Alexander Technique in East Yorkshire

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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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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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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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The Alexander Technique and softening the centre

Softening the centre

Let your belly soften.

Not a chance!

The Alexander Technique teacher held his hand softly on my abdomen.

Not a chance!

I confessed I just couldn’t do it. We discussed how my years of dancing, and thinking I had to hold my belly in, contributed to the chronic tension. It’s something a lot of dancers do. It’s also what a lot of western women do, conditioned into thinking that a flat belly is more acceptable.

We agreed I would do a few experiments at home to invite it to release. On all fours was one position I tried. However, the one that had the most impact was standing side on to the mirror and letting my belly go and realising it didn’t look any bigger and actually it allowed my ribs, and the area in front of my ribs to soften and rest. I often tell this story to my pupils when they are doing the same thing! I also remind them that if you look at healthy, fit, indigenous populations they often have a softly protruding belly. It’s normal.

This week’s project is tied into the one from last week. Thanks to a recent refresher lesson for myself I noticed that when I did my whispered Ah’s my gut was stopping me from breathing in with ease. There was a pressure at the bottom of my breast bone. It’s one of the places where I feel discomfort when I get IBS. Unfortunately, following a course of antibiotics it has returned! It was also there because my old habit of tightening my abdominal muscles was back! Well, it never went actually, although I had learned to use the Alexander Technique to inhibit it.

If you fancy joining me, here’s what I did to bring about non-doing:

Notice your belly (non-doing, being mindfully present)

Invite it to soften towards the midline (the spine)

Notice how that affects your breathing – for me it usually allows me to instantaneously take a bigger breath, followed by a huge reduction in abdominal discomfort from IBS.

Your belly naturally will rise on an in breath, and fall on an out breath (perhaps with the exception of extreme athletes)

You might like to do it before a whispered Ah and see if that changes things.

Let me know how you get on?

Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
01759 307282
www.janeclappison.co.uk

The Alexander Technique and Breathing

Breathing in,
I got back to the present moment.
Breathing out,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

(Thich Nhat Hahn)

This week’s “project” has been my breathing. More about why in this month’s blog. However, I was surprised to find, when I paid attention to my breathing, that it was often rapid, and in my upper chest. A deep breath felt difficult because my abdomen was tight and restricting the movement of my diaphragm.

Becoming aware of each breath, and maintaining attention on the breath, is a way into the present moment for many religions and disciplines.

Learning the Alexander Technique does free up the breathing. However, my discovery about my breathing reminded me that breathing can be affected by anxiety, emotion, tension, physical issues: many things.

My breathing has become slower and easier by applying the Alexander Technique. I will share the things I have been doing with you, over the next couple of weekly prompts. They have an indirect effect. They bring me to a place where I can let go of tension and my breathing does itself.

Here’s one of the things I have been doing (to bring about non-doing):

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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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