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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. 

Big Garden Birdwatch - take care of your neck and back

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Are you joining in RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend?

The Big Garden Birdwatch is useful, as well as being fun! Encourage your children to join you in monitoring the birds for one hour in local parks such as Newington Green or Clissold Park, or even the birds you can see from your window at home.

This annual survey is the largest example of citizen science in the world! Your findings will add to the information that has been built up over three decades about the state of the UK's native birdlife. This information not only shows which birds are thriving and which are in decline, but it also gives an indication about the health of our environment as a whole.

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Be careful ~ birdwatching can cause problems for our necks and backs! 

This delightful sculpture of Sir John Betjeman by Martin Jennings in St Pancras Station shows some of the problems well. As he looks up, Sir John's neck is contracted and compressed, whilst his lower back is arched into an exaggerated lordosis, which thrusts lots of weight down into his lumbar spine. His arm is lifted, much as it would be to use binoculars - but I wonder, is he holding his hat on as he looks upwards towards the splendid roof, or is he protecting his neck by taking some of the weight of his head in his hand - or both?


How do you look up for ages, without hurting your neck and back?

If you are using binoculars, or looking up to see what bird is sitting in the treetops, your neck and shoulders can get very contracted, tense and jammed up.   A good challenge is to look right up to the top of the Tate Modern tower, to where peregrine falcons often sit and sometimes nest - without scrunching up your neck - How do you do that? 

The Alexander Technique can help you

You really need to apply what you have learnt in Alexander lessons - remember to keep freeing your neck and maintaining as much length as possible in both your neck and your spine as you look around. Allow your neck to lengthen out again at frequent intervals. Keep your arms and shoulders free and loose, allowing them to drop down regularly, so they can lengthen out again.  If you are using heavy binoculars use a wide strap to spread the weight, rather than pressing it into your neck.
 
Also, it is all too easy to arch your back if you are looking upwards like Sir John, so that you can end up with back ache. However, if you are aware of your use and keep giving yourself directions so that you maintain the length in your spine, you will hopefully avoid any discomfort and just enjoy yourself. You might be wise to lie down in semi-supine afterwards, to let go of any scrunching and mis-use that's taken place.....

Introductory Workshops

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My last Intro Workshop was for Women and Teenage Girls, celebrating International Women's Day 2015.
          
Although this particular workshop was just for women, it followed a similar pattern to the mixed workshops that I run at other times. Deena Newman, a graduate from the London Centre for Alexander Teaching and Training, kindly assisted me. We had an enjoyable morning introducing the AT to a group of women who were aged from a 17 year old, right through to a Senior, which was great. 


These intro workshops give people a chance to try out the Alexander Technique and to discover how we can begin to reduce stress and discomfort, whilst becoming more poised and increasing our sense of wellbeing. Some aspects of the Technique were explored through a mixture of experiential games, discussion and hands-on work whilst sitting, standing, walking and bending over to pick things up. 


One of the procedures that was learnt in the workshop was the Constructive Rest procedure, which is performed in a semi-supine position, as in the photo which shows some of the workshop participants lying down. (Many thanks to the women for allowing me to use this photo). This is a great technique to use in order to develop self-awareness and learn about ourselves, to help us calm down, to free up and to look after our backs. It is also something that people can start using to help themselves, immediately. 


When people start having 1:1 AT lessons, this procedure usually takes place whilst lying on a table, rather than the floor, whilst the teacher uses her / his hands to give feedback and to indicate to the pupil how to free up and make the best use of the process. Pupils are asked to practice this every day in order to develop the skills that make this a very powerful tool to use in our everyday lives. 


There is more info about using this lying down procedure here.


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One participant contacted me after the workshop and told me that she was in the middle of moving house and that 'I had to move a vanload of stuff after the group session - (the workshop) was ideal preparation'.  It's great when someone can have an immediate realisation like this, as to how useful the AT can be, for instance when picking up and carrying boxes in a way that can protect our backs! 


This IWD workshop was held in The Green House N16, which is an exciting new venue on Green Lanes and it is a co-working initiative.


My next Intro Workshop is for both Men and Women 25th April 2015

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

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Are You Sitting Comfortably? No? 

Then your first step is to make friends with your Sitting Bones.

I had some fun setting up and taking these photos of Skelly, who usually hangs on a stand but I wanted him to sit, without an Xmas hat on this time.  Interestingly, the easiest way for me to set him up was balancing him right over his sitting bones, just the way I wanted him to be - which is the way our bodies are designed to sit. When Skelly was not put in an upright position, he just overbalanced. OK he's only a plastic skeleton without muscles but he gives us a good idea about our bony structure and the way our bodies are designed to work. ( Not many arms will bend backwards like his though! )

However you can see the chunky rockers of the sit bones at the base of the pelvis, which are planted firmly on the surface so they can take the weight of the skeleton above. You can create an imaginary line through the skeleton from where the ear would be (near the hinge of the jaw), which is aligned above the shoulder and top of the arm, which in turn is lined up with the sitting bones. In this way the large weight of the head is balanced centrally and is supported, because it gets transferred through the spine and skeleton, right down into the sit bones.

An average adult human head weighs about 4.5 kg - 5 kg (9.14oz - 11lbs). It is heavy and it needs proper support!

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I thought I would also try getting Skelly to lean - he cannot slump and collapse as real people do because he is too rigid but I did eventually get him to balance briefly, as if leaning backwards. One of the interesting things about this image is that it not only shows the sitting bones but clearly shows the tiny bone of the Coccyx at the tail end of the spine - which is not designed to take any weight but often is forced to do so because of the way the pelvis tilts when someone slumps in a chair. When this happens, the Coccyx is put under too much pressure and can be damaged, along with some of the vertebrae and discs. Also, the skull is left unsupported and the neck muscles end up by overworking in order to maintain some sort of balance and the breathing will be restricted..... and people wonder why they get problems such as neck and lower back pain

This is a good example of how our 'use' or 'mis-use' affects the way our body can function.

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So balancing over our sitting bones as we sit, allows our bodies to function more efficiently. One of the great things about Alexander work is that people usually do end up by sitting more comfortably, as they let go of habitual actions and reactions and learn a new way of using their bodies. 

This pupil quoted below was very grateful for her AT lessons but her rather sad words illustrate how many people experience being taught how to sit as a child. However, they do at least have the option of learning the AT,  and rediscovering the joy of sitting comfortably as an adult:

"I wish I'd been told about my sitting bones as a child instead of being hit and told to 'sit up straight'. It's so much more comfortable!"

Next Step?

If you would like to find out more about how the Alexander Technique can help you to sit, walk and move around more comfortably, individual lessons are available on a regular basis.

Next Workshop for Men and Women 25th April 2015

Alexander Technique Intro for Women & Girls

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Introductory Workshop for Women & Teenage Girls 

Saturday 9 March ~ 2.0pm - 4.30pm
£25
Fundraising for Mary on the Green 
Reg Charity: 1087866

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All fees will be donated to MOTG, towards erecting a monument to the pioneering feminist and human rights activist
Mary Wollstonecraft, here on Newington Green 

This Workshop is linked to International Women's Day, giving women and girls a chance to try out the Alexander Technique in a small friendly group. There will be some gentle experiential games, demonstrations, hands-on work ~ plus a nice cup of tea or coffee. 

SMALL GROUP:  PHONE TO SEE IF PLACES ARE STILL AVAILABLE
020 7254 9206


A Reduced rate 1:1 lesson will also be available to participants


Mary Wollstonecraft
But with awareness and AT lessons, we can free ourselves from this prison!

London Overground to Canonbury

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London Overground to Canonbury Station

The London Overground orbital line has now been completed so that Canonbury Station, which is just 10 minutes walk away from where I teach, is now linked to stations such as West Croydon, Clapham Junction, Shoreditch High Street, Stratford, Richmond and Watford Junction. 

The Overground line circuits London, allowing us to avoid going into Zone One, which makes travel rather less expensive.

Along with the excellent range of buses that come to the Newington Green area, this makes it much easier for people to come here for AT lessons. If you would like further details about transport, to this area, do feel free to contact me.

Thank you Ken Livingstone for starting this project (and for Boris completing his work). 

Download a copy of the completed London Overground network map here


Successful Alexander Technique Fundraising Workshop

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Women's AT Workshop raises £265 in Aid of Mary on the Green charity

I am pleased to say that the Women's Workshop that I held on March 10th in the Newington Green Unitarian Church raised £225 for Newington Green Action Group's Mary on the Green campaign. When Gift Aid has been added to these donations, we will have made something like £265!

This money will go towards erecting a memorial to Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneering feminist who was associated with Newington Green in the 1790s.

Many thanks to Rev, Andy Pakula for allowing us to use the Upper Schoolroom at the Church. 

Thanks also to Susan Brennan for assisting me at the Workshop, helping to make it a successful and enjoyable morning's teaching.

Wendy Savage - Patients' Choice and Doctors' Responsibilities

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Richard Price Memorial Lecture 2011 ~ 28 September

Wendy Savage - Patients' Choice and Doctors' Responsibilities

This lecture is for everyone, particularly women, who wishes to be able to make choices about their own health. People who use the Alexander Technique are already learning how to help themselves make choices, everyday, about the way they use their bodies and so influence their health and wellbeing, so this lecture may well be of interest to them

Wendy Savage is an internationally renowned gynaecologist who has always campaigned for women to be able to make choices about fertilty, childbirth and abortion.

These lectures are always popular, so book in advance.

Venue: Unitarian Church  Newington Green N16


Susie Orbach Lecture: 'Frankenstein's Bodies Today'

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The Richard Price Annual Memorial Lecture ~ Unitarian Church, Newington Green N16

Frankenstein's Bodies Today

The annual lecture will be given by the influential author and psychoanalyst Professor Susie Orbach. The title of the lecture links Orbach's sphere of work, the Unitarian Church and one of the famous members of its congregation, Mary Wollstonecraft - author, early feminist and mother of Mary Shelley, the author of 'Frankenstein'.

Susie Orbach co-founded the Women's Therapy Centre in North London and has written a number of books exploring issues such as gender, women's psychology and eating difficulties. Orbach is well known for her first book, 'Fat is a Feminist Issue' (1978) and her latest book is 'Bodies' (2009).

If you are interested in the Alexander Technique you are probably interested in your own body and you may find it revealing and informative to learn more about our society's attitudes towards our bodies. Susie Orbach's lecture promises to be a fascinating evening and well worth attending.

Date: 27 January 2010


Venue: Unitarian Church, Newington Green N16


Further info and tickets:

http://www.new-unity.org/events/events-calendar


Think of your Use at an Art Exhibition and Avoid Back Pain

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Ellen Graubart a local artist who, incidentally, is familiar with the Alexander Technique, held a solo exhibition which was well worth going to see. You can read about Graubart and see some of her work if you visit the URL below. I'll let the photos of the paintings speak for themselves but will add that they are even better in reality. It was an exciting and vibrant exhibition.

Thumbnail image for Sailing 2. Ellen Graubart JPG Art exhibitions are a time when many people end up with back ache, because they are standing for long periods without being aware of the way they are using their bodies. Looking up above eye level to see a painting, without awareness, can contribute to the problem if we contract our neck and the muscles in our lower back. This can create problems such as a hollow back, putting pressure onto the lumbar vertebrae and discs, which causes discomfort and even back pain.

So take yourself to art exhibitions and remember all you have learned in Alexander lessons; be aware of your use, look after your neck and back so that you remain freely poised and pain-free.



Sailing 2 - Ellen Graubart



http://www.millineryworks.co.uk/