Category Archives: Alexander ~ Notices

Teaching the Alexander Technique

I’ve been teaching the Alexander Technique for 29 years!

 
That deserves a quiet celebration….
 
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What an enjoyable and satisfying job this is too. I have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life, who have come to me for AT lessons and at least six of those have themselves gone on to train as Alexander teachers.
Of course I have also met many excellent and inspiring AT teachers over the years, including several first generation teachers who trained with F M Alexander himself.  I am very grateful to them as they have helped me to develop my skills and my own teaching work and I would like to thank them all.
One of the best things about being an Alexander teacher, is that I have to keep using the AT work for myself, otherwise my teaching would be worthless and I would probably end up with creating problems for myself, such as back pain.  There are not many jobs where looking after yourself is formally built-in, as an essential part of the process of working. Of course STAT expects teachers to have to have ongoing CPD training  but we also have to we aware of our own body-use minute by minute as we teach – and whilst we live our lives.
One of FM Alexander’s graduates was Margaret Goldie and I had the privilege of having some lessons with her and of working at the Bloomsbury Alexander Centre with her for some years. Miss Goldie had had been teaching for 60 years and had her 90th birthday whilst teaching there – now that’s an inspiring role model!

Introductory Workshops

My Intro Workshop 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

Alexander Technique for Women ?

Why put on an Alexander Technique Workshop just for women?

 
Well, in the first place, some women just feel more comfortable attending this type of workshop if it is for women only and for some, their cultural background encourages them to attend classes in an all-female environment. 
 
Also, women do have some specific issues such as wearing high heels, pregnancy and childbirth, all of which can be thought about within the context of the Alexander Technique. For instance, many women experience back pain during pregnancy, or as the result of their habits or wearing stilettos  – all of these can compress the lower back, which can create an exaggerated lordosis, often leading to pain. By learning and using the Technique, which can help women use and carry their bodies differently, many such problems can often be alleviated.
 
Childbirth itself can be helped by using the Technique, as can carrying the baby once it is born – although this latter is (hopefully) not exclusively a woman’s activity! One pupil said this:
 
“I wanted to thank you for all that you taught me over the 9 months of my pregnancy. My weekly Alexander Technique lessons with you were so valuable and I feel contributed hugely to my healthy pregnancy and were so helpful in preparing for the birth”. 
 
A lovely little sculpture I saw in South Africa shows a baby being played with whilst the mother lies in semi-supine position, in a similar manner to how one uses it in the Alexander Technique (although the angle the woman is holding her head would probably be modified in an AT lesson). Lying in this position offers people a chance to let their spines lengthen and for their nervous systems to quieten down and this is a procedure that people are encouraged to practice every day as part of learning the Alexander Technique. (We don’t usually lift babies above out heads during the constructive rest procedure though!)
 
This position can also be used more casually as in the sculpture, allowing parents an easy way to be in close relationship with baby, whilst looking after one,s back. Older babies will climb all over you but this can add to the joy – and your back is still being supported and protected.
 
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Andrew Gibson – Woman and Child ~ The Annexe, Kalk Bay S.A.
 
Would you like to find out more about the Alexander Technique?
Individual lessons  ~ for both men and women ~ are available on a regular basis.
Next Workshop for Men and Women 25th April 2015

Elisabeth Walker

Elisabeth Walker ~ December 1914 – 17 September 2013

 
It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Elisabeth Walker, an inspiring teacher and the last of the first generation of AT teachers who trained with F M Alexander himself.
 
Elisabeth ran an AT Teacher Training course in Oxford for many years with her husband Dick Walker and she was a guest teacher and speaker at many international Alexander Conferences and events. Her fascinating memoir ‘Forward and Away’ shows us just how important her family and her life as an Alexander Teacher were to her. Thankfully we can still watch a valuable record of her teaching on various videos on YouTube.
 
In 2004 an extremely youthful Elisabeth Walker attended the 7th Alexander Technique Conference in Oxford and was seen cycling to and from the Conference each day – at the age of 90!
 
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Elisabeth will be missed by many people and I would like to offer my condolences to her family, particularly to Lucia Walker and Julia Cowper, who are both Alexander teachers. There will be a memorial and celebration of her life, some time next year.
 
Elisabeth
will be buried at Westmill Woodland Burial Ground on Friday 5th October.  

Alexander Technique Intro for Women & Girls

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!

Alexander Technique Gift Vouchers

Give someone the chance to enjoy some Alexander Technique Lessons

Alexander Technique Gift Certificates make great Christmas, birthday or other presents!  They are available for 1:1 Lessons or Introductory Workshops with Hilary in Harringay, N4.

The Gift Vouchers come in various denominations and can be custom made to suit you, with the name of your friend added onto the Certificate.

You could buy a Voucher for:

  • Introductory Lesson or Workshop
  • A group of 4 lessons.
  • £40, £20, £10 and £5

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Please contact Hilary for full details

Poised for Life

Poised for Life

 
We can learn a lot from small children if we take notice of how they use their bodies as they unselfconsciously move around. Unless they have some physical problems, most small children move about very freely, are alert, poised and ready for life. 
 
This one year old found a tortoise on the grass (an ornamental one, fortunately) and decided it would make a good seat, so she squatted down and started to look at it. This involved rocking forwards from her hip joints, with her hips, knees and ankles quite free and moveable, so that she could see and touch the tortoise’s head – she sat there for some time investigating the tortoise, with lovely poise and alignment.
 
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In Western societies we use chairs more and more as we grow up, so we often loose that lovely freedom in our hip joints that this child demonstrates. It has been interesting recently in London to see people from other cultures, who often sit in a squat whilst waiting at bus stops. Quite elderly people have maintained freedom in their hips and joints and are able to squat with ease and poise.
Many children in the UK begin to loose their natural poise as they get older. They slump as they watch television for hours, imitate the people around them and go to school  where they sit at desks for long periods of time – often with unhelpful chairs to sit on. All too frequently this results in children crumpling themselves over their work, which can contribute to back pain, headaches and other disorders, even at a young age.
F M Alexander was very keen to help children avoid developing unhelpful habits and he ran a school in which his Technique was taught as part of the curriculum. These days music and drama colleges often teach the Alexander Technique to their students but sadly there are too few ordinary schools that include the AT on the syllabus.
It is easier to prevent problems of mis-use arising, than to change our habits as an adult and many children have benefited from having Alexander lessons, so they learn to let go of habits that cause them problems and begin to maintain their naturally free movements, so that they remain poised for life.

Ban Backward-sloping School Chairs

One Cause of Back Pain
 
Richard Brennan, an Irish Alexander Technique teacher has created a petition which I fully support, that asks for backward-sloping school chairs to be made illegal in Ireland. However, I would also like this to happen in the UK – and elsewhere.
 
Why? Well the backward slope of the chair offers poor support to children’s backs and the backward angle of the seat encourages the child to curve their spines over their work, rather than to hinge forwards from the hip joints – a movement that allows the spine to remain lengthening. A long spine is a strong spine.
 
Backward Sloping School Chairs Cause Back Pain
 
BackCare UK and STAT argue that these chairs are a major cause of back problems in adults, as a result children using them for hours on end at school – because curling forwards in this way for hours on end encourages the mis-use of their bodies which causes damage such as kyphosis, resulting in back pain for many people later in life. (If you would like to see what kyphosis looks like, see my previous Blog entry here.)
 
Photos Copyright: Richard Brennan
 
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Children who end up curving down over their desks may be learning with their heads but their bodies are being badly educated! Our language encourages a downward contraction as we work – for instance ‘Nose to the grindstone…. Getting down to work… She had her nose in a book…  I must say that adults have similar problems when using backward sloping chairs, whilst many pushchairs that crumple up a baby’s spine are problematic as well.
 
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Using a seat wedge can help a child remain poised even in a backward sloping chair but how much better if the chairs were designed for people, not just for stacking.
 
 
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Of course, children can still slouch and end up with back pain,  even if they have the ‘perfect’ chair and desk to sit at and ultimately it is the way they sit and use their bodies that is crucial. Children can learn the Alexander Technique, which will help them to minimise the problems associated with poor body-use and this will help them avoid pain in the future. This process will be so much easier if children are also given decent seats to sit on whilst they are growing up, developing their own posture and learning how to use their bodies.
 
Sign the Petition
 
So please support Richard Brennan’s petition. Visit the URL below, Sign up and draw this issue to the attention of policy makers:
 
 
 

Successful Alexander Technique Fundraising Workshop

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.

Alexander Technique Research to Help Neck Pain

Research to Help Chronic Neck Pain


Another major research trial into the Alexander Technique has just started at York University, funded by Arthritis Research UK.

The 3 year randomised controlled trial will compare the Alexander Technique, Acupuncture and regular GP care in the treatment of 450 people with chronic neck pain. Once the results of the trial are available, it is hoped that this will enable recommendations to be made about the most suitable treatment/s for neck pain to be used within the NHS.

It is already known that both lessons in the Alexander Technique, or having some Acupuncture treatments can be effective in reducing problems such as neck pain but this has not been backed up by clinical research, so this is a very welcome study.