Category Archives: Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique Brighton Hove – Photo Album

In a previous post I mentioned how I used to get tongue-tied or overly enthusiastic when someone asked the question “What is the Alexander Technique?”

Of course, it’ll always be difficult to describe an activity, any activity, that has such a large sensory component. So I promised to put up some photos, with comments, so you can at least get a fly on the wall perspective of what a typical Alexander Technique lesson might look like.

As a general rule, Alexander Technique teachers tend to work from the core of the body — neck, head and back – out towards the extremities ie the arms and legs. The major muscles that move the limbs, however, have their origins in the torso. So working with the neck, head back relationship automatically influences the movement of the arms and legs. The converse is also true – working with the arms and legs will reinforce release and expansion through the neck, head and back.

hnique Brighton BN1

“Allow your neck to be free”

Brighton & Hove Alexander Technique Hand on Neck

“Allow your neck to be free in such a way that your head can go forwards & upwards”

Hand on head. Brighton & Hove Islington Alexander Technique

“Allow your neck to be free & your head to go forwards & upwards so that your back can lengthen & widen”

Hands on the back. Brighton Hove Islington Alexander Technique

In practice most Alexander Technique teachers do not recite these directions parrot-fashion. The words and language tend to be naturalistic and tailored to fit the individual.

Arms & Legs– Although there are specific directions for the arms & legs often the teacher will ask the pupil to continue focussing on their neck, head and back relationship as they work with the arms and the legs.

Alexander Technique Brighton Hove London Islington. Taking arms during table work.JPG”

Legs

Alexander Technique Brighton Hove london Islington__Taking arms during table work

Chair-work

Alexander Technique Brighton, Hove & London chair work 

Alexander Technique Brighton & Hove - Helping pupil with bending. Also known as “Monkey”.
.
Alexander Technique Brighton & Hove. The deep squat.

It’s difficult to really capture the living, dynamic quality of an Alexander Technique lesson on a photograph. Young children often embody that Alexander quality unconsciously.

It isn’t just about moving in and out of a chair. It’s a convenient way of learning to move easily and efficiently. A convenient method that can be transferred into all sorts of everyday movements and activities. It’s a great method of learning to suspend habitual muscular and even emotional responses.

Alexander Technique and Horses part 3

“Muscles are designed to tense and contract a lot more quickly than they are designed to release. This is a very useful mechanism for helping us to get out of trouble in a hurry. Scientists call it the fight/flight response. However both horses and humans often find that these fight/flight responses can get out of hand.”

“The openness of your hands Martha’s neck and shoulder muscles a standard of ease towards which they can move. In order to do this her muscles need a sense of time and space … a moment of stillness and pause. Think of your hands simply melting like warm butter onto Martha’s neck'”

Laura stuck with the process. Martha started to move her heed gently from side to side and up and down a few times and then took several deep, sighing breaths. I noted this with some interest – humans often take a few deep breaths when they are starting to release the constrictions of the day during the course of an Alexander lesson. “I think I feel some release in Martha’s neck” Laura said with a mixture surprise and disbelief in

her voice.

“Yes I think you probably do” I confirmed “Now gently take your hands off Martha ‘s neck” Laura, hooked as she was into the process, looked disappointed but followed my suggestions.

“Pause for a moment. Give yourself the time and space to project your Alexander directions… allowing your neck to be free … your head to balance freely on top of your spine… and your back to lengthen and widen,”

Like many horses Martha had tendency to slightly drop and hollow her back and to trail her back legs.

“How would we deal with this using the Alexander Technique?” Laura was now wondering.

“In much the same way as we would deal with the corresponding tendency in humans. I usually begin by helping a pupil to balance their head and neck more effectively and then start working on their lower back, buttocks and knees.”

By the time Laura had work her way down to Martha’s buttocks and legs Martha’s head and neck had dropped down, her lower lip was trembling and she looked very peaceful and somewhat drowsy.

We realised that it was darker outside and had, without us noticing, become quite dim in the stable. We took Martha for a short walk in the field outside. She was a little bit disorientated for the first few minutes and then seemed to find her feet again.

Alexander Technique for Horses part 2

“Ok, then what happens? What do you do next?” Laura asked with growing curiosity.

“Well you don’t actually do anything as such. You continue to attend to your own all over balance as you place your hands on the horse. The hands are quietly attentive and enquiring. The more open and lengthened and widened your hands are the more sensitive they will be.”

“When you put hands on someone you can’t help affecting the recipient’s muscles. Muscles are attuned to the language of touch. The question is to get the touch happening in the right way so that the effect is positive rather than negative.”

Laura went on to place her hands on several different locations along the column of Martha ‘s neck. She took her time about doing this. Apart from being a mildly pleasant experience for all three of us there was nothing remarkable in what Laura felt with her hands or in Martha ‘s response.

Eventually Laura worked her way down to the base of Martha’s neck just above the shoulder blades. This is an area of profound constriction in many humans and Martha was proving to be no exception to this rule. Laura immediately picked this up.

“What do I do now?” she said excitedly.

“Exactly the same as before… Keep coming back to your own all over balance and to opening out your hands. It helped you to pick up the problem area perhaps it will also help you to release the tension this area.”

“Maybe you should take over now Alan” Laura said with a little concern.

“I don’t think so” I replied. A particularly peaceful atmosphere had descended over Laura, Martha and me. I didn’t think that Martha would appreciate me breaking the spell on account of my superior qualifications!

Alexander Technique Running on Hove Lawns

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/514666"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href=Alexander Technique Running on Hove Lawns

Out running today on Hove Lawns. A beautiful sunny January day. I recalled my initial running sessions with Alexander Technique teacher/marathon gold medallist Paul Collins.

Any time I ran behind Paul I was always really struck by the tiny, small steps he took. Smaller than many peoples walking steps even. Well, he did go on to win, veterans super-distance championships in the 1980’s.

It’s a method that really works. It gives you a sense of time in which you can both observe and organise yourself…

Running slowly in the morning sunlight. Running through my Alexander Technique “directions”…

  • Head balancing easily on top of my spine.
  • Neck free.
  • Back lengthening.
  • Widening across the shoulders.
  • Leading each step with the knee.
  • Small, rolling steps.
  • Looking right out along the length of Hove Lawns to the Peace Statue.

I’m not really trying to go anywhere fast, certainly not striving after a certain level of fitness, but a nice of smooth rhythm develops – a gentle endorphin ripple. And that winter sports injury seems to be subsiding nicely.

Alexander Technique Running on Hove Lawns

Confidence Tricks 1 – the Dating Game

“No! You may not call me a Confidence Guru! Absolutely not!” – Alan.

“But ‘Guru’ is an extremely respectable term in media circles!” – Television producer.

“That’s as may be but my fellow regulars at the Neptune Inn will take the… will mock me mercilessly if they hear!” – Alan

8ea6395d-73a8-4dab-8711-65b04e91e8b1wallpaper“How about Confidence Coach then?” – television producer.

“Ok” sigh…

“Ok then” sigh… “Let me introduce you to our ‘dates’ in the Green Room”

I’d been asked by a television production company to help coach some members of the public for live television. It was a dating programme. Interestingly most of the participants were in their late forties or early fifties. The usual participants were in their teens and twenties.

The datees would say a bit about their life, their loves, hates and hobbies directly to camera. We sat at a cocktail bar where everyone had to deliver a chat-up line and come up with an appropriate and, hopefully, humorous response. And, oh yes, we all had to strut our stuff down the catwalk (steady tiger!). Nerve wracking, of course, especially if you are not used to being in the limelight.

I taught the participants some basic centering techniques. I’ll say a bit more about the background to some of these techniques in the near future:

  • Place your attention in your centre of gravity – just a few inches below your navel.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly onto the ground
  • Maintain wide vision and wide shoulders
  • Balance your head easily on top of your spine

In the end we only had time to rehearse one or two things. The participants could sense the potential of the techniques however. And this seemed to really motivate them to simply have fun in front of the camera. A virtuous cycle?

Not everyone got a date. But everyone had fun. What is it about that wonderful mixture of relaxation and excitement that seems to make the world sparkle with possibility?

One woman who was really quite shy and reserved in the Green Room absolutely blossomed on camera. She demonstrated a golf swing, her hobby, to the camera and very shortly thereafter an eligible gent phoned in with a request to get know her better!

The two interviewers were impressed. How come a group of men and women in their late forties and early fifties could be such fun on camera? Why were they so much less inhibited than the usual datees in their teens and twenties?

The centering techniques certainly seemed to help. Is it true that wisdom that comes with increasing maturity? And, perhaps, the ability not to take yourself too seriously? If so then it’s good news for all of us!

The interviewers were also somewhat sceptical. Couldn’t these acting techniques stop people from simply being themselves?

I simply quoted Shakespeare “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”

And I might have added – we often end up playing a part that is unsatisfying and unsuitable. A part that someone else wrote for us. These centering techniques can give us the flexibility, courage and motivation to try out new behaviours. Not all of the techniques will be suitable all of the time. Some of them will be entirely suitable but may take a little time to get used to. Some of them will be absolutely bang-on or, as the old sherry advert used to say, “One instinctively knows when something is right!” and we will take to them like the proverbial duck to water.

 

PS Many of the centering techniques I teach come originally from my training in Ki-Aikido. They’ve grown and adapted with me. Here is a link for my old sparring partner Charles Harris. We did our yellow belt grading together more years ago than I care to remember. He is chief instructor now for one of the biggest Ki-Aikido clubs in London.

 

HOVE ESPLANADE

 

 

“What a horrible, great, huge, ugly expanse of tarmac! What a blot on the landscape!” I muttered to my partner on first encountering the promenade at Hove.

I’ve lived here for a few years now and have completely changed my position on this. Actually it’s an almost unique Alexander Technique resource. Where else can you encounter such a wide open and perfectly flat space that’s empty(ish) for the majority of the day?

Here are some photo links in in mybrightonandhove.org.uk to give you the idea. I particularly like the old photo at the foot of the page. Have a look also at the contributory quotes by Mick Gates and Jackie Collins about their joy in this wonderful open space.

This is a game I like to play – Walking with my eyes closed… I estimate how far I can walk without bumping into a person, a dog or a building. I close my eyes. Slow down. Feel the ground underneath. Sense the sky above. Be aware of the space behind and to the sides. Lengthen and widen into the space above, below and around.

Open the eyes and transfer the same spatial awareness into eyes-open walking.

I’ve treated my partner and my daughters’ to the experience. A gentle hand on the elbow and I become their trusty guide-dog. Lovely on a sunny winter’s day or on a starry, windy, cloud scudding winter’s night.

I’m counting my blessings right now!

The Yellow’s on the Broom

We can become so habituated to living in restrictive little tunnels of space and time. Think, for example, of the morning’s headlong rush to work. Sometimes, however, it’s just that little bit easier to step out of the restriction.

The South of England has been saturated in sunshine during the past week. A cold, glorious February. Driving through our beautiful hills, the South Downs, I noticed that the Gorse bushes were in their yellow glory. The rolling Downs were expansive and ecstatic.

It reminded me of a beautiful song by Adam McNaughton about the Scottish travelling folk called “the Yellow’s on the Broom” .

The narrator in the song recounts the travelling folks miseries when they forced to live a Scaldie’s (settled house-dweller) life during the winter months. The narrator looks forward keenly to the springtime when the “gan aboot folk” can take the road once more and live in the “worlds room”. For the narrator the world’s room is synonymous with liberation, belonging and being in charge of ones fate.

Try it sometime. Instead of living in a fragmented, compartmentalised world just wake up to the one infinite room that we all inhabit. Just for a moment… expand into the space around you. It can be a bit scary. but it can also be exciting.

You can download a short mp3 clip of Adam MacNaughton singing the “Yellow on the Broom” by following this link to Coda Music.

And here are the lyrics as I recall them:

YELLOW ON THE BROOM

I ken ye dinna like it lass, tae winter here in toon.
The scaldies (settled/town folk) aye miscry us and try to put us doon
And it’s hard to raise three bairns in a single flea-box room
But I’ll tak ye on the road again, when yellow’s on the broom.

CHORUS: When yellow’s on the broom x 2
I’ll tak ye on the road again (last line of verse)
When yellow’s on the broom.

The scaldies cry us “tinker dirt” and sconce oor bairns in school
But who cares what a scaldy thinks, for a scaldy’s but a fool.
They never heard the yorlin’s lark nor see the flax in bloom
For they’re aye cooped up in hooses, when yellow’s on the broom.

Nae sales for pegs or baskets noo, so just tae stay alive
We’ve had tae tak on scaldy jobs from eight o’clock til five.
But we call nae man oor master for we own the worlds room
And we’ll bid farewell tae Brechin when yellow’s on the broom.

I’m weary for the springtime when we tak the road ance mair
Tae the plantin’ and the pearlin’ and the berry fields o’ Blair
We’ll meet up wi’ oor kinfolk frae a’ the country roon
When the gan aboot folks tak the road, when yellow’s on the broom.