-With Nicholas Chapman
Using the Alexander Technique as the core of the stress management work, these workshops are aimed specifically at the corporate environment. Stress has become a big problem in the workplace. The HSE has issued its first ‘enforcement notice’ against an NHS hospital for failing to protect doctors and nurses from stress at work. There are a number of well-documented cases where a member of staff has been successful in suing the workplace for considerable sums. There is a clear need for the management of these organisations to take the threat of stress in the workplace seriously, and many organisations now have built into the workplace a well-being strategy. So what can we do about stress? How can we deal intelligently with something as abstract and seemingly unquantifiable as stress?
A Brief History of the Alexander Technique
F. Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor and teacher. He originally developed the Alexander Technique as a method of vocal training for singers and actors in the 1890s. While Alexander was developing his method of voice training, he realized that the basis for all successful vocal education was an efficient and naturally functioning respiratory mechanism. So, in teaching voice, Alexander focused primarily on helping the breathing mechanism to function more effectively. Because of his focus on “re-educating” the breathing mechanism, some of Alexanders’ students, who had come to him for vocal training, found that their respiratory difficulties also improved. These improvements were recognized by medical doctors who began referring their patients with respiratory ailments to Alexander for help. In this way, F.M. Alexanders’ technique of vocal training developed into a technique he termed “respiratory we-education.” Alexander also made the discovery that breathing and vocalization are part and parcel of how the body functions as a whole. Habitual breathing and vocal patterns are parts of habitual patterns of general coordination. In fact, many problems we see as involving just one particular part of the body, e.g. stress, lower back pain and “RSI,” are often symptoms of larger habitual patterns of being uncoordinated.
Just as people had found Alexanders’ “vocal” technique helped them with their breathing problems, a number of his students found his method of respiratory re-education helped them with other physical difficulties like stress. Alexander had evolved a method for learning how to change maladaptive habits of coordination consciously. (Coordination includes movement, posture, breathing, and tension patterns.) He had come to the understanding that the mind and body function as an integrated entity, a rather unusual realisation for that time. Alexander found that ” physical ” or “mental” habits are all psychophysical in nature. He observed that how we think about our activities determines how we coordinate ourselves to do those activities and, equally, how long-held habits of excessive tension and inefficient coordination affect how we feel and think. In a relatively short period of time, Alexander evolved his technique from a method of vocal training into a method of breathing reeducation and then into a comprehensive technique of psychophysical reeducation. His technique deals with the psychophysical coordination of the whole person, or what he termed more concisely as “the use of the self.”
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 with various benefits, not only in the sense of increased well-being but also in how 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 fulfil their functions within the working environment.
The workshops will provide the individual with the ability to deal with stress and improve aspects of productivity. The Alexander Technique shows us not only how 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. 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.
Using the Alexander Technique will lead to a stress-free workplace where individuals are far more conscious of themselves both physically and mentally and, while experiencing an increased sense of well-being, will become far more efficient in their daily activities.
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 also studying 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. Workshops cost £40pp
One-hour session Max 12
The aim of this workshop is to relieve stress, and there is minimal learning involved. Participants will perform relaxation and will experience an increased sense of well-being and a reduced stress level.
B.Introductory Workshop Cost £70pp
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 £60pp
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 productivity, learning how to move consciously, and avoiding stress and the risk of injury.
D. Complete course Cost £50
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 clearly know how to apply the technique to everyday working life. Back pain and general muscular pain will be significantly reduced, Along with increased well-being.
Refresher courses will be available at a reduced rate for staff that have completed the six-week course.