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Successful 'Stress? Take it Lying Down' event

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Stress? Take it Lying Down 

We recently ran a very successful event for Alexander Technique Week 2018, the theme of which was 'Stress? Take it Lying Down'. I am very grateful to The Old Church N16 as they kindly allowed me to use the premises for free, as we were fundraising for the local charity Safaplace. I also want to thank my colleague Jessamy Harvey, for all her help in setting up and running the event.

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Over forty people enjoyed lying down in Semisupine!                 Photo: Nell Greenhill

The Church looked beautiful and very atmospheric with all the candles and low lighting! We were fortunate to have two speakers from Safaplace, Sarah Finke and Rose White who gave moving accounts about the formation of the charity and why it was set up in order to promote the positive mental health of schoolchildren. 

I then described how the Alexander Technique can help us cope with stress as well as helping us be more poised and how the AT explores the mind-body relationship, helping us to unlearn habits we've developed that can interfere with the way our bodies need to work.

Caroline Sears followed with a talk about Alexander in Education and how the AT has been introduced into over 80 schools and colleges in the UK and in many institutions around the world, helping students handle exam and performance stresses, for instance.

Then it was lie-down time and The Old Church was full of quiet bodies as Natasha Broke talked people through the Active Rest procedure. Along with the teachers already mentioned, Daniela Sangiorgio and Thodoris Ziarkas joined us to give people a brief hands-on experience whilst lying down. All the teachers assisting on this event are registered with STAT and are alumni of LCATT, an AT teacher training course where I am a visiting teacher.

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Six AT teachers gave mini taster sessions                                    Photos: Nell Greenhill

Finally, we gave some mini taster hands-on turns to those that wished to explore the AT a little more and the bar was open for people to enjoy.  

Many thanks to Janet Foster who looked after the door, the friends who ran the bar and helped out and Nell Greenhill for taking the photos - all of whom, like the AT teachers, offered their time and services for free.

Donations to Safaplace

I am pleased to say that we raised over £423 for Safaplace - thanks to the generosity of all the participants!  

If you would like to read more about Safaplace and / or would like to donate to them, you can do so here: https://safaplace.org/

Stress? Take it Lying Down. Candlelit Event

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Stress? Take it Lying Down
11 October 7.0pm ~ The Old Church Stokey N16

Candlelit event in London's only surviving Elizabethan Church

I am running this event with four AT colleagues, as part of International Alexander Technique Week 2018. Jessamy Harvey, Caroline Sears, Natasha Broke and Daniela Sangiorgio all trained at LCATT where I am a visiting teacher. The event is also fundraising for local charity Safaplace, which was formed to promote the positive mental health of children in Stoke Newington School and in the local area. 


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  • Come and hear about Safaplace charity
  • Learn how the Alexander Technique can help you manage stress
  • Experience the wonderful Active Rest procedure 
  • Try a mini hands-on turn with one of the 4 local AT teachers
  • Support Safaplace by your generous donations 

Tickets

SOLD OUT! However, we have a waiting list, so do book a free place below and we will contact you if tickets become available.

This is a 14+ event. Get your free tickets from Eventbrite, with suggested donations on the day to Safaplace, at entry and at the bar (yes, there will be a bar, run by kind volunteers!): 

Safaplace on the BBC

There is an interesting article about the sad reasons behind the formation of Safaplace on the BBC website. If you cannot attend this event, you might like to make a donation to Safaplace:  https://bbc.in/2NY8AkH


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Alexander Technique Intro Courses

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* Six Week Course for Beginners & Returners
Mondays: 10 September- 15 October ~  10.15am - 11.45am

Earlybird Fee by 20 August: £80 ~ Later Payment: £90
Hilary will be assisted by Jessamy Harvey MSTAT. 

Complete beginners need to have attended an Intro Workshop or had a 1:1 lesson before joining this Course.

NEARLY FULL - please phone to see if places are available: 020 7254 9206


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Small friendly group please enrol in advance - Further Info and Booking 

Venue overlooking Clissold Park:
3 Queen Elizabeth's Walk, Stoke Newington, N16 OBF




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Clissold Park Tennis Pavilion

The Club Room has a lovely view over Runtzmere Lake and the woodland area by Queen Elizabeth's Walk Gate.

Why I Trained as an Alexander Teacher

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The Ballet Years

I had lessons in classical ballet from the age of 5 and serious training began from the age of 11 when I became a boarder at the Royal Ballet School. It was sometimes wildly exciting and it was great to visit the Royal Opera House, sometimes sitting in the Royal Box during rehearsals! But life was very pressurised and quite stressful - I was put on diets to slim down and I acquired strains to my achilles and lower back, as I tried (too) hard to increase my flexibility. My body was always under examination and deemed to be lacking and, looking back, I can understand that it didn't seem to belong to me. However, in my late teens I was accepted into the Sadler's Wells Opera Ballet (now ENO) where I happily performed for a number of years. I met my opera-singer husband and first heard about the Alexander Technique there but sadly did not have AT lessons then as they would have helped me.


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Hilary King performing with Sadlers Wells Opera, Welsh National Opera and BBC TV 

Build-up of Stress

Rolling on some years, I gave up dancing so that I could be where my husband worked 
(as women still tended to do back then). I had children, got divorced and then my ex moved abroad. I needed to re-train so I could earn some money. I studied for a degree majoring in Psychology and was in one of the last groups of people that were truly fortunate to be able to study for free. 

The degree was hard to do as a mature student and single parent with 2 small children - then my mother died suddenly of a heart attack. Life had become extremely stressful and I was concerned that if I went on my health would deteriorate and I would end up like my mother.

Then I discovered that one of my Psychology lecturers, Peter Ribeaux, also taught the Alexander Technique at college, so I dived in and took AT lessons. I began to gain tools that I could use to calm myself down and clear my head. I studied better, got better marks and was less cranky with my long-suffering children. Learning and using the lying down procedure in particular helped transform me, as it gave me an immediate tool to help myself with. The AT work also helped me with my old back strain and I learned to listen to my body, 'regaining' it and discovering what it needed, rather than my just trying to make it perform for me - as I had been trained to do all through those ballet years. 

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Semi-Supine Emergency Kit!

I gained my degree - just missing a first - which was sad but also wonderful, as I'd not even had any A levels, because ballet dancers were not deemed to have brains in those days and we did not have that option at the RBS. I then explored the idea of training in dance therapy and did some psychotherapy training but finally decided to train as an Alexander teacher, because I was so impressed by the hugely beneficial changes that had come about in me through having AT lessons. 

I commenced my training at the Ribeaux school and completed it at the North London Teacher Training Course run by Misha Magidov, qualifying in 1987. I have had many happy years of teaching and am very grateful that I've been able to work in such a wonderful discipline that helps me look after myself in both my my mind and body, as I teach others how to do the same.



Privacy Policy

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GDPR and Privacy

With the introduction of new laws re Privacy and Data Protection, I have introduced an improved Privacy Policy and a basic version of it is now accessible on my website. 

At the moment I am still refining this policy, along with information about Cookies and Terms and Conditions. This information will soon be completed and will also be available on my website. 

You may read my Privacy Policy here.

Walk With Awareness on Slippery Paths

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Use the Alexander Technique While You Walk

Winter brings rain, fallen leaves, ice and sometimes snow on the ground, which can make our footpaths very slippery and treacherous. 


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Icy Newington Green

You can see how quickly snow compacts into slippery ice, here on Newington Green - making it so easy to skid, slide and lose your balance, if you are not careful.

Observe Your Reactions and Walk Mindfully

How do you cope with slippery surfaces and paths? If you are aware, you can notice your reactions as you think of going out into the cold - do you start becoming tense at the mere thought of icy conditions? Perhaps you can say 'no' to bracing and choose not to do that, so that you can avoid building up unnecessary tension. Observe how you walk on slippery surfaces and experiment by relaxing and being thoughtful about how you move - and you may well experience a different, easier way of walking on slippery surfaces so you feel more secure and confident.

Try Ice Grippers on Your Boots

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Adding ice grippers to your footwear is a practical aid to helping you cope with icy condititions. They make it much easier to balance and to avoid tensing up if you have a fear of falling. 

I know from my own experience that it is very tempting to tighten up our legs, feet and ankles, the muscles around our hip joints and even our neck and shoulder muscles when walking on slippery surfaces. Most of the tightening is the result of anticipating a possible fall and this can be tiring plus restricts our movements and circulation - and it's a waste of energy! 

Say 'No' to Bracing!

We really don't need to brace 'just in case' we might slip and fall. This doesn't serve us. In fact, tightening our neck muscles reduces the information we can obtain about our balance, and locking our ankles and hips also interferes with our ability to fine tune our balance. A recent Research Trial concluded that Alexander Technique lessons aided older people with their balance and fear of falling, so that they felt more secure. 



I remember an occasion when I was walking tentatively on an icy pavement and I was gradually getting very tight muscles around the tops of my legs - then a teenage girl sprinted down the icy road in front of me with beautiful grace and freedom of movement. Seeing her easy running skills reminded me to keep freeing up my neck muscles and my whole body as I moved and I felt a lot more comfortable as a result! When we do this, we are able to obtain more information about our balance, not only from the structures in our ears but also from the tiny movements our heads make as we walk and the AT can help us to do this. It is always helpful to walk mindfully but it is particularly important when paths are slippery.  

If you would like to try out the AT, 1:1 Alexander Technique lessons are available on a regular basis. 

Over-use of Mobile Phones

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Kids Ask Parents to Turn Off Their Phones!

The BBC reports a survey of secondary school children that shows the social impact of mobile phones, with many families having a home life that is being harmed by their overuse. Parents frequently use their phones during mealtimes, for instance, so that children have asked them to turn their phones off. Not surprisingly, the research also stated that many children were frequently sleep deprived because of using their phones late into the night. Some teens even managed to be on their phones for 20 hours a day during weekends and holidays! Add into the mix the epidemic in both adults and children having painful 'text neck' and RSI problems, it is easy to see how damaging phone use can be. 

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This five year old is poised and alert as she has breakfast and, hopefully, she will be able to maintain this easy body-use as she gets older. She does not use any phones, tablets or other screens and her parents aim not to use their phones in front of her. No doubt she will begin to use some technology at school soon but as yet she is being encouraged to find entertainment elsewhere so that she can develop her creativity, reading and active play in many other ways. This little girl does not know about the AT but her mother does some yoga, which she sometimes copies and this helps her to be more aware of her body-use. 

It's Not Good to Frequently Feel Ignored 

The above photo is in stark contrast to the one used in the BBC article, with father and daughter both slumped on a sofa, both heading towards having neck problems from the ways they are using their bodies. The father's head is dragging forwards and down over his phone - a typical iPosture, with a text neck scenario developing in him as he ignores his daughter. She is twisting her neck and her whole body expresses how fed up she feels, in true psychophysical unity, as she stares out in front of her.


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Whilst mobiles are very useful bits of equipment, it is worrying that they seem to become so addictive and dominate people's lives. I find it sad to see so many young Mums (and some Dads) pushing a toddler in a buggy but with no interaction between them because Mum ignores the child  - the mobile phone gets all the attention. What sort of habits of relating to other people and of phone-use will those children develop? Copying parents is a big part of the way we learn as they are important role models for us, so the pattern is likely to be copied and repeated as the child grows older. Many tiny children already use screens for hours on end, which is leading to some developing problems when really young. In a previous blog 'Evidence of Text Neck in Seven-year old Children' I discussed this alarming situation which has been created through the over-use and mis-use of mobiles and tablets. 

There Can Be Another Way

Fortunately, Alexander lessons can help people unlearn habits that have been causing problems and, ideally, help them to learn how to avoid developing habit patterns of mis-use to start with. This was very important to F M Alexander, who ran a school for children which incorporated his theories and teaching into the daily life of the school. One school, Educare Small School is run along the same lines and the AT underpins every activity there.

Today, both adults and children are able to access individual lessons in many parts of the world and a group called Alexander in Education is promoting the Technique in UK schools and colleges. The educational institutions that include the Alexander Technique in their curriculum range from specialist music schools and colleges, to a children's nursery. 

All of that is great and quite exciting but it's important for parents to realise just what sort of body-use and way of life they are modelling for their children and the impact it can have on their future lives, even before they are old enough to go to school. I'm sure many parents believe they are doing just that already but perhaps they can refine their awareness to include the little things in life too, such as how they use a mobile or tablet, how long they use it, how much they exclude others when using a screen and how they look after their own body-use as they text, chat and game away on their phones. Children are watching - and waiting for you.

There's an interesting podcast from Body Learning you might like to listen to: 

Could Using a Scooter Make Children Lopsided?

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Children's scooters have just been included in the UK Consumer Prices Index, CPI, as they are so popular they are having a financial impact in the UK. There must be a lot of people 
using them!

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This photo show that many children love them - here in Stoke Newington, scooters are a favourite mode of transport for going to school and numbers of scooters get parked in playgrounds. They are brilliant for helping to keep children active and fit in a fun way and it is lovely to see kids zooming along the road, poised and lively, with their heads leading them into movement.

Pushing With One Dominant Leg?

But how could scooters possibly make children lopsided? Well, I wonder how many parents and teachers notice if children always use the same foot to propel themselves forwards? I imagine quite a number of people have never given it a thought. 

But do please think about it - what impact might that have? Even tiny children use scooters and may do so for several years. If one leg is always pushing, then one set of leg muscles in that leg is being developed, whilst the other leg is always supporting, so a different set of muscles will be developed in that leg - so the muscles could grow visibly bigger in the stronger leg. 

What would the implications be for the body's general balance and poise, if legs develop differently from each other in this way? Unhelpful at the least and possibly harmful, if the imbalance became exaggerated through frequent over-use of one leg in preference to the other. This problem can affect adult scooter users too but would have a greater impact on children's bodies whilst growing and developing and could be one way that children's bodies could gradually become a bit lopsided. If it's just habits causing the distortion, that can be avoided!

Twisting and Torsion

Another problem that could arise, is a habitual twist in the torso (and probably the knees) if the child scoots in an uneven way. Muscular torsion in the neck and back is also a potential problem with using skateboards, if the same foot leads all the time. Muscles in the neck and torso could work unevenly, the back and pelvis could become lopsided, which could eventually cause pain and discomfort. Given how many children and adults are using scooters and skateboards these days, we could end up with a large number of people seeking help for problems such as neck and back pain at a later date. 

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This skateboarder has pretty good body use, leading with the head and using his hip joints freely. However, if he always leads with the same foot and he has to look in the same direction all the time, torsion problems in his neck and back could develop.

Mindfulness and Body Use

However, with awareness and by establishing habits of good body-use right from the start, including alternating their feet regularly, these problems could be avoided, so children and adults can have fun without interfering with their natural poise and balance.

If problems have started developing, Alexander lessons can help people to let go of their habits of imbalance and twisting, so that their head neck back relationship can be regained and a more evenly balanced way of using equipment such as scooters and skateboards can be learned. 

Leonardo do Vinci draws Monkey Position!

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I love these drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

The toddler is captured just moving through what we Alexander teachers call 'monkey position' and he is balanced and grounded with a lengthened spine, even though he is bending forwards and looking over his right shoulder. 



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This is such a basic and useful movement and most children use it regularly but unfortunately we often lose this as we grow into adulthood and we often gather habits of mis-use and curl over instead, which puts pressure on our spines - and squishes our lungs and internal organs - fortunately we can re-learn how to use our bodies in the way we used to do when we were children.

F M Alexander used to call this 'the position of mechanical advantage' and it is possible to see why he did so at it is such a good way of using body when we want to bend forwards, utilising the large hip joints in order to allow the body to fold forwards and protecting the spine as we do so. 

However, FM's students soon found a more user-friendly name for this way of using the body and 'monkey position' it became from then on! 

How Aware Are You When Driving and Cycling?

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Safety First - Maintain Awareness

There have been so many accidents, injuries and deaths of cyclists in London recently and I believe that a lack of awareness, in both drivers and in cyclists, is part of the problem - and we can all do something about this. There are too many stories that cite drivers using their mobile phones and not paying attention to the road, for instance, so they drive into cyclists and often kill them - we all know that this behaviour and lack of awareness is dangerous. One pupil was referred to me by her Doctor for Alexander Technique lessons, because she had painful shoulder and rib injuries, plus a high level of anxiety, after being knocked off her bike by a thoughtless driver. In one sense she was lucky though, as the driver's insurance paid for her AT lessons. 

Many cyclists appear to be unaware of their surroundings too! 

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Look Where you are Going

I have seen people texting on their mobiles and wearing earphones whilst cycling, so they cannot see or hear any signals from the traffic around them! This cyclist above is riding fast but 'sensibly', leading with her head into movement and her back is lengthening - so far so good. But where is she looking? She appears to be looking at the road below her, so I wonder, just how much of the traffic around her can she see and be aware of? Surely this way of cycling has to be dangerous! The only way she could see in front and around her from this position, is to lift her face and pull her head right back, thereby crunching her neck and cervical vertebrae and probably giving herself neck problems. If her handlebars were a little higher and her body more upright, she could see ahead quite easily. 

This cyclist is not alone unfortunately and many people cycle with their bodies much lower and pulled down, particularly the more end-gaining cyclists who are focussed on going as fast as possible to their destination. This may be good for their hearts but it's dangerous in other ways.

London Cyclists


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Photo: greatwen.com 

The group norm here seems to be to look down onto the road in front!

If you look at the photo above carefully, you can see that only a couple of cyclists in this London group appear to be looking out and about! The rest look down rather tensely, with eyes glazed-over, which is risky to say the least. It is so easy to get caught up in riding as quickly as possible from A to B, that it is easy to lose awareness of the actual process of riding and what's going on around you. This photo is in stark contrast to the photo of some Danish cyclists below, who are alert and poised as they ride in the city. They are able to look where they are going because they are using a much more upright position with higher handlebars, so they are comfortably looking ahead as they ride. They also look less stressed which must have a lot to do with the fact they have proper cycle lanes to use but I believe that the way they are riding helps them too.

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Photo: The Times

The Way We Ride Matters

I have worked with many AT pupils on what to think about when riding a bike or driving a car. I sometimes sit people on the exercise bike for part of their AT lesson, not to see how fast they can cycle but to explore how they sit and what happens in their body when they start cycling. All sorts of unhelpful habits are revealed and then I can help people to let go of them so they cycle with improved use. A pupil's comments a couple of days ago made me think about these issues again:

 "When I think about Alexander Technique whilst driving and cycling, I am more alert and more able to respond to traffic - and I don't get back pain any more"

The Alexander Technique Can Enable Us to Cycle More Safely.

It's not just about the position we sit in that matters but that is a good starting point. Being conscious of whether we hold the handlebars (or steering wheel) with awareness, or grab it with a strong grip, is one point. When cycling, do we just think of pushing ourselves forwards with our legs, or do we think of leading with our head to aid the forward momentum?  Do we have so much weight going through our arms that our shoulders are hunched and ache with tension and our wrists are getting painful? 

As drivers and cyclists, are we so caught up with end-gaining and 'getting there in time' that we lose awareness of how we are riding or driving right now and what is happening around us? This is the route through to trouble - but we can choose to change ourselves and our behaviour, so that we can remain mindful not only of our body-use but also of our surroundings during these activities.  

In Alexander lessons we can learn to minimise tension and help ourselves keep calm. We can sit in a manner that lets us see where we are going without hurting our necks, protects our backs and allows us to see around and make use of our peripheral vision, which will help keep ourselves and other people safe. Surely this is a much more enjoyable way to cycle and to drive, as well?