Category Archives: General

Alexander Technique for Young Musicians

Book Launch 

Last Sunday I went to the launch party at LCATT for this great little reference booklet, ‘The Alexander Technique for Young Musicians’.  I think  AT teachers and musicians will find it a very useful resource. The authors are colleagues of mine and are an impressive trio, Judith Kleinman, Peter Buckoke and Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz – All are Alexander teachers, performers and lecturers at major music colleges.

The Alexander Technique for Young Musicians – great little booklet!

We had wine, nibbles, chamber music and then a workshop with input from each of the authors. We explored topics found in the book – Music Practice, Body Mapping and Sensory Awareness.  Like the booklet, the workshop was clear, to the point and very useful.

Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz, James Sholto and Peter Buckoke

The booklet uses clear language and illustrations to explore the basic concepts of the AT. For instance, I love the use of ‘Fake News’ as a way of explaining Alexander’s term ‘Faulty Sensory Appreciation‘ – Simple, right up to date and good value – so I hope many people make use of it!

Fake News

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/

Stress? Take it Lying Down. Candlelit Event

 

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

* 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.

 

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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
 
 
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

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

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

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

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?

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.