Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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Why do we need to improve our posture Jane? You don’t. Here’s why!

An ex physiotherapy colleague, who I respect greatly, recently saw one of my Alexander Technique (AT) adverts. His response to what I had written was ‘Jane, why do we need to improve our posture?’ The short answer was ‘you don’t,’ but it got me thinking, and thinking…and thinking, about posture. It’s a commonly used word. A simple definition is “the position in which someone holds their body.” We kind-of understand what it means, or do we?

My machinations grew to me wanting to write a blog about posture and how it relates to the Alexander Technique.

I thought it would be useful to link it to a story from my past about posture and I came up short! Literally. As a child, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me to sit up straight or complaining about my posture. However, young kids don’t usually have a problem with their posture. They have an inherent way of doing things that seems to involve a great, easy, effortless way of being.

When I went through school, almost all my friends were taller than me. I guess at an unconscious level I wanted to be level with them. I wanted to be one of the gang and fit in. I know I wanted to be taller as they shot even further upwards. I suspect it was one of the reasons I didn’t adopt a slumped posture. I probably tried to stretch upwards. The reverse is true for many tall children who slump to meet their shorter friends. Of course it wasn’t really about posture but other things.

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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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Alexander Technique, eyes, anxiety and safety

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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Alexander Technique, present moment and feet

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?

Jane Clappison
Alexander Technique Teacher

01759 307282

Alexander technique, gemmology and afternoon tea

Nowadays we might call it abuse, but back in the mid 70’s I didn’t question it. I was told to drink tea by my teacher Ken Parkinson (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) so I did.

Ken was already in his 70’s when I went to him to learn about gemmology. He was always smartly dressed in a brown tweed suit (including waistcoat) and was mercurial in the way he moved around his office.

Ken usually rang me up before a lesson to get me to bring him some Erinmore tobacco and moustache wax. I suspect Ken must have been a regular at the corner store as they sold both those things.

Our lessons would start with tea. As a coffee drinker that was abhorrent, but Ken insisted as I was British, I had to drink tea. The tea arrived on a tray, with matching tea pot, china cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. I had to drink it with lots of sugar at first to get it down, but that’s no longer the case.

During the tea pouring ceremony (because it was a ceremony with Ken) he also started to fill his pipe with the tobacco I had brought. Padding it down, sucking on the pipe, and taking great care with this ritual. The fact his handlebar moustache was ginger in the middle and white on the ends reflected the years of pipe smoking.

I loved those lessons, surrounded by cases of gemstones, sourced from around the world by Ken. Learning to open gemstone packages and Ken’s rather un- PC mnemonics for Mohs scale of hardness, getting to grips with spectroscopes and refractometers, filters, microscopes and the names and beautiful shapes in which gems grow. It was fascinating. My love of tea began then too.

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Toothache, chicken little, anxiety and the Alexander Technique

I don’t know when I decided not take any notice of TV news. Nor do I remember when I consciously avoided reading the daily papers, but it was before the days of the internet. I imagine I was in my late teens. I just didn’t want to know how bad things were.

As I therefore knew less about the world at large, I marvelled at how my maternal Grandmother kept up with current affairs. One phone call got me up to speed. I am sure it kept her keenly aware into her 90’s and also extremely grumpy.

Despite an aversion to bad news, I did develop a liking for the Scottish Post as they seemed to be more about good-news stories. Their cartoons like the mischievous Oor Wullie and the family life of The Broons made for a  hilarious treat. I  now love a very un-PC paper for its brain teasers and TV guide, but my love of newspapers and bad news in general (isn’t it almost always bad now) and current affairs, ends there.

Maybe you feel this sense that most news reports are bad news?

Nowadays I can’t avoid death, destruction, vandalism, global warming, not global warming, air quality, plastic floating islands, mass extinctions, deforestation, wars, starvation, discrimination and on and on. As a result, I find myself being pulled into a state of irritation and anxiety. Like a nagging tooth pain, for which there is no cure. The internet, and particularly social media, seem to have got to me in ways my paper/TV news avoidance could not. Perhaps a remote cave might help, but I enjoy being in and of the world. So, I can’t avoid knowing some of the heartbreaking news we are bombarded with from all sides, today.

At times I feel like Chicken Little, crying out that the sky is falling in. Except he discovered it wasn’t falling in, and that all was well. My conclusion is that we are finely balanced at a point where we don’t know whether the sky will fall in or not.

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