such as “I am letting my neck be free,” or “I am lengthening and widening.”

Negative directions, on the other hand, are statements that say “no” to habits that you have (or possibly have) which you would like to stop. They typically begin with the phrase “I am not” – for example, “I am not tensing myself.”

Grammatically, they are negative statements, but they are a positive affirmations that you want to stop doing things to yourself that are harming you.

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“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

Alexander Technique project October 2019: Finding Spaces

A few weeks ago I learned a trick that birdwatchers use to find birds in trees. They don’t look for the bird outline, they look for the spaces that they can see in a tree and are much more able to spot a bird outline.

I hear birds in my garden but many times I wonder what kind of bird is producing such a beautiful song. I generally search in vain for the answer. With this new superpower, looking at the spaces, it was a joy to spot the Robin amongst the branches, following me from bush to bush, eagerly waiting for worms, as I worked in my garden.

I got the tip from a fabulous piece written on the 9th September 2019 on a Facebook page called The Feldenkrais Guild UK.  They have been writing regular pieces which I have often shared to my Facebook page. The pieces made me aware of how similarly Alexander & Feldenkrais saw their work.

The topic for my “project” this month grew from reading that piece because the writer offered a way of applying the birdwatchers trick to the body.

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I like the spread of how the Alexander Technique works

 

There’s a kind of Spiritual side to it:

the joy of moving my body that I had not noticed before

and thinking ‘that’s quite good’.

 

This is the 7th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique lessons. Here are Seb’s answers to a simple set of questions I asked him about his experiences.

 

What drew you to the Alexander Technique (AT)?

 

I found out about the Alexander Technique via an acquaintance and following our discussion decided to try it for migraine. I have now had a year of lessons and think I am just scratching the surface of the technique.

 

What impact has doing AT had?

 

On daily activities:

 

Seb has begun to question and to notice things that he previously had not. Now, he says things to himself like: Why is my face is so tense?  Why am I holding my shaver so tight when shaving? I can do it with less effort, I can do it differently.

 

 

 Instead of standing in a queue for tea at work and distracting myself with thoughts/getting irritated that the queue is so long/looking at mobile, I notice standing. I “play around with it.”

Conference calls at work often got me irritated. I now realise I can sit back and notice other things, not just the irritation about the call but what is around me, so I don’t get sucked in.

I no longer feel, when I wake up in the night, that I have got to get up and read. I used to. Now I can enjoy just laying down and noticing things about laying down.

 

 

There is a joy in noticing.

It’s not like a huge “wow” but rather like noticing a robin in the garden.

 

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Alexander Technique and standing still

Stand Still

Recently, I rediscovered a poem called Lost by David Wagoner. When I came across it, I remembered that I had read it out to a group of my students when we were thinking about being in the present moment, something that is an essential part of the Alexander Technique. I am so glad I found the poem again:

 

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner
(1999)

This time as I read it, I thought it would make a perfect subject for my AT topic this month. The bits that stood out when I read it were:

Stand still.

The forest knows where you are.

Let it find you.

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