Tag Archives: Alexander Technique Stoke Newington N16

Successful ‘Stress? Take it Lying Down’ event

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/

Reaching Up and Bending Down

Harvest Time!

Even in my London garden, there are fruits to be picked and enjoyed at this time of year and as I have been doing just that, I’ve been aware of how necessary it is to think of my body-use whilst harvesting. Just how do I climb my apple tree and look up to see where I need to reach for fruit, whilst looking after my neck? How do I bend down to look under the leaves of raspberry plants to search for the often hidden little balls of sweetness, or pick up windfalls from the grass whilst looking after my back?

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Looking Up and Reaching to Search for Apples

It is one thing to look at something above our heads for a quick moment and it is fairly easy to do this mindfully and freely, so that we can maintain as much length in the neck and spine as possible. However it is altogether harder to maintain our balance and some freedom in our neck muscles if we are spending a prolonged period of time looking up, as when picking apples, bird watching, or painting a ceiling, for instance.

There are always apples that are out of reach – and awkward corners of rooms that can be tricky to get into when you want to paint them! It can be tempting to end-gain and just get on with the job as fast as possible, forgetting to look after ourselves. These situations illustrate when using the Alexander Technique can be so valuable, as we can use it to be aware of our body-use and remind ourselves not to over-reach, or tighten and compress the neck. Continually over-using one set of muscles creates uncomfortable tension and leads to patterns of mis-use, so it helps if we frequently allow our heads to change position and come back to a more ordinary poised stance, for a while, in order to consciously allow the neck muscles to free up and lengthen out again.

Gardening Requires Lots of Bending Down! Monkey Position to the Rescue

Of course we bend down at all sorts of times in order to put shoes on, or pick up toys from the floor etc but in gardening we often have to spend a prolonged period of time bending over whilst working at tasks such as weeding. Being mindful about the way we bend is important, so that we can protect our necks, avoid getting back pain and maintain a good balance during our movements.

For people who’ve had AT lessons, learning how to ‘Inhibit’ or stop, can sometimes be quite tricky and they may ask ‘Why are we having to do this?’  Well, it is an invaluable concept and when we use it during our daily activities, we give ourselves a very brief pause before starting a task or making different type of movement, which allows us the chance to choose how to do something, so we can avoid getting into old habits that mess us up.

To illustrate – rather than bending forwards with my old habit of curling over, which used to compress my spine and torso, I can pause briefly and remind myself to hinge from the hip joints, so that I fold forwards with a lengthened spine and a body that is able to move and breathe freely. In this way I am also utilising the AT procedure which F M Alexander called ‘the position of mechanical advantage’ but is now nick-named ‘monkey position‘. This is a movement that comes quite naturally to children and we use it in a variety of ways, using a deep version to reach the floor, or a very slight angling forwards over a wash basin with the knees slightly bent whilst cleaning our teeth, for instance – and it’s so much more comfortable for our backs! The woman in the photo above is using an adaptation of the monkey position, in order to check out the lawnmower.

Semisupine Active Rest Lets Our Spine Decompress

It is also a really good idea to lie down in the semisupine position at the end of doing such activities, so that we can allow our spines – and whole body – to decompress and to free up.

Applying the Alexander Technique to Our Everyday Activities

When I teach, I spend a lot of time helping students to learn how to sit, stand and walk freely, in the manner of traditional Alexander Technique lessons. Students can then transfer this learning into other activities and they learn some specific procedures like Monkey and Active Rest procedures. However, some people wonder how to use everything they learn out in the ‘real world’ and make the AT a tool they can use throughout life.

Therefore, as part of the lesson, I will sometimes explore different activities with pupils, so that they can think about how to apply and include the AT into their thinking whilst performing these. Recently, one student thought about how to do exercises the physio had given her, another couple explored how to use a mouse and keyboard, another fine tuned how to play a guitar, one tried moving a table differently and – a new one to me – one explored how to bend over in order to clean the bath!

The important words here are ‘how to’.  When we include the’how’into our awareness and, if necessary, change the way in which we perform actions, we can begin to recover from conditions such as back pain or RSI. Such a relief!

Remember

  • STOP
  • THINK
  • CHOOSE HOW TO RESPOND

This short video of  the lying down procedure was produced by the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, STAT:    https://youtu.be/NhxMNou1Tfo

STAT Conference and AGM 2010

I went to this year’s Conference for STAT Recognised Alexander Technique Teachers, held at Sussex University. It
was a lively and informative event, with a good range of workshops,
lectures and discussion about teaching the Alexander Technique. Issues to do with the
structure and running of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander
Technique, STAT, were also debated in depth at the AGM.

The Annual
Memorial Lecture this year was given by Vivien Mackie and was titled
‘Doing Only What is Necessary, and Taking the Time it Takes’. This was a
fascinating and amusing account of Mackie’s experience of learning the
cello with Pablo Casals, which eventually led her into training to be an Alexander
Technique teacher and how she applied this learning over forty or so years of playing music and teaching the AT, mainly
but not exclusively, to musicians.

The conference also offered us a time to mix and exchange work and
ideas with other AT teachers. It was good to see the Technique
being used quite naturally in a range of different ways – sitting
through lectures, having a drink at the bar or, as in the photo,  to see
a young teacher using
the lying down procedure to look after his tired back during a walk
through the parkland.

AT Conference walk '10 09-07-2010 .jpgWhen the Alexander Technique becomes a way of life and is used like this, outside lessons as well as in them, then it really becomes a valuable and effective tool that we can use to look after ourselves.

If you would like to find out more about Alexander Technique lessons in Stoke Newington, North London, you may contact me here.