The Alexander Technique and the use of your mobile phone.

How aware are you, of the way you use yourself when telephoning? Watch other people using a phone, it can be an eye-opener. You may well see habits that you can recognise as being similar to your own, so that you can learn from them about your own use (and mis-use).

The most exaggerated way of mis-using yourself when phoning, is to clamp the phone between your ear and your shoulder whilst you continue another activity with your hands free.  With this habit, it is usually the same shoulder that always gets scrunched up. Just think about what happens to your neck, as you continually compress down on one side of the vertebrae. Neck and shoulder pains will soon be on their way, if they are not with you yet, unless you stop this habit.

Another common form of mis-use, often seen in busy open plan offices and noisy public places, is to thrust the neck forwards, curling in and downwards whilst talking, in an attempt to gain some sense of privacy. This is a particularly frequent form of mis-use seen in mobile phone users. This cannot create the private space we would like but it does create tension and problems in the neck, shoulder and upper torso. These become very tight, stiff and pulled down into a forward curve as we box ourselves in, often resulting in back and shoulder pain as a result of developing a pronounced kyphosis.
 
Our sensory appreciation is often faulty, so we can be unaware of such habits of mis-use, even when we are conscientious about applying the Alexander Technique in other areas of our life.
 
One young woman realised that this habit was so strong that it felt impossible for her to use her left hand and ear during a phone call, even though her hearing functioned perfectly well in both ears. Now that’s a strong habit that was purely built around her perceptions. However, once aware of her pattern, the young woman could begin to let go of it and work to improve her use, both during Alexander lessons and during her phone calls.

This sort of habit is a good example of how our thoughts and attitudes
get played out in our bodies, illustrating the way the body and mind
interact and work as one.

If you would like to recycle your old mobiles, I can send them to various charities, including BackCare ‘the charity for healthier backs’ with whom I am registered as an Affiliated Professional Member.

Climate Change and the means-whereby we live

Do you want to know more about the process of climate change, written in easy to understand language? The BBC have created some graphics, based on scientific research, that do just that.

Compare the levels of climate change it’s predicted we’ll create through our present greedy consumption of fossil fuels, with the lower levels we could bring about with more sustainable lifestyles: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/04/climate_change/html/climate.stm

In the Alexander Technique we aim to improve our individual use and the means-whereby we gain our own immediate, personal ends, so that we look after our health and wellbeing. This attitude of mind can be expanded, to develop awareness of our use in relation to the world’s shrinking resources and of our impact on the environment.

In order to gain the end that most of us agree that we want, ie a world in which we do not contribute to global warming, we need to address our increasing mis-use
of these natural resources. The means-whereby most of us are living now, seems to be
having a negative impact on the environment. We can all make conscious choices to live more sustainably, inhibit our unthinking and wasteful habits and bring about changes to improve the situation.

For ideas about how you can make positive changes and live more sustainably, visit: http://www.everyactioncounts.org.uk/

Friends of the Alexander Technique

Many Alexander Technique pupils find that it is easier to utilise their learning when they meet up with others who are also interested in the Technique.  When people around us also use, discuss and think about the Technique during their activities, such as going for a walk or having a cup of coffee together, its application becomes much more ‘ordinary’ and a part of daily life, which is what we are aiming at.

One way of helping this process is to join Friends of the Alexander Technique, a registered charity that is linked to STAT. You can join online or pick up an application form from Hilary.

For a small annual fee you can receive the Alexander Journal and some e-mail newsletters, plus attend various workshops and events around the country which can help you extend your understanding of the work and stimulate a deeper interest in the Technique.

As a Friend, you will become part of a wide-reaching community that shares an Alexander outlook on life and it would be possible for you to set up events specifically for A/T Friends.

There is also a move to create an Alexander Orchestra, which musical Friends can join, the details of which you can find on the Friends’ Website.

Alexander Technique and Tai Chi compared

Sam Murphy of the Guardian has written another article about the Alexander Technique (17th Nov ’07), this time comparing it to Tai Chi on a number of parameters. Again, the article makes for interesting reading and it is good that he is discussing the Technique.

Murphy compares various research studies into the two disciplines and it is true to say that there needs to be more research undertaken into the Alexander Technique, as scientific ‘evidence’ about its effectiveness is a little flimsy.

An important difference between the two, is that the Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises but becomes more of a way of life. An important aim of the Alexander Technique is to learn how to improve the use of our bodies, whatever we happen to be doing – so we can apply it to improve our Tai Chi practice, for instance.

One statement that Murphy makes, I would like to query.  He says that ‘Good posture, at rest or in movement, is the raison d’etre of the Alexander Technique’. Certainly, our posture tends to improve as a result of learning the Technique but it is the means-whereby we bring about those changes, which is important. This is because we don’t just ‘sit up straight’, but learn to let go of our habitual reactions, along with the associated mis-use that tends to distort our natural poise.  We then give ourselves directions that bring about changes in the way we use ourselves and in so doing, we allow our bodies to re-align. Good posture is usually an outcome of taking lessons, providing the pupil applies their learning of the Technique to their daily life, but is not the main aim of the work.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to quote Alexander himself, as reported by some of his pupils:

‘There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction’

and

You are not here to do exercises or to learn to do something right, but to get able to meet a stimulus that always puts you wrong and to learn to deal with it’.

F M Alexander – Aphorisms

‘Aphorisms’ is a small book, full of fascinating quotes from F M Alexander

Running with the Alexander Technique

There was an interesting article by Sam Murphy in the Guardian (Wed 6th November ’07) called ‘More Speed, Less Pain’.  Murphy writes about the experience of learning to run differently through having a running lesson with Malcolm Balk, who combines the Alexander Technique with running skills and has developed an approach to his teaching called ‘The Art of Running’. This article can still be seen online at Guardian Unlimited and is well worth reading, whether you are interested in running to improve your health, or the Alexander Technique, or both, as it gives you a taste of the way in which you can train yourself to run using the Technique.

As Murphy puts it ‘I’ve been running for 18 years and it’s never felt this easy and, well, bouncy’. The article’s title also indicates that it is possible to move faster when using the A/T, not that we all have to slow down, as some people fear they will have to do, in order to be aware of their use. When we let go of habits that interfere with our movements, it is possible to act freely and more speedily, if we choose to. This is quite another experience to that of rushing around, whilst end-gaining in a driven manner.

In his article, Murphy refers to several of F M Alexander’s theories such as doing, non-doing and end-gaining – and for those of you have not come across these concepts as used in the Alexander Technique, you may like to refer to my Glossary Definitions of these terms.

Murphy also quotes Alexander as saying “Stop what you are doing wrong, and the right will take care of itself” – something we could all do well to remember. However some people may benefit from the help of an Alexander teacher, in order to understand how to do this during our activities.

Malcolm Balk has also written a book which many Alexander students have found interesting and helpful to use when thinking about how to apply the Alexander Technique to their running, so that can can run freely and with poise, whilst helping themselves to avoid injury.

Master the Art of Running by Malcolm Balk and Andrew Shields is available here for just £8.39 at the moment  – (usual price £12.99)

My New Blog

The Blog

This is a new departure for me and for my Website.  I hope that this Blog will enable me to keep pupils informed about term dates etc plus offer news and ideas from the world of the Alexander Technique. Sometimes pupils express the desire to connect with others who are learning the Technique and this Blog offers one way this can happen.

I also want to add new material to my site that includes other areas of interest – topics that are local to Stoke Newington and Newington Green, plus environmental concerns in particular. Why add these topics to a Website about the Alexander Technique?. Well, in A/T we learn to be aware of how we live and act in the world and learn to take care of ourselves in a specific manner, all the time becoming aware of the immediate environment around us. For instance, sometimes we will think about how we use a computer and as part of that process we will look at how well our equipment is placed for us, so that we can give ourselves the best chance we can to use our bodies well whilst typing – or reading this Blog, of course!

I want to take this approach out into the wider world – what can we do to help make our world a better, healthier place to live in?  Our quality of life is affected by our environment and this impacts on our wellbeing. Discovering about our local area can help us to connect with it and to develop the urge to actively care for it. Contact with gardens and other green spaces is known to help reduce stress levels and to improve our health but city parks are all too often uncared for, or are so highly ‘manicured’ that they support no wildlife. All parks and green spaces tend to be in short supply and they will be even more so, if the government builds on those they can label brownfield sites.

The refurbishment and transformation of Newington Green has resulted in the Green being given various awards. This is an example of positive change that was brought about through local action, with the lead being taken by the Newington Green Action Group, who engendered public involvement and consultation with the Council. The Green has gone from being the run-down haunt of alcoholics, to the much enjoyed community space that it is now. The Green is still somewhat barren from a wildlife standpoint, with just a flock of 100 feral pigeons, an occasional visit from a blackbird and little else. However, with plans to improve the situation in the near future, biodiversity surely has to be increased. We are almost starting with a blank canvas.

With climate change increasingly being an issue we need to engage with the problems and cherish every outdoor space, to maximise their capacity to combat CO2 and pollution levels, to mop up excess water and to create spaces that are good for both wildlife and humans.

So often we can feel powerless when faced with such daunting topics as climate change but there are many ways in which we can act, that could contribute in a positive way to both the global situation and to our own health and wellbeing, plus our enjoyment of the area we live in. We can all do things that help – remember –
Every Action Counts

Quite how far this Blog will expand I do not know. Meanwhile I’ve gone from thinking about looking after our backs, to thinking about caring for the environment and the world of invertebrates, creatures that have no spine at all.

If you would like regular updates from my Blog, you can subscribe to the RSS Feed above.

Watch this space!