‘I’m Going to the Dentist’
I Love My Work
I love these drawings by Leonardo da Vinci
F M Alexander was born on 20th January 1869 in Tasmania.
Alexander’s family had originally lived, for many generations, in the ancient village of Ramsbury in Wiltshire. Whilst exploring some of my own family history I discovered that some of my mother’s family also came from Ramsbury and one of them married a Mary Alexander in 1764, quite possibly part of F M’s family, although I have not been able to verify this yet….. research still to be done here.
F M’s paternal grandfather, Matthias Alexander was a hurdle maker and other family members were craftsmen. However they supported the impoverished agricultural labourers during the swing riots, in which they protested against the new threshing machines which were costing them their livelihoods. As a result of this support, Alexander’s family was sent to Tasmania as convicts in 1831, something that F M never admitted to in public. If you are interested in discovering more about Alexander’s background, his biography by Michael Bloch makes for interesting reading.
From these difficult beginnings, F M developed an interest in horses and in the theatre and in 1889 he moved to Melbourne, Australia and began to train for a career as a reciter. A few years later, after many bouts of illness which threatened his new career, F M began to develop his now famous Technique. This process is described in some detail his book ‘The Use of the Self‘ and it is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique.
TV’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor – ‘How to get stronger in just a few weeks without going to the gym!’
One of the main reasons that we can hurt our backs when coughing, is that if we habitually hold ourselves in a fixed manner with contracted, tense back muscles, this tightness will be increased by the strong spasms of coughing and sneezing, which will obviously be more exaggerated if you have a long bout of coughing. The lower back in the lumbar region can be particularly vulnerable and the jolting can jar the spine or strain the muscles, sometimes even damaging an intervertebral disc, causing great pain. There can also be a problem for people with hypermobility, as they can sometimes dislocate their joints if their body gets jolted strongly.
If you have had some AT lessons, you can remind yourself to use a small (and moveable) monkey position when coughing. If we are sitting, we can free the hip joints and let our bodies angle slightly forwards from the hips, so that the torso is freer to move around as it needs to.
Importantly, let the tension go again after coughing and allow your chest to uncurl and open up again. If you forget to do this, the tension and inevitable pulling down that takes place when coughing will just go on building up. If you can lie down in semi-supine afterwards that can help enormously but sometimes it is hard to lie down horizontally if you have a bad cough. In which case, make sure your back (and head?) has good support and spend a few minutes encouraging your chest and back to free up again, just as you would if you were practising the lying down procedure.
The more able you are to have a free neck and back, the more resilient your muscles will be and the more efficient the coughs can be too. Even if you have not had Alexander Lessons, you can help protect your back as you allow your legs, with their moveable hips, knees and ankles, to act as shock absorbers when you cough and work your way back to health.
The Alexander Technique is Not Just About Sitting and Standing!
Following on from my previous Blog entry on the condition called ‘text neck’ , it is interesting to see that the Daily Mail has published an article about an Australian chiropractor, Dr James Carter, who has reported seeing ‘an alarming increase’ in the number of patients coming to him with text neck within the last 2 years – and that about 50 percent of those patients have been school-aged children.
Dr Carter, and many other practitioners, have been finding very obvious postural changes associated with text neck, which lead to spinal damage and pain in people – including children as young as seven – which Carter puts down to their addictive over-use of smart phones and tablets for many hours at a time.
X-Ray of Seven Year Old Child’s Neck
These X-ray photos illustrate the damage to the neck that can result from this type of prolonged misuse. The first one is, sadly, of a seven year old boy and it shows just how compressed the cervical vertebrae are and how over-curved the neck has become, so that the head is pulled back and down. What cannot be seen in these particular X-ray photos is the way this compression continues downwards, into the rest of the spine.
Of course children are very mobile physically and it’s possible for them to assume this sort of position temporarily and then to come out of it into a more aligned poise with a more suitably lengthened-out neck. However, the more frequently such contracted positions are assumed, the more habitual this way of being becomes for the child – so the less mobile and adaptable the child’s body-use becomes and the more damage ensues .
The second of Dr Carter’s photos shows a more normal curve in the neck. This is particularly obvious at the top of the neck, which shows a space between the top vertebra and the skull – a crucial area which we need to keep freely moving, in order to enable good poise, balance and general body-use. Freeing up this area is a central part of Alexander Technique lessons.
F M Alexander’s ‘Directions’ that he formulated for us to use on an everyday basis, is one of the AT tools we can use to help us avoid this back-and-down compression. If the 7 year old child was able to give himself these directions regularly, this would allow his spine to freely lengthen out again, in a similar manner to that shown in the second photo. FM’s directions are regularly taught in AT lessons and give people a wonderful tool with which to help themselves:
Allow my neck to be free
To allow my head to go forward and up
To allow my back to lengthen and widen
X-Ray of ‘Normal’ Curvature of the Neck