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Alexander Technique Offer for NHS Staff

Alexander Technique lessons offer for NHS staff

Alexander Technique lessons Offer for NHS staff: 10% reduction.  Just contact me using an NHS email address.

During the lockdown, I offered NHS staff six free Alexander lessons as a thank you for all their dedication and hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased to say that several doctors and midwives took up that offer.

Other people are of course welcome to have Alexander Technique lessons and are charged the usual rates for these.  Online lessons usually take place on Zoom. Face to face lessons include the hands-on element of Alexander work and take place in a Covid secure environment. I am registered with both STAT and the CNHC and have an enhanced DBS certificate

The Constructive Rest Lying Down Procedure

Learning the lying down procedure, for instance, gives us a tool we can use to relax, reduce tension and pain, plus recharge our batteries.  Using this procedure daily can help us avoid burnout through stress and overwork, whilst reducing problems such as back pain.  Is is such a refuge!

In lessons, we also begin to recognise our habits of body use that cause us problems.  When we learn to let go of unhelpful habits and reactions, we can move and act more mindfully in the world, enhancing our wellbeing.

Testimonial from a GP

You may like to read a testimonial from a student of mine, a GP and amateur musician:

 “A very committed and experienced teacher

… As an amateur musician with problems of tension getting in the way of performance, I was delighted to discover that (Hilary) had experience with helping musicians, but I can thoroughly recommend her to musicians and non-musicians alike. She is a very committed and experienced teacher. I have found it fascinating to explore with Hilary the more general applications of the Alexander technique. This has led me to some important insights about the relationship between my mind and my body… An excellent listener, she is able to focus on whatever problem I bring with kindness, encouragement and gentle hands-on expertise. She always strives to find the root of issues of bad use of the body, with suggestions on how to work on them…  When it is time to leave, I always feel revitalised both in mind and body. Dec 2018. “

Martha ~ Doctor and Musician

Contact me   If you are an NHS staff member, please use your NHS email address

The Developing Self

The Developing Self  is a pioneering organisation that actively promotes the Alexander Technique in education.  The Developing Self team offer specialised Postgraduate Training in the UK and USA, for qualified Alexander teachers who want to bring the Alexander Technique to children and into into schools and colleges. There is now a growing number of primary, secondary and tertiary colleges that include the Alexander Technique in the curriculum.

The Little School – where the Alexander Technique was embedded into Education

The Developing Self movement found its inspiration from F M Alexander’s work with children. Alexander believed it was essential to help children avoid developing poor psychophysical habits and misuse. To this end he ran The Little School from 1924 until the Second World War, when it was transferred to the US. At this  school, they applied the principles of the AT to all lessons and activities.  Today, Educare Small School in Kingston -upon Thames, is run in a similar way. It ensures that ‘principles of the Alexander Technique are woven seamlessly into each school day’.

The Developing Self Resources

There are several excellent books on aspects of the Alexander Technique in Education. These have been written by the Developing Self team, particularly Judith Kleinman and Sue Merry.

The Developing Self website offers a number of free resources, including some lively and informative videos of presentations at the 2021 and 2020 Conferences .  If you are interested in  bringing the Alexander Technique to children and into educational settings, the videos are a great way to explore the topic.

Alexander Technique Teacher Training Courses

Have you thought of training to become an Alexander Teacher?

Do you wonder what type of person decides to train to be an Alexander Technique Teacher and what the criteria are for joining one of the STAT regulated courses? Every teacher has to start their experience of the Technique through being a pupil, learning about their own use and mis-use, perhaps in short Introductory Courses but definitely in 1:1 lessons. It is a learning experience, not a form of treatment, right from the start and it is up to each of us to decide just how far we wish to take the learning.

Pupils that are new to the Alexander Technique, often start lessons because they either have a problem such as back pain or they want to learn to use their bodies more efficiently so that they prevent problems from developing. Unfortunately, some pupils just want a quick fix, learn the Technique at a very superficial level and rush away from lessons as soon as they think their problem is sorted – their problems probably return again, later. Some people look after their car better than the way they look after themselves! They polish the car constantly and service it regularly – but they expect their own body to continue working well for them even though they give it very little care and attention.

At the other end of the spectrum, many pupils take the AT work on board at a deep level and make it a part of their life, so that it influences their whole way of being in the world. These pupils tend to continue having lessons on and off throughout their life, because they find the Technique so valuable for their wellbeing.

One such pupil, who first came to me when she was going through a very stressful period in her life, found that having AT lessons helped her to become calmer so that she could more easliy cope with things and she said that she wants to train to be an Alexander teacher, so that I can make deep changes in my life, which would help both me and my son’.

LCATT

Other pupils become fascinated by the Technique and enjoy it so much, that they want to take it much further and decide to train as Alexander Teachers. I have been teaching regularly at the London Centre for Alexander Teaching and Training, LCATT, since 2009 and several of my pupils have gone on to train as AT teachers there. As one pupil of mine said to me when he joined LCATT’s three year course

‘Thank you so much for pointing me in the direction of the training course, it is really eye opening to study the technique in so much detail….’

James Allsopp – Multi-instrumentalist and Composer (Aug 2007)

 

    LCATT Teachers

Some LCATT Teachers 

It is rewarding work and many teachers run their teaching practise alongside thir other profession, which can give a good and varied work pattern. There are teachers who are also office workers, doctors, professional musicians and athletes. Some of these AT teachers will develop a particular focus to their A/T teaching which relates to their other profession. For many years I taught the Alexander Technique whilst also working in psychology and stress management.

Sometimes this develops into a blending of techniques to form an off-shoot to the Alexander Technique, such as the linking of AT work with swimming, as in the Shaw Method. It perhaps also needs to be said that having two jobs has a practical side to it, as few people become rich from just their Alexander teaching!

Many teachers work in a variety of venues, which adds interest to the work. Over the years I have taught in an Alexander Centre, community colleges, a hospital, offices, my own home, a music college, music summer schools and alongside a yoga course in Crete. Other teachers could add other venues to the list. Many teachers continue teaching well past their ‘retirement’ age, because they just don’t want to stop doing something they find so satisfying and, significantly, because they are fit enough to be able to do so. I remember Margaret Goldie (1905-1997), one of Alexander’s first pupils and first-generation teachers, when she had her 90th birthday whilst still teaching in Bloomsbury. She told me ‘I hope I am still of some use’ – and indeed she was, she was still a sought after and highly respected senior teacher .

A Brief History of A/T Training Courses

F M Alexander himself was still teaching and running his teacher training course up until his death at the age of 86. This first ever A/T training course was started by Alexander in 1931, in London. These days, most UK teachers are members of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, STAT, which was formed in 1958 by teachers who had trained with F M Alexander himself. It is perhaps the most respected Alexander Teachers’ organisation in the world.

All UK Alexander teachers that are registered with STAT, will have undergone a three year Teacher Training at one of the STAT Approved Training Courses. There are 19 such courses at present in the UK, seven of which are in London. All these courses, plus five overseas training courses, are regulated by STAT through external moderators. Each course has its own characteristics and ‘flavour’ so if you are contemplating doing the training, it can be a good idea to visit more than one, to see which you prefer. Over time there has been an inevitable formation of styles of teaching the Technique and in the UK there are three main strands which have developed out of the training schools that were run by first-generation teachers Patrick Macdonald, Walter Carrington and Wilfred Barlow.

There are also numerous teacher training courses worldwide, which are regulated by Societies which are affiliated to STAT. This has lead to there being over 2,500 registered Alexander teachers working around the globe. However, there are still large areas of the word waiting for AT teachers to arrive there, so more teachers are needed.

The Training Courses Today

The criteria for joining a teacher training varies slightly from course to course but there is a general consensus about the main requirements that students need to meet. All the STAT Approved Training Courses require prospective students to have had a good number of individual Alexander Technique lessons, usually at least 20-30 lessons, before starting a training course. Importantly, students need to demonstrate that they have had a good groundwork in the Technique, have gained an improved level of use and a good understanding of and interest in, the basic principles of the Technique. The training courses run for four hours a day, four to five days a week, for three years. These hours allow students to continue with some paid work whilst training.

Trainee teachers will continuously work on their own use during the course, gradually learning how to work on other people and fine tuning the way they use their hands. Although the courses are predominantly practical, students will also learn some anatomy, plus read, discuss and sometimes write about F M Alexander’s books and those of senior teachers who have written about the Technique. The training courses are generally small and the teacher-student ratio is 1:5 so there is a high level of individual attention given to students.

There is often an intake of new students each term, which creates mixed-ability groups that allow students to learn from each other about their use – and their mis-use! Teachers come from all walks of life, so there can be a rich mix of lifestyles and skills to which the Technique may be applied – all valuable experience which will help when new teachers begin to work. Although the learning of the Technique is fundamentally the same for each pupil, everyone brings their own mix of habits, life experience and the demands of their daily life and work. So students become able to work with the needs and habits of such varied pupil-types as pregnant mothers, musicians, office workers and builders, for instance.

Many training courses welcome experienced AT pupils as visitors, where they are often able to act as ‘bodies’ for the students to work on. This allows the visitor to see what the schools are like, whilst receiving some extra AT teaching, usually at very low cost. This process also allows trainees the experience of working on a wider range of people who have already had some Alexander lessons and are able to work on themselves to some extent but who tend to be less experienced than the students on the course. This can help prepare students for the time when they begin to teach pupils who are new to the Technique.

In the final stage of the training, students begin to teach ‘real’ pupils, under supervision. These pupils generally only pay a nominal sum to the trainees, so it also offers people on a low income the chance to have lessons, a lovely win-win situation. Sometimes these trainees will also be able to extend their learning by assisting teachers who run introductory group workshops and courses – another situation where everyone benefits.

 

For a full list of STAT regulated Alexander Technique Teacher Training Courses visit: http://www.alexandertechnique.co.uk/

For Further information about LCATT, 137 Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury, London N5 2NH, visit http://www.lcatt.org.uk 

Alexander Technique Introductory Courses and Workshops

Introductory Workshops and Courses are very useful learning resources but it is important for anyone who is interested in attending one of these to remember that they really are only introductory! This may seem like a tautology but some people still seem to hope that they will be able to learn all they need from a few group sessions. Sadly, this is not possible.

Some very valuable learning can take place in Small Group Courses, they are a cheaper way to begin learning the Technique and they can be fun as well. Providing the pupils have some 1:1 lessons, these Introductory Courses and Workshops can offer a taste of Alexander work and even add something that is not possible to experience in individual lessons – so I believe Introductory Courses can offer something very worthwhile.

However the main learning of the Alexander Technique necessarily takes place in 1:1 lessons because this is the standard and best way – and many teachers would argue that individual classes are the only real way, to learn the Technique. The results of the ATEAM research into low back pain show that the most effective method of helping people with low back pain is to take 1:1 Alexander Technique lessons with a STAT registered teacher.

Dr Miriam Wohl (Statnews Jan ’08) goes as far as stating that she believes that group courses of six or more beginners, if they do not include individual lessons, merely short-change the participants and do both the Alexander Technique and the beginners, a disservice. Whilst I agree that individual lessons are central to a person’s ability to learn the Technique and that it is important that beginners realise this, I would argue that groups do have a useful role to play.

Miriam Wohl quotes a lecture given by Walter Carrington, who trained with F M Alexander:

unless people actually have the experience that it is possible to give in the lesson – in the one-to-one situation – they will not understand this vital point of the unity between mind and body… Group work has its tremendous uses and values… but you mustn’t overlook the fact that the Technique certainly can’t be taught by group work alone’.

Walter Carrington June 1994

It is for this reason that all participants of the Introductory Courses and Workshops that I run, are always encouraged to experience the Technique in an individual lesson and to see it as part of the course. I either include a private lesson in the course fee, or make an optional lesson available at a reduced rate. In this way pupils can understand the difference between what they have learned on the course and the greater depth and range of work that is only possible during individual lessons. Sometimes people are quite surprised to find out just how much more they can learn, when they have my undivided attention.

However, some people can feel somewhat isolated if they only have 1:1 lessons and do not know anyone else learning and using the AT in their daily activities, with whom they can share their experiences and widen their understanding of AT work. Small Group work can offer people a chance to make social connections with other AT pupils.

Why Are Individual Alexander Technique Lessons so Important?

We each have our own personal way of using our bodies, through which we express our thoughts and feelings as we act in the world and it is decidedly easier to address those individual traits in 1:1 lessons. In a group situation, what the teacher says to one pupil about her body-use, may also be helpful for someone else – but it may be quite wrong for another person and very unhelpful for that pupil to take those suggestions on board. In private lessons our individual issues may be addressed more directly, without such confusion.

Our mind and body work as one unit and we develop habitual patterns of psychophysical use over a long period of time. Some of these habits are unhelpful to us, resulting in minor problems such as poor co-ordination, a lack of poise or perhaps something hard to define, such as a person just not feeling ‘right’ in their body. Some of our habits contribute to, or cause, more serious conditions such as chronic back pain and RSI. We often don’t know we have to change something about the way we use and express ourselves in the world, until we experience the warning signals of pain. Pain is a good teacher!

Of course there are similarities to be seen in the various ways that people use their bodies and express themselves but we all have our unique habit patterns of use and mis-use. Many of these habits are subtle and are, at best, only semi-conscious. We are often not aware of them until an Alexander teacher draws our attention to them, so it is very difficult to stop habits and change the way we use ourselves on our own.

In an individual lesson the teacher’s hands guide the pupil’s movements, making gentle re-adjustments and the teacher may link the pupil’s attitudes and thought patterns to their body-use. In this way the teacher can highlight our habits moment by moment, as they take place, and so help us stop any mis-use that interferes with the way we function.

For instance, if a pupil has been told throughout their life to ‘try harder’, they may well tense up at the very thought of making an action, particularly if the movement holds some importance to that person. Just trying to relax will not work nearly as well as recognising the link between the thought ‘I must try harder’ and the perceived need to express this by tightening up. Once this link has been made the pupil can begin to choose not to react to that and other internal messages with tension.

In this way we can become free to find a different, conscious, way of using ourselves as we perform our daily activities. This process of change can take place in 1:1 lessons, in a way that would be unlikely to happen in a group situation. Importantly, pupils also learn how to maintain those changes during their daily lives, outside lessons. In this way, we can each learn to take responsibility for our own use rather than just wait for someone else to try to ‘fix’ things for us.

The Benefits to Learning in a Small Group Introductory Course are Many

Alexander Technique Intro with Hilary King

Reduced Cost

I believe Small Group Alexander Technique classes play a valuable role by offering participants the chance to find out about the Technique in a safe, friendly environment at a reduced cost. This means people can test the ground. I have known a number of people who, even if they can’t immediately have 1:1 lessons after the end of a course, come back to me for individual lessons a couple of years later, when they are financially more secure and they feel ready to work on themselves by learning the AT.

Observation and Sharing Experiences

Courses and Workshops can also offer something that is not possible to do in an individual lessons, for course participants can learn from other people as well as from the teacher, through discussion, sharing experiences and observing the way they all use their bodies. This can help them recognise similar patterns of use and mis-use in themselves as they develop their observational skills and awareness. As some of the experiential exercises used in workshops are in the form of games, it can also be a fun way to learn.

Taking on Responsibility for One’s Own Learning

The courses and workshops that I run are for a maximum of six participants so that each person can experience some individual hands-on work, although the time available for this is much reduced compared to private lessons. However, it does encourage people to take responsibility for their learning so that they do not immediately become dependent on the teacher and wait to be made to ‘feel better’. With larger groups, it is not possible to give much hands-on time at all, if there is only one teacher.

Experience for Trainee Teachers who Assist

In order to address this problem, some teachers, myself included, are developing links with Alexander Technique Training Schools and are inviting senior students and graduates to assist on Introductory Courses and Workshops. This allows course participants much more hands-on time and more varied discussion, plus offers trainees some valuable experience of working with groups of beginners. This enriches the courses and is beneficial for everyone involved.

So, although it is ideal to learn the Alexander Technique through individual lessons, a group course – used as an adjunct to these – can in my opinion, offer some useful extras which can enhance a pupil’s learning. Pupils benefit by getting to know others who are interested in the Technique and this contact can be supportive of their learning and their application of the Technique in everyday activities, so that their learning does not remain something that only happens in lessons.

Application of the Alexander Technique During Daily Activities

For many people, a group course leads them into taking 1:1 lessons, so they end up by benefiting from both ways of learning the Alexander Technique.

I have noticed over the years that pupils who take 1:1 lessons and who know others with whom they can discuss issues to do with the Alexander Technique, often become more engaged with applying AT work in their ordinary, daily lives, than some pupils who don’t see other people around them using the Technique. This is a very good argument for including at least some group work as part of the learning process.

Preventing Crippling Tension Headaches

Crippling Tension Headaches

I have been attending Alexander Technique (AT) sessions with Hilary King since January of this year. I had been suffering from quite crippling tension headaches on and off for several years and wanted to explore natural methods of preventing the headaches from occurring. Being a busy mother of three children and a primary school teacher I had developed some poor habits, particularly when it came to connecting with my body. I had heard about the Alexander Technique before but had little understanding of what it was other than a technique that involved correcting your posture (more about this later). As i read case studies online I realised that AT was something that I wanted to explore further. I found a local weekend workshop and this is what led me to Hilary, who was the course leader. 

The course was eye-opening and I discovered that AT was much more than a method of correcting posture. It is a programme of lessons that takes a holisitic approach to improving your health and well-being. It enables you to discover new ways of thinking about your body as a total system, incorporating the physical and mental and emotional. I was convinced that my headaches were not only being caused by mental stresses but that I was causing my body unnecessary physical stress.  After the course I decided to undertake individual lessons with Hilary and explore things further.  

Individual Lessons

From the very first lesson Hilary made me feel that she understood exactly what my issues were. We talked through my well-being history and then I allowed myself to be guided through the lesson. One of the first things that I learnt was to have a free neck. Now after ten months of fortnightly sessions the concept of having a free neck has become almost second nature. I think about my neck when I’m driving, doing housework, sitting at my desk or running around after the children. It’s amazing how much I had neglected my neck prior to these lessons. The neck is not the only area that I have learnt to free up but of course this was important in order to reduce the occurrence of my headaches initially. As a former model I had developed a habit of standing tall and thinking that this was good for my posture. What I have learnt is that being stiff and too straight is actually not the best posture for my body. I was contracting my muscles and not allowing them to relax. I am now allowing myself to stand tall like a rooted tree (growing upwards) instead of a statue. Hilary has shown me that my body needs to be flexible and ready to move in a fluid manner rather than a series of stiff, jerky movements. I have started to unlearn some of my poor posture habits though my lessons and I feel as if my body is beginning to thank me for it.

Exploring How To Pick Up My Baby 

One of my children is a baby of thirteen months and I have on occasion brought him along to the sessions. He enjoys the environment and I am certain that he benefits from being there too. Much of my day is spent picking him up and handling him. By bringing him along to the lessons with Hilary I have been shown how to incorporate the Alexander technique into everything that we do together. Hilary and I have explored how to hold him, pick him up and even play with him in a manner that allows my body to be free and flexible. This has been extremely useful as I am tall and used to suffer from lower backache. I cannot remember the last time I had a problem with my back and I am seven years older than when I had my first child! Alexander Technique has shown me that aches and pains in the body are not an inevitable part of growing older. 

Headaches?

So what of the headaches? Since the end of February I have not had a single tension headache. Not one! I can only attribute this wonderful development in my life to my lessons with Hilary. I believe that anyone can reduce pain and enhance their well-being if they change the way in which they think about their bodies. Our bodies are so much more than just bones and muscle. They are living, breathing organisms that deserve our attention and need to be considered in a more holistic manner. When we are able to do this we will notice many positive changes to our emotional and physical well-being. Alexander Technique with Hilary can help you to do this. An Alexander Technique session with Hilary will leave you feeling physically and emotionally replenished. Hilary is in touch with my individual needs and her personal touch makes me look forward to our sessions together.

Sheya Michaelides 2015