Alexander Technique Competition

Dr Miriam Wohl talks about the Alexander Technique.

As a student of the Alexander Technique I was lucky enough to attend a workshop by Miriam Wohl. She was talking about being an Alexander Teacher. Her workshop was very informative and I was very impressed.

Here Dr Miriam Wohl talks about the scientific evidence for the Alexander Technique. This is very fitting because Miriam Wohl is actually one of only 13 medical Doctors who trained and qualified in the alexander Technique. Scientific validation of the technique is something I am sure Miriam will appreciate fully. The British Medical Journal published the findings

See full article here. https://alexandertechnique.co.uk/sites/default/files/at-press/2018/miriam-wohl-basem.pdf

Forward and Up: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique

By Pedro de Alcantara

1. The General Principles

The Use of the Self

Picture, in your mind’s eye, a four-year-old girl laughing with delight at something she has seen or heard. Then ask yourself the following question: Is her laughter the expression of a physical or a mental state? You will soon conclude that her laughter contains the whole of her being – her mind, her body, her emotions, her creativity, her perceptions of the world and of herself.

Perform this experiment a few more times. Imagine a concert artist on stage, a driver during rush hour, a mother breastfeeding her baby; then ask yourself whether their actions are primarily physical or primarily mental. In truth, all human beings reveal their whole, indivisible selves moment by moment. Their gestures may be awkward or masterly, executed with a degree of self-awareness or under a fog of distraction; regardless, the essential unity of their lives is constantly manifested in all that they do.

Mind-Body

And yet we tend to separate body and mind in our assessment of ourselves and of others around us. Symptomatic of this split is that we see the workings of the body as separate from the behavior of the body’s owner, so to speak. “My shoulders are tight,” we tend to say; or, “My back is killing me.” If we embraced the unity between body and mind – that is, the inseparability of the physical “doing” and the mind that wills that “doing” – we might say “I’m tightening my shoulders,” or “I’m misusing my back.” This represents a different attitude, one in which we sense and accept our responsibility for our state of being.

Language both reflects and shapes the way we think. To free ourselves of the belief that “the body” and “the mind” operate separately, and of the consequences of this disconnection, we need to free ourselves of our very language. Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) understood this well and chose his vocabulary carefully. On the one hand, he relied on little technical jargon; the glossary of the Technique has no more than half a dozen terms. On the other hand, he refrained from using words which imply a separation of body and mind, like “body mechanics” and “mental states.” Instead, he spoke simply of “the self,” which “reacts” and “functions.” We can say unequivocally that the Alexander Technique is not a method of physical relaxation, of posture, or of the use of the body, but of The Use of the Self – as Alexander titled his third book, originally published in 1932.

Stimulus and Reaction

The laughing child of our example is reacting to something she has heard, seen, sensed, or imagined. Her life is a never-ending succession of reactions to a never-ending succession of stimuli. And so is anyone’s, for the flow of life and its excitement never stop. Indeed, to be alive is to react, and to react is both inevitable and desirable. A problem arises when one’s reaction is not appropriate or adequate to the needs of the situation. We all know men and women who react quickly, strongly, and negatively to almost all that happens to them. It is as if they are ready to react, always in the same way, regardless of the situation in which they find themselves. Unwilling to sense each situation as it unfolds, and incapable of deciding and acting according to the uniqueness of the situation, they do not so much react to a situation as to their fixed, preconceived idea of what a situation is or will be. Needless to say, they may well not be aware that their attitudes, not the situation itself, is the cause of the difficulty.

The person fighting a situation with a fixed mind – be it a violinist hacking through a difficult passage backstage before a concert, an annoyed bus driver during rush hour, or a mother impatient with a crying child – shows multiple signs of strain. Each person is different: one is brusque and stiff, another hesitant and timid; one lacks suppleness, another vigor. Most are animated by excessive tension (or, more precisely, by the wrong kind of tension, wrongly applied, and for the wrong length of time). These strains, and the high emotions that underlie them, constitute a misuse of the self. Repeated misuse may well lead to disagreeable feelings and sensations, aches and pains, and – in due course – illness and disability.

End-gaining

Why do we misuse ourselves? Many answers have been suggested, including education (or maleducation), imitation, the stress of modern life, lack of time, and so on. But in his diagnosis of misuse, F.M. Alexander again showed his insight. If misuse is what we do, its origin is in what we wish to do. And, by and large, we wish to attain quick, easy, direct results in all that we do. Alexander called the unreasonable wishing that motivates our misuse “end-gaining.” He considered it a universal tendency and thought that end-gaining – not education, imitation, or modern life – was the ultimate cause of our difficulties.

End-gaining is so prevalent that we are almost unaware of its presence and importance – it is considered normal. Economic policy and political discourse, for instance, are often affected by the end-gaining of officials who try to produce short-term results (perhaps ahead of an election) despite the long-term costs to the nation. In all the arts, there are creators who aim for “effect.” We watch a movie and become conscious of the director’s effort to manipulate our emotions and extract a tear from our eyes, such manipulation is a form of end-gaining. A tennis player who, overly keen on the win, smashes the ball into the net, has committed a small act of end-gaining.

And we, human beings of average ability leading our daily lives, sitting, standing, walking, talking, driving, interacting with other people, all end-gain and misuse ourselves. The simple act of moving from a standing to a sitting position illustrates end-gaining and misuse to perfection. People sit down as if they were looking for the chair with their buttocks; the chair itself is their desired end, which they pursue unthinkingly, inattentively, automatically. In the process they tend to contract the head into the neck, lift and round the shoulders, jut the chest forwards, and stick the buttocks backwards. Alexander teachers see the end-gaining of simple daily activities as fertile ground for their work.

Alexander contrasted the “end-gaining principle” with the “means-whereby principle,” his term for the series of intermediate steps and indirect procedures that allow us to achieve our goals in the manner best suited to each situation. In the case of sitting and standing, these may include suspending the action for a moment. Becoming aware of the assumptions one makes (most times unconsciously) about where the chair may be and how to reach it, sensing one’s tendency to rush or to block an action. Taking some time to execute other gestures, directly or indirectly related to sitting and standing; and other procedures still. In time, these would lead the pupil to sense how he end-gains and how to stop end-gaining, with all the consequences that such a change of attitude entails.

Why Alexander is so much more than posture!

F M Alexander Working

Just look at those hands!

The continued use of the Alexander Technique in ones life ensures an increased sense of wellbeing along with good posture.

 

 

It is a great shame that the Alexander Technique is associated with improved posture and that many of the unique benefits are often lost or just not known about.

F M Alexander, the founder of the Alexander Technique, was born prematurely in 1869. Consequently, he suffered breathing problems, generically labelled asthma. He almost died and had to be fed not with mothers milk, but with goat’s milk, his sensitive digestive system unable to cope with anything else. He was fed with a tiny little pipette. He was lucky to survive. We were all very lucky he survived.

This goes a long way to helping us understand the man who has developed the Alexander Technique which is now practiced all over the world by literally thousands of people. So why is it, that people know so little about this amazing technique? Not only that, but why do so many people think it is just about posture?

It is true that those who practice the technique fully and for some time develop a fantastic posture. But are we really to believe that posture is interesting or important enough to dedicate a whole subject to? Has any other technique been developed to cover only posture? Of course not. The simple reason why the Alexander Technique is labelled as a postural technique is because most people are lazy and it is far too much trouble for most people to think about it in any other fashion.

So what is the Alexander Technique? The trouble is, it is actually quite difficult to say. So let’s break it down. Firstly, we would have to say that the technique  helps with musculoskeletal problems; stuff like back pain and neck pain, knee problems and shoulder tension. So this would put it in the same sort of group along side Physiotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic’s. This would not be far from the truth as many people have benefited from relief of symptoms even in cases where the other practitioners have failed. So that is already far more than a posture technique and we haven’t even started yet.

Secondly, we have to look at the effect the technique is known to have on the psychological and emotional aspect. In order to explore this we need a case study. Let’s take George (real name changed), a 24 year old who when he first studied the Alexander Technique had failed to be inspired by conventional psychology and was feeling depressed, suffered from a hyperactive nervous disposition and often had bouts of paranoia. He was also generally suffering from a lack of confidence. His state was very un-relaxed and could not sit still or concentrate very well at all.

After a series of 10 lessons, George complained that he felt all his emotional problems were racing to the surface and he could not handle it. He stopped doing the lessons for about a month. Then he returned saying that he thought it ‘was all happening too fast.’ He now felt ready to go on. Using the technique George found that he was able to change all of the negative aspects described earlier. He was now more confident, relaxed, centred, focused and he showed no signs of nervousness, hyperactivity or paranoia. Clearly this demonstrates that Alexander Technique has implications within psychology and proved to be far more effective for George than he had found in more conventional services.

Thirdly, we must discuss the effects on learning.

“Alexander established not only the beginnings of a far reaching science of the apparently involuntary movements we call reflexes, but a technique of correction and self-control which forms a substantial addition to our very slender resources in personal education.” – George Bernard Shaw, playwright

“It (the Alexander Technique) bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other activities.” – Professor John Dewey, philosopher and educationalist.

A very close friend and confidant of Alexander himself, Dewey was interested in the Alexander Technique as a way of helping people to become more open to learning. If we can improve the way people behave mentally and physically, we can also improve their capacity to learn. A violin student who was asked to play a simple scale, became riddled with tension. This tension undermined the sound of the instrument significantly. When the Alexander Technique was used to relax the student, the tone of the instrument improved dramatically. The student was able to use a better approach to playing the instrument and  therefore developed the skills needed to meet the challenge of making the violin sound beautiful.

When I went for a golf lesson for the first time the instructor was surprised at my success and commented that I was a natural. This I knew was not true, as when I had tried golf as a youngster I was quite poor. I said to the instructor, ‘No I am using the Alexander Technique.’

To this day, the Alexander Technique has been applied to many different activities; swimming, running, acting, playing music, and many books are available on its application to a wide variety of specific areas.

We must conclude that it is a very narrow perspective the general population seems to have about the Alexander Technique. Clearly it has a lot more to offer. We might say it is one of the best means of personal development known to man. No matter what you would like to be better at or would like to improve, it is your self you need to work on. The Alexander Technique allows you to work on the whole of your self in a very unique way, improving both mental and physical attributes. Or to put it a better way;

“Mr. Alexander’s method lays hold of the individual as a whole, as a self-vitalizing agent. He reconditions and re-educates the reflex mechanisms and brings their habits into normal relation with the functioning of the organism as a whole. I regard this method as thoroughly scientific and educationally sound.” – Professor George E. Coghill, Nobel Prize winning anatomist and physiologist.

The continued use of the Alexander Technique in ones life ensures an increased sense of wellbeing, we become more efficient at everything we do, our awareness of and connection to reality is improved along with our mental health.

It is certainly a great shame that the world at large have either never heard of the technique or have so many misconceptions about it that it just doesn’t figure in their life choices.

Ask around, read the testimonials on the hundreds of websites, spread the word.

Happiness is far too important to miss out on.

The Alexander may well improve posture but that is most certainly a bi-product and not the real fruit!

improve posture

Good posture is a bi-product, not the main fruit.

 

Nicholas Chapman Alexander Technique
December 2017

The Alexander Technique, Fibromyalgia, CFS and Musculoskeletal Balance: Part 1

In this article I do not want to repeat all the information on the internet about the history of FM Alexander and how he developed his techniques: what I do want to concentrate on is precisely how The Alexander Technique can be used as part of an adjunctive strategy along with other techniques, with respect to alleviating your Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms. 

All the techniques I detail have a way of dove-tailing into each other and symbiotically deepening the effects of each other. 

Basically, my angle on the Alexander Technique is that I want to take what I need from the techniques and apply them directly to assist with the musculoskeletal problems that are maintaining patients Fibro and CFS symptoms. 

Bottom line: There is a way of moving that your body likes and a way that it doesn’t. 

When you have an injury or imbalance there is a way of moving that helps the body heal and a way that prevents it from healing. 

All musculoskeletal conditions have varying symptoms and present in different ways, but all have one thing in common, they can all be made better or worse by the way you align your head, neck and trunk as you go through the movements and postures of your every day life. 

The muscles which support your skeleton are usually asked to work far too hard for the task or tasks that they are being employed and over time this can lead to them becoming “stuck” in this state of excess tension aka Trigger points. These may gradually worsen over a period of years. 

When you are then attacked by whatever initially triggered what you consider to be the “recognized” start of your life with Fibromyalgia/ CFS, then if your muscles were already habitually in this state of excess tension, then post infection, one of your main symptoms will then be the muscular pain. 

When you go on to present at your chosen healthcare provider, you will be labelled more towards Fibromyalgia rather than CFS and you will be tested via the trigger point methodology. 

Your primary diagnosis will be Fibromyalgia as oppose to CFS. 

Let me make one point clear that is an over-riding theme through all the therapy that I outline: Your body has an innate capacity to heal itself, but as human beings in Western Society we are hell bent on destroying everything that nature has taught us and switching to unnatural modes of action simply because its fashionable or that is the way everyone else does it, or that’s the way things are made and manufactured etc. 

Look at toddlers when they first sit up and stand, look at the perfect alignment of the head neck and torso, and look at the ease and grace with which they move. All humans are born with this grace and poise and we “choose” to unlearn it as soon as we can possibly start copying moody slouching, ill postured teenagers and adults. 

Take the simple act of sitting in a comfy chair that maybe 200 million Americans are doing right now as you read this. The reality is that that chair is NOT COMFY just because it says so on the manufacturer’s label! 

The typical slouching position that people are forced to assume on a daily basis is absolutely against all the natural laws of correct posture and alignment of the spinal column and results in these millions of people holding their body in a state of excess tension for all the time that they actually believe they are “relaxing”. 

In third world countries where natural posture is forced in daily lives due to the unavailability of “comfy” sofas, “bad backs” are relatively uncommon and unsurprisingly so is Fibromyalgia and CFS as defined by Western Society. 

Fibromyalgia and CFS are largely diseases of modern “civilized” society. We have evolved through the industrial age in a few hundred years. 

But by comparison, it took millions of years of evolution just for our body to become bipedal. 

Take the “comfy” sofa example again. What are manufacturer’s criteria in designing and building this item? The real design specifications are that it is more fashionable than the competition; it can be made more cheaply than the competition so the mark-up and profit can be higher from each sale. 

Do not for one minute believe they are sitting round their brain-storming coffee mornings saying “lets design a sofa so our buyers can relax in a natural position, realign their faulty posture and avoid muscular tension.” 

If this was the case the comfy chair would not exist in its current form. 

Another example of the misuse of our body forced upon us by tradition and the manufacturers design specification is the W.C. 

In terms of passing a motion comfortably this piece of furniture is absolutely wrong and causes a requirement for a huge amount of pressure to be applied by the lumbar area in order to expel a motion. 

In a later article I will be diagramming the changes I recommend for sitting posture and using the W.C. 

You may not initially be overwhelmed by what I recommend, but your body will. 

I am not a qualified Alexander therapist, this takes four years of training and so I recommend that you seek a trained therapist in your area, but not until 6 months after you have begun the core therapy. 

What I recommend is that you employ the simple strategies I outline in my next article which will present quick wins in terms of your overall musculoskeletal anomalies. 

I have talked about the musculoskeletal anomalies inherent in Fibromyalgia and CFS sufferers and how they are responsible for maintaining your illness. 

You may be suffering from recurring musculoskeletal pain but do not know exactly what brings on the attacks. Often it is years of poor postural habits which are causing your musculoskeletal imbalance, and we need to address how to change these habits. 

Examine the facts 

Arthritic symptom severity can be reduced by postural habits, keeping the joints moving. 

Spinal surgery or a disc problem can be helped by learning to use the abdominal and back muscles correctly. 

General Back pain can be helped by correct movement as oppose to just bed rest 

Pinched nerves in the neck or lower back are usually the result of compression due to faulty postural habits. 

The first thing we need to learn is to reduce overall spinal compression as this will reduce the flare-ups of musculoskeletal pain which are contributing to your overall experience of Fibromyalgia. 

As you are no doubt aware, when you are in more pain, your sleep is affected and therefore so is your fatigue CFS. 

Using your body correctly results in less pain, improved healing, better sleep, less tension and therefore less fatigue. Sound good? 

If you doubt the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique look at it from this angle. 

Modern medicine and modern science are in no doubt about the following sequence of events. 

Stress causes anxiety. The emotion anxiety produces an excess of the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline which are known to cause ulcers, high blood pressure and tension headaches and that’s just in the short term. 

Nobody doubts that the conscious mind can be utilized to interfere with these thought processes, and similarly with skeletal muscles, the mind can attain precise conscious control over the way they are used to restore and improve overall health 

That is all we are going to focus on by using the Alexander Technique. 

Alexander’s approach to musculoskeletal pain 

Alexander’s approach tries to address the totality of a body. This means that in solving a specific problem, i.e. a problem that may occur in one area of the back. This cannot be healed unless the entire back is used in a well integrated way. 

Being aware of, and able to control our supporting musculature. Alexander understood this and teaches how to control gravity and work with it rather than against it. This is essential for people with recurring back pain 

Learning to do less with the body overall. This is an important feature of Alexander’s work with respect to back problems. This doesn’t mean just being lazier, but rather eliminating unnecessary muscle tension and bad postural habits at the root of back pain 

I cannot express the importance of this to Fibromyalgia sufferers; in so many Fibromyalgia patients the tension cycle is what exacerbates their trigger points. 

Pain causes more tension which in turn causes more pain and so on. By learning to short circuit the pain cycle they can prevent a flare-up of fibro without having to resort to muscle relaxants and painkillers, also they don’t waste the little energy they have on unnecessary muscle tension. 

In the next article I will focus on Alexander’s concepts of “good use” and then the specifics of how they can be applied in everyday life to help Fibromyalgia and CFS patients reduce their musculoskeletal pains.

-by: Mark Shaw 

Alexander Technique in the Workplace – The British Library

Thespians and workplace staff everywhere have cause to be grateful to Australian actor Frederick Matthias Alexander. Troubled by problems with his voice on stage, and unable to find help from conventional Victorian medicine: Alexander created his own therapy, based on observation of his own body and posture.
The technique is based on the relationship between the head and the spine, from which the condition of the rest of the body flows. Slouch and you will suffer – create delicate poise and you release unnecessary muscle tension and relieve everything from neck and back pain to arthritis, migraines, sciatica, insomnia and even depression.
Keen to experience the benefits of the technique for its staff, the British Library uses the Alexander Technique as part of its corporate wellbeing programme.
According to HR director Mary Canavan, the idea came from staff themselves, some of whom had attended classes individually and enthused about its benefits. So the organisation arranged for an Alexander Technique teacher to run classes in the workplace at a reduced rate for staff.
‘The workshops have been well received and individuals who regularly attend the classes have commented on feeling more alert and productive,’ says Canavan. ‘They sleep better at night, and there is a reduction in back problems and an improvement in general wellbeing.’
Two one-hour Alexander Technique workshops are run each week, with places for six staff members each. Half-hour private lessons are also available for those who want to pursue the technique at their own expense.
As befits the implementation of a holistic therapy initiative, there are no specific productivity statistics to justify the financial investment.
Instead, the programme is seen as part of a ‘complete and coherent package’ that provides benefits to the business as well as individual employees.
Among these, Canavan cites a healthier workforce, leading to what she describes as a ‘virtuous circle’ of lower absence, reduced costs of absenteeism and increased productivity. Another aim is engagement by demonstrating the emphasis the library places on employee health – ‘this is a valuable recruitment and retention tool,’ she notes.

Stress Management for Nursing Staff

This workshop is relevant to all industries.

-With Nicholas Chapman

Introduction

Using the Alexander Technique as the core of the stress management work, these workshops are aimed specifically at the nursing environment. Stress has become a big problem in the workplace. The HSE have issued its first ‘enforcement notice’ against an NHS hospital for failing to protect doctors and nurses form stress at work. There are a number of well documented cases where a nurse has been successful in suing a hospital or nursing home for considerable sums. Whatever we believe about these issues there is a clear need for the management of these organisations to take seriously the threat of stress in the workplace. But what can we do about stress? How can we deal intelligently with something as abstract and seemingly unquantifiable as stress? 

History

F.M. Alexander born in 1869 and as a young man had a successful career in the theatre. A devastating vocal problem brought his work to a standstill . When doctors advised him that there was actually nothing wrong with his voice, he concluded that it must be something he was doing that was undermining his vocal performance.

After an intense period of study and analysis the Alexander Technique was born. A complete system of re-education. Alexander had discovered certain fundamental truths about human behaviour, including the way we think, co-ordinate and move. Over a period of many years he developed a technique which not only eliminated his vocal problems but also brought about remarkable improvements in his general health.

He realised that we could refine ourselves in fundamental ways that would improve our general health and ability to function. Applying his technique we could not only feel better, we could actually increase our aptitude, we could, put simply, do things better!
He then started to teach his method to others. Alexander came to London in 1901 and continued to develop and teach the Technique in London and America until he died in 1955.
There are now over 2000 teachers world-wide.

Outcomes

The workshops take on a practical and theoretical basis. This means that whilst experiencing a definite and strong sense of decreased stress and increased well being, the participants are able to learn ways in which they can themselves reduce stress in their working lives; they are able to see more clearly what stress is and how to prevent it from developing into something more serious. However if stress has built up over time it is possible to use the methods taught in the workshop to start the process of unwinding, clearing accumulated stress, in fact very quickly and efficiently.

The experience of removing stresses both at the workshop and afterwards, alone, is a developmental process that has a variety of benefits. Not only in the obvious sense of increased well being, but also in the way one feels about
the workplace and oneself in it. People, who have had the opportunity to learn these stress management techniques fully, have found that their ability to perform the different functions of their jobs has vastly improved. It is well documented by the HSE (See Research  Report 273, www.hse.gov.uk) that stress can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal problems, as well as the obvious effects on mental health and therefore the ability of staff to fulfill their functions within the working environment.

The workshops will provide the individual with the ability not only to deal with stress, but also to improve aspects of maneuvering and handling. The training that a nurse usually experiences in this area is very useful. However it is actually limited as it does not take into consideration the workings of the psycho-physical. In other words, the relationship between the brain (mentation) and the musculo-skeletal system, as it effects the actual functioning of the individual. For example, imagine a nurse trying to move a patient. The usual consideration would be to maneuver the patient by considering the position of both oneself and the patient. Using the Alexander
Technique one is taught not only to be physically aware but also to be mentally aware in a way that is experiential and therefore difficult to explain in a document such as this. We touched on this in the workshop at Bridgeside  Lodge (Forest Healthcare), when we introduced the idea of inhibition*. Before we moved or did anything we would say NO, no to tightening our muscles. This unnecessary tightening of muscle is the crux of both our levels of stress and our ability to perform physical functions, not only safely but with absolute certainty that we are not at risk of injury. Alexander Technique is about developing a continued awareness of our own bodies via our mental state, which is why it is an excellent tool for reducing stress and increasing effectiveness in the workplace. As well as learning inhibition the workshops will introduce direction. Direction is a means whereby we can develop further our control over our stress levels and improve our physical capabilities in the working environment.

Using the Alexander Technique will lead to a stress free work place where individuals are far more conscious of themselves both physically and mentally and whilst experiencing an increased sense of well being, will actually become far more efficient in their daily activities. 

*Not to be confused with the Freudian use referring to anxiety, but the original use of the word; the action or process of inhibiting or being inhibited (from an action or activity).

Biography

Nick Chapman is a fully qualified Alexander Technique Teacher and is a member of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, the main body overseeing the technique in the UK.

Training took place at The Constructive Teaching Centre in Holland Park. The founder of this school, Walter Carrington was, until he recently passed away aged 90, one of the leading exponents in the country for the Alexander Technique. He trained under FM Alexander, the originator of the technique.

Since graduating in 2000 Nick Chapman has taught individuals and groups, developing the work by studying also Yoga and Reiki, into a stress management method that is both comprehendible and effective. The main outlet for the group work has been nursing staff, though workshops have been taken to a variety of different industries. A recent article in the Nursing Standards magazine (See attached) discussed the workshop that took place at  Bridgeside Lodge Nursing Home. The workshop, although only an introduction was very well received.  One nurse who had said very clearly at the outset that, ‘this sort of thing wasn’t her cup of tea’ was astounded and said she would definitely use these techniques in the future.

Workshops and Prices

A.Drop in workshop cost £30 per person.

One hour session Max 12

The aim of this workshop is to relieve stress and there is minimal learning involved. Participants will perform a relaxation and will experience an increased sense of well being and a reduced stress level. 

B.Introductory Workshop  Cost £45 per person

Two Hour Session Max 12

This is an introduction to the Alexander Technique. It will establish a working method for reducing stress and develop ideas around movement habits that create stress and interfere with basic functioning. 

C.Beginner and Advanced  Cost £80 per person

2 x Two hour workshops Max 12

In these two workshops we are able to develop a deeper understanding of the technique and its application to stress. We are also able to begin to understand the implications of the work in maneuvering and handling, learning how to move consciously, avoiding stress and the risk of injury. 

D.Complete course Cost £180 per person

6 x Two Hour Workshops

This is a fully comprehensive introduction to the Alexander Technique. All of the working methods of the technique will be introduced. A significant reduction in stress will be noticed and the participants will be taught a complete method for maintaining this reduced stress. Whilst also having learnt all of the techniques participants should have a clear idea about how to apply the technique to maneuvering and handling. Practical exercises, based on real nursing situations will be explored. Back pain and general muscular pain will be significantly reduced. 

Refresher courses will be available at a reduced rate for staff that have completed the six week course.

The Alexander Technique and Golf

– By Leland Vall


In the December 18, 2000 issue of Golf Plus, a Sports Illustrated supplement, there appeared a story about Jeff Jullian, a 39 year-old PGA golfer who “gave himself back his career” using an “unusual” method called the Alexander Technique. Jullian’s neck and back were in constant pain, causing him to lose his tour card, until he took lessons in the Technique, which he credits not only for alleviating his pain, but also rejuvenating his career. 
While the Alexander Technique is not well known among golfers, this is not the first time golf and the Technique have been associated. As far back as 1920, John Duncan Dunn, a member of the famous golf family of the same name, course architect, instructor, and author of many golf books including Natural Golf, wrote a long article in The Golfers Magazine extolling the virtues of the Alexander Technique and its value to the golfer. More recently, Neil Holman, a British golfer, co-authored a book about using the Alexander Technique to improve your game. 
So what is it? The Alexander Technique is a 100 year-old method for understanding how to use your body. Not an exercise, it is a different way of thinking and challenging habitual body use. Its theory is that general habits of body use, good or bad, influence how well or poorly you execute any activity. Alexander teachers observe students during everyday activities like sitting, standing and walking. They are trained to recognize unnecessary tension and, through verbal explanation and hands on guidance, teach their students how to avoid this tension. The student can then use this information to improve their body use during any activity.
Studies have shown that the Alexander Technique improves posture and breathing,reduces tension, and improves many chronic conditions like back and neck pain and repetitive strain injury. Its adherents also say that it improves grace and general ease in movement. 
Dr. Jack Stern, MD of the Neurosurgical Group of Westchester adds the following: “The Alexander Technique stresses unification in an era of greater and greater medical specialization. Its educational system teaches people how to best use their bodies in ordinary action to avoid or reduce unnecessary stress and pain. It enables clients to get better faster and stay better longer.” 
F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian,developed the Technique because he was suffering from chronic laryngitis. On the advice of doctors Alexander rested his voice. This worked – but only until he started using his voice again at which point his hoarseness would return. Through a period of self-observation, Alexander realized that he was causing his own problem because of the way he was using his voice and his whole body in general. 
By becoming aware of and preventing unconscious habits of tension as he spoke, Alexander was able to cure himself. Convinced of the value of his work, he moved to England in 1904 where he taught his Technique to thousands of people, including the philosopher John Dewey, the novelist Aldous Huxley and the playwright George Bernard Shaw. 
Today musicians and other performing artists use the Alexander Technique extensively. It is part of the required curriculum at Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music. Its use by athletes has been increasing, especially with swimmers, equestrians and, apparently, golfers, including the aforementioned PGA tour member, Jeff Julian.
Notes:
Vigeland, Carl: “The Alexander Technique: The Answer to A Stress Test”, Sports Illustrated, Vol. 93, Issue 25, page G21, Dec. 18, 2000.
* * *
About the author: Leland Vall is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique with a practice in Long Island and Manhattan. He is editor of the AmSAT News, the official newsletter of the American Society for the Alexander Technique, and a board member of the American Center for the Alexander Technique, the oldest Alexander teacher training facility in the United States. His website address is www.freeyourneck.com.
Learning from Tiger Woods describes some parallels between Tiger and F. M. Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique
Click here to read an article:
The Alexander Technique and Sports Performance

Walter Carrington 1915-2005

People imagine that their bodies are disobedient and unreliable in carrying out their wishes, whereas nothing could be further from the truth.
-Walter Carrington

This was a picture I took when Walter was riding regularly at Danny Pevner’s. I think it conveys very well the amazing posture Walter had. The horse is called Badger. A fine man on a fine horse. Those who were privileged to be taught by Walter would vouch for the fact that he used the Alexander Technique to the full. He was 87 in the photo. According to Danny he started riding in his 50s.

That is the message that Walter loved to espouse. That using the technique enhanced your learning ability. My experience of this was the same. I tried all my life to learn the flute and for some reason I just could not get it. When I started training I decided I needed to test this theory. Everyday at break time I would sneak into one of the many teaching rooms at Lansdowne road, cup of tea in hand, Alexander Technique very much in mind and start to teach myself the flute.
It worked!

After a few weeks of never before heard of success I decided to get myself a flute teacher. By
the end of my training I think I had tried several different flute teachers.
The strangest thing was that although these teachers were very good, the best ‘Flute’ lesson I
had was with Walter. He could not play a single instrument. One day he said to me when we were due to have a private lesson “Bring your flute Nick”.

I was of course very excited and had a great sense even then that this was a rare treat,
though I had no idea of how profound an influence he would really have on me, on my flute playing and on my approach to learning anything from that time onwards.

After the lesson I went down to the teaching room where I had often practiced. I followed his instructions and without a doubt I played the best flute I ever had to that day. It was strange to imagine that a non flute player could help me play better flute, better even than the flute teachers.

That was Walter though a genius that we were all very lucky to have had in our lives. If you
get the chance to read anything by or about Walter Carrington and his work read it!

-Nick Chapman 21st October 2005

 

Stress Management

 

Yoga Nidra

If you would like to attend a relaxation, please let me know. npchapman@gmail.com
I first discovered yoga nidra after doing the relaxation exercise after a yoga class. Although I really loved the workout with all the different postures, it was the yoga relaxation that I realised was of great significance. We live in a fast paced world, full of stress. As we go through life we seem to get more anxious more tense, here was a way of wiping out weeks of stress build up, in just a short time.

 

I decided to look into the whole world of relaxation and discovered that most of it was inspired in some way by yoga nidra. Yoga Nidra is a deep state of concious sleep. The hypnogogic state is reached when a person is neither sleeping nor awake but inbetween. The effects of this type of relaxation seem to be many and varied from person to person. For some people it takes a few or more sessions to really experience this hypnogogic state. Sometimes we have a better experience than others.

 

What I have found is that whatever the personal experience it is always a good one. From deepest relaxation to a mild one. Whatever the experts think or feel about the depth of this experience or the true practise or it’s relationship to the purification of Karma etc, etc, my own interest is a purely practical one. As an Alexander Technique practitioner I have met many different people through my private practise and also the many workshops I have given. What struck me as odd (I have been doing one form of relaxation or another since I was eighteen) was the abscence of any method or experience of relaxation whatsoever in around 95% of the people I have met. Since we live in such a stressful society with fears about everything; relationships, debt, family, friendships etc it stands to reason we should all be doing regular relaxation classes. This is why I have since been giving the guided relaxation at all of my workshops. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and I have now launched a regular class at The North London Buddhist Centre.


Alexander Technique – an Introduction

 – By Joan Arnold

The Alexander Technique is an intelligent way to solve body problems. Many people are mystified by their own back pain, excess tension or lack of coordination. They often see problems in their joints or muscles as structural, unchangeable. As an Alexander teacher, I hear clients say things like, “I’ve always walked like a duck,” or “My posture is just like my father’s.” But, as they learn the Technique, they are surprised that they really can make lasting changes in the way they walk, their degree of muscular tension or the shape of their posture. They learn how dynamic and changeable the body really is. They find that, by learning the Technique, they can improve their overall movement and achieve optimal health for both body and mind.

We all have unconscious movement habits. Without realizing it, we put undue pressure on ourselves. We use more force than we need to lift a coffee pot or a weight bar. We slouch as we sit, unaware that our way of doing things gives our bodies a certain look. We blame body problems on activities — carpal tunnel syndrome on computer work, tennis elbow on tennis. But often it is how we do something that creates the problem, not the activity itself.
An Alexander Technique teacher helps you see what in your movement style contributes to your recurring difficulties — whether it’s a bad back, neck and shoulder pain, restricted breathing, perpetual exhaustion or limitations in performing a task or sport. Analyzing your whole movement pattern — not just your symptom — the teacher alerts you to habits of compression in your characteristic way of sitting, standing and walking. He or she then guides you — with words and a gentle, encouraging touch — to move in a freer, more integrated way.
The Technique’s basic idea is that when the neck muscles do not overwork, the head balances lightly at the top of spine. The relationship between the head and the spine is of utmost importance. How we manage that relationship has ramifications throughout the rest of the body. As the boss — good or bad — sets the tone for an organization, the head / spine relationship — compressed or free — determines the quality of the body’s overall coordination. Our neuromuscular system is designed to work in concert with gravity. Delicate poise of the head sparks the body’s anti-gravity response: a natural oppositional force in the torso that easily guides us upward and invites the spine to lengthen, rather than compress, as we move. Instead of slouching or holding ourselves in a rigid posture, we can learn to mobilize this support system and use it wherever we go — in the car, at the computer, in the gym.
Young children have this natural poise. If you watch a toddler in action, you will see an erect spine, free joints and a large head balancing easily on a little neck. A healthy child walks and plays with regal posture. Barring birth defects, we all began that way. But over the years, we often lose that spontaneity and ease.

Using the Alexander Technique, you can learn to strip away harmful habits, heighten your self-awareness, and use your thought process to restore your original poise. In a way, you are learning something that, deep down, your body already knows. With the Alexander Technique, you come to understand much more about how your body works, and how to make it work for you. You can tap more of your internal resources, and begin on a path to enhancing your comfort and pleasure in all your activities.
Joan Arnold, certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, has a private practice in New York City. She has performed and taught dance, yoga and exercise for 25 years and has presented the Alexander Technique at fitness clubs, spas, colleges, drama schools and on television. Her work was featured in the November ’97 issue of Esquire. Also a writer for national magazines since 1987, she has written for Self, Health, Fitness and Shape magazines and has been a contributing editor and columnist for New York Woman and New Woman.