Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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Jane’s April 2020 Alexander Technique Project: using screens

Two people looking at screen with poor postureThe coronavirus has meant that much of the world is operating far more online and that includes many Alexander technique teachers. For some of them, online work has been their main source of income. For some, like me, the virus has meant my face to face work has had to stop and I have needed to do some training to grow my online work.  Mio Morales and Jennifer Roig-Francoli generously provided this training.

In the process of exploring online work, I have been practicing giving online lessons with a fellow AT teacher. This month’s  project emerged out of that.

When I use “screens” I tend to, very slowly, inexorably, get drawn into the screen. I hinge at the hips and move my throat towards the screen, lift my chin, and look down my nose. My shoulders and shoulder blades move backwards and together! It is an old habit. I have shared a very old photo of my Dad and I peering at a computer screen screen of his newly purchased BBC machine (very old computer from the 1980’s) to show you how bad it can get. So I know it’s always there if I don’t engage some other strategy. I also get visual and vestibular migraine (strange gorgeous zig zags before my eyes and feeling dizzy) if I use a screen too much.

This habit is not the only one! There are so many ways to lose sight of “good use” when looking at a screen. My version might be like yours, but it may be very different. My colleague noticed they have a similar tendency but the emphasis for them is on the upper chest moving towards the screen and tightening in the lower back.

The project began by reminding myself

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Calm is where you make space for it (even if you feel life is completely upside down)

As you know I write a blog a couple of times a month.

The first blog this month was a project on “knees” and the Alexander Technique.

It has been very difficult to find the appropriate words for the second one of the month. So I did a video and wrote some of my thoughts around why I did a video:

I can’t say it will be alright due to the coronavirus. I can’t say I am coping amazingly well despite all my expertise of relaxation, meditation, Alexander Technique and so on.

What I can say is that I have been anxious, distressed, frightened, calm, peaceful, happy and every other emotion possible. It feels my life was thrown up in the air like confetti and it’s falling down around me. I’m watching it land. Some bits are blowing away. Some bits I have already picked up again and hold close. Some bits I hope I find even though they are out of sight.

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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

 

Alexander Technique: Endgaining or present moment?

The bottom half of my parent’s enormous garden was always looked after by my Dad, and since he passed away it has gradually become neglected. The clematis took over the lilac tree and pulled it down, the saplings, brambles and bind weed invaded everywhere. It became a wildlife haven. However, it had to be tamed as it was invading the neighbours gardens too. We also had to tame a lot of the saplings before they became trees too wide and high to manage.

So, my husband, sister and I all converged on the unruly garden last Sunday. We started at different points and hacked our way towards each other. It reminded me a lot of the Sleeping beauty story. Eventually we began to see glimpses of each other through the undergrowth and despite the rain, we kept going and met in the middle. We were surrounded by devastation, sweaty and wet, but had a great feeling of achievement.

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The Alexander Technique and pain (again)

Lean into it

 

I am tired. I keep in mind the phrase “this too will pass” because I spend many hours per night awake. I lie awake because my shoulder pain is still with me. I experiment with many positions in the hopes I will find a spot where my arm pain can settle and thus I can sleep.

Yesterday, I got to lay on the sun lounger and fall asleep in the sun. I am sure I was never happier! The sun lounger is too narrow to find a place of comfort for my arm, which continues to catch my breath with the level of pain at times, and so my husband came up with a solution. He made a pile of several cushions to the right of me, and my arm lay on top of it rather regally, and the pain eased. I drifted off to the garden sounds.

The pain seems to have no pattern, it’s intense one moment, and doable the next. I save the analgesics for daylight hours though they don’t always do the trick. The Alexander Technique, hot packs, ice packs and TENS machine are also supporting me, plus exercise and imagining moving my arm (covert rehearsal).

There is plenty of non-doing in all of this. Sometimes all I can do is release to the pain.

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The Alexander Technique and eyes (2)

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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I didn’t expect it would work, but it did.

A quote from the blog "I didn't expect it to work but it did.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.

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Empowered Birth

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.

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