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This is the third interview, in a series of interviews with students of the Alexander Technique (AT) about their experiences of learning the technique.
Students of the technique often come with a specific problem they want to address but then find that they gain a lot of other benefits they had not envisaged.
The following are some of the highlights of Judy’s experiences of applying the principles of AT in her daily life. Judy says it helps to:
- make her walking easier,
- help her manage stairs and slopes easier,
- release into her meditation practice,
- make sitting easy,
- feel she can work out how to do challenging tasks with more ease,
- help her to be calm and feel peace.
Judy is in her 30’s, lives alone and has a number of physical issues which involve both traumatic injuries that became longstanding problems and hyper mobility.
When Judy started learning AT she hoped the technique would have an influence on her posture and help with the pain that occurred with everyday activity. She admits, she didn’t expect it to work, but found out that it did.
Judy decided to learn AT after exploring a number of routes including internet searches, book reading and her physiotherapist’s suggestion to have lessons.
Judy used a number of ways to learn AT including workshops, individual lessons with me and reading more about AT.
Through AT, Judy has learned how powerful her thoughts are in influencing her daily life and she now has a more expansive way of moving in various tasks. Judy says AT is an easy process, not one that requires her mind to churn over.
Judy has found that AT acts as a trigger to release old habits like bracing before an activity (common to many of us).
Learning AT means the technique can be applied to all life activities. It gives a way of thinking about the process of doing activities so that you easily arrive at the most appropriate way to do it and find ease and efficiency. Here’s a few ways in which Judy has applied AT in her life:
Judy said she now knows sitting is easy but before AT she used to kill herself trying to sit upright. She said she was trying to hold a good posture and tried to be good whilst she sat but now she knows about softening and letting go in sitting and as a bonus it improves her posture.
Judy says AT helps with both her meditation practice and general awareness. Judy says she can now sink into meditation. Judy did point out that she also sees AT as a form of meditation.
Judy described a pattern of behaviour that she has become more aware of since learning AT. It happens when she becomes less mindful, less aware. She finds she enters a cycle/circle where she drops things, knocks into things, loses her balance and falls because she has lost her body awareness. She arrives in a room and forgets why she’s there. She rushes, becomes anxious, makes mistakes, and her muscles become tight. Judy told me when she is like this her thoughts are more intrusive and repetitive and she becomes exhausted and experiences fear, pain and tiredness. In the past she couldn’t see a way out of the cycle.
When Judy is like this her only option is to stop. She finds the pain can build even more at that point and describes it like entering a field of hell.
Nowadays she can swing back into this cycle of bad habits but they come less often, and last for a much shorter period. It is in this state she has found she can use the AT and meditation tools. She notices her cyclical thoughts. She notices her fear and she uses AT to come back into awareness of her body.
Judy told me about how she applied AT to a task that she finds challenging: going down stairs. She noticed her usual habit was to brace/hold herself together and take the activity extremely carefully. However, Judy realised AT was a counterbalance to this. She now asks herself what would be the most efficient, least gripped, least stressful way of doing it instead of gripping.
Judy talked about how her 1:1 AT sessions helped connect to the trauma of her original injuries which are still in the background. She feels AT helped her accept and acknowledge that trauma, though she is not sure the psychological effect of the trauma will go completely but each time it comes up, it gets less.
Judy says she is now aware of her body through AT. She felt she was out of her body before (avoiding and ignoring it to try to distance herself from the physical sensations) and AT put her mind back into her body. She also feels AT allowed her to feel safe in her body instead of fearful of it.
Judy now feels that if everyone gets the opportunity to have AT lessons at the time of an accident, any injuries need not become chronic problems.
“It’s a tool that helps me reconnect to my body. Now I see things clearer, everything is ok, I am the person I want to be.” – Judy
If Judy’s story has got you interested, and you would like to learn the Alexander Technique, telephone me on:
01759 307282 or use the contact page on my website www.janeclappison.co.uk
Call the Midwife is my favourite TV programme. I feel totally emotionally wrung out after I have seen an episode but, despite that I couldn’t miss one. Episodes are set in the 1950’s and 60’s and involve a team of midwives, based in a convent in the East End of London. My heart bursts open each episode with the compassion and kindness portrayed through human stories from birth to death. An episode I recently watched involved 2 main stories. One of a sensitively portrayed death from cancer and the other of a single mum who had a breech birth (i.e. feet first, when many babies come head first).
Breech births are more complicated than a head first birth and need a skilled birth companion as support during the birth. The nurses on Call the Midwife knew what to do. Nowadays most potential breech births end up with a caesarean delivery, to minimise risks.
Caesarean deliveries for some while have been as quick as possible and very perfunctory. Especially in an emergency when there is a sense of urgency.
I was delighted therefore, to watch a video of a slow caesarean. In this video, baby’s journey into the world was, as I saw it, powerful. They had lower lighting, music, mum could see what was going on (not screened from it) and once babies head was clear the surgeon was mostly hands off. The awesome thing was that the baby pushed itself/walked itself out. After that, baby was put on mum’s chest for skin-to-skin bonding for as long as she wished (which in this case was six hours!)
The Mum to be had informed choice, and had a birth plan, that was honoured.
There are complications in both caesareans and breech birth. So whether a woman gives birth vaginally or via caesarean, she should have informed choice. She should know the risks and benefits, whatever way baby comes, of all her options. She should also be able to decide, for herself, what is the best way of birthing for her and have her wishes respected.
The medical profession should be available to support her, to be informed, every step of the way, pre-conception onwards.
The Alexander Technique can also support women and help them to be empowered at all stages of pregnancy. For example, how to adapt comfortably to the changing bump. How to prepare for the type of birth or positions during the birthing process. How to feed, push prams, lift baby, play, and all other post birth activities…with ease.
There are a couple of books about the Alexander Technique and Pregnancy*. If you want to know more, maybe read one of those books or contact me for a session.
How might it help you? I will let a client and her husband tell you what learning the technique did for them…
EW & EW 1/9/16 – I wanted to thank you for all you work and support. The birth was wonderful. I laboured on my knees with my husband with me and in the water. I progressed quickly with being so low and delivered naturally despite her being in a back to back position
I had the most fantastic experience. I never understood when people said they enjoyed their birth experience before. I could cry thinking about how peaceful it was. Another thing I noticed is that I didn’t ache at all after the birth because my body was so relaxed throughout. When I had my first baby I was so frightened I ached for days after from the tension. I am now using the techniques when breast feeding to check my position.
I would recommend it to everyone and will be passing on the book you recommended. I will definitely be back in touch once I’m back in the world for some more sessions!
I’ve seen my wife give birth to both of our beautiful daughters. The pain of her first labour was mitigated only by gas, air and heavier-duty forms of pain relief thrown her way; the rigours of the second, however, were barely evident to me as she breathed and chanted her way through in a state of near-calm. From my viewpoint, her two labours couldn’t have been any further apart – the first saw her shrouded by tears and expletives, thrashing around red-faced in agony; the second, using the Alexander Technique, was typified by a serene sense of purpose. She didn’t swear once.
Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
*The Alexander Technique for Pregnancy and Childbirth – Britta Forsstrom and Mel Hampson
*The Alexander Technique Birth Book – Illana Machover and Angela Drake