Nearly a year has passed since my last blog. It’s been an interesting and demanding year in many ways, a year when I have really used the Alexander Technique to help in a variety of situations well beyond my normal daily life.
It has been my first year as Chair of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique and I have had to learn new skills, information, procedures and as well as chairing meetings etc. I have done many things what I would have thought were beyond my comfort zone, and discovered how I can enjoy them, extending my boundaries by applying the principles of the Technique. Yet again I’ve experienced how inseparable mind and body are.
Last week we returned from a cycle trip in France, following EuroVelo 6 from Nantes on the Atlantic coast to a small town named Chagny just south of Dijon. A really wonderful trip with the Technique at the core of how I cycled. Releasing my neck so that there was not unnecessary tension in it and my back could stay relaxed to work as it should in conjunction with my legs.
This year my summer holiday was cycling to Pembrokeshire along Sustrans route 4. We cycled into Bristol and picked the Route up on the Portway. It is the most fantastic ride through parts of South Wales you would never see from a car. We took a detour to the Gower and spent a couple of days there exploring Worms Head and the aurrounding area.
We arrived at our destination, Manorbier, a week after setting of having cycled 230 miles. As always I paid attention to how I was riding, which was key to be being able to do the ride. I kept using the principles of the Alexander Technique, asking for freedom and ease, so that my whole system could work as efficiently as possible.
It was a really wonderful holiday, and we were so lucky with the weather!
Last weekend I rode the Ride London 46, an amazing event. The organisation was superb, the company great, a truly wonderful and inspiring event – and I cycled better than ever before, completing the 46 miles in much less time than I imagined I possibly could.
My thoughts about my way of cycling were ever present and helped me no end. Sit bones release to the saddle with freedom in my hips, back strong and long, neck soft and arms releasing out of my back.
I’ve done quite well with my New Years resolution, and now spring is truly here I have been out on my bike more. It’s a great way to see the get around, see the beautiful Somerset countryside and feel fitter and stronger, though tired, at the end of each ride..
Last year was a difficult year with a family bereavement and I didn’t get on my bike much, so I lost a lot of fitness. Now I back out cycling and as always I’m using my skills with the Alexander Technique to help me. Not only does it help with efficiency of movement, so I’m getting back some of my fitness to climb hills, but I don’t suffer from aches and pains while in the saddle.
I’ve teamed up with my colleague Caroline and we have decided to run a workshop for cyclists, and pass on some of our skills of the Technique to help riders ride easier, faster and more efficiently. Come and Join us on the 4th June in Bristol. There is more information on the home page, or drop me an email.
A new year and new ideas – Practical Mindfulness
Sometimes I make resolutions for the coming year, other years I am more relaxed and just have some general ideas. Quite often these plans are similar to many other peoples, from doing more exercise and other orientated health options, to thoughts about being more creative. We are now well into the 4th week of this new year, and as my resolution this year had been quite a broad plan about how to organise my time, I am not doing too badly.
The Alexander Technique teaches you how to get the job in hand done, or reach your goal, whilst paying attention to how you react, how you think and how you move.
Knowing what I want to do – whether it be a mundane job like getting the dishes washed or a larger plan such as progressing my business – I am going to pay attention to how I am going get the job in hand done.
This way of being I have decided to call ‘practical mindfulness.’
Some people call this being present, I use the tools of the Alexander Technique to enable me to achieve this. Whatever words I choose to call this way of living doesn’t matter, but the result is I feel calmer, can think more clearly and I can move more easily. What more could you want from a new years resolution?
It’s well into the new year now and I wonder how the new years resolutions are going. So often we get drawn back into habit without really realising it. This is where I find the skills of the Alexander Technique so helpful.
Stopping allows me time to think and make a choice. That choice can be about something seemingly small, such as whether I tighten my neck to pick up my cup of tea, or something much larger – whether or not have I got the time and energy to take on that extra work.
Learning to stop, giving ourselves those moments of time when we can make a new decision and so not follow our habit but follow our new years resolutions we’ve made, possibly to eat more healthily, or do more exercise or simply to take time to enjoy life fully.
I hear and read so much about how people find Christmas such a stressful time. For me it is a time to share with family and friends, enjoy some food or drink together and maybe exchange a card or present.
I see stress as a reaction to my surroundings, a reaction I can choose if I only give myself enough time to stop and think. And if I stop I can then reason out what is happening.
During the commercial build up to Christmas we are forever seeing adverts telling us what we need, or ought to be doing or buying. But I can stop and consider what I really need and wish to do. I can release the tension in my body and therefore my mind, to make the choices I want to. For instance, when I cook Christmas diner I think of it as if I am just cooking a roast diner, not some grand feast of great importance! If its late, does it really matter? not really in our house.
I wish you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS
I often get asked how to sit in cars, trains and planes, “what is the correct way?” usually meaning how can I sit without getting pain? There is not a correct way or a right way, but if we can remains released and coordinated within ourselves the chances of pains will be greatly reduced.
Mr F M Alexander said “there is no such thing as a bad chair it is just the way you use it,” and in a way, to a degree, I agree with him. (However he didn’t have to contend with modern plastic stacking chairs)
Back to the difficulties of sitting while traveling, I suggest to people to think about releasing the tension in their necks, let their weight be supported by the seat and their backs to lengthen and be supported by the back of the seat. If you are in a car adjust the back to an upright position and the seat as level as possible. Then release the tension in your legs so freeing your hip joints.
After that enjoy the journey, accept it will take as long as it does, and keep noticing if you are tensing and asking for release and ease.
Just spent the day in the garden tending to the vegetable patch. Weeding, digging, planting and watering in the seedlings. All these activities can put a hugh strain on your back, unless you pay attention to your “use”. Your use is how you do something, how you move to get a job done. How you hold yourself and how you bend.
Stopping momentarily and thinking, you can then release the muscles in your neck so that your back doesn’t bend inappropriately but lengthens instead, preventing strains and pains. You can bend from your hip joints, your knees and your ankles and so move with ease.
And then at the end of the days gardening you can stand back and admire your work, maybe feeling tired but not sore. I look forward to harvesting the summer vegetables.
Last night have finished out 8 week course on losing weight and the Alexander Technique. A really enjoyable course with a lovely group of people, it was such a success that we are carrying on with another course, by request, in February. We start the new course on February 4th 2015, if you wish to join please contact me.
As a summary of the principles we had covered during the course we gave everyone these words:
LOSE WEIGHT WITH THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
The principles of the Alexander Technique help you to recognize habits that you have that are not helpful and teaches you ways in which to change them. These principles apply to everything we do, whether it’s how you sit, stand, walk or how you go about choosing, preparing and eating your food.
INHIBITION : Stopping or pausing for a moment and giving yourself time to make a choice about what you are going to do or eat. Time to think about allowing freedom in your movements, time to send a different thought about how you wish to go on.
DIRECTIONS : Once you have stopped you can think your directions. Wishing or willing; sometimes Alexander called these your guiding orders. The primary of these is to let go of tension in your neck, so that you can allow your head come up into a balanced place (forward and up) and your back lengthens and widens. From this new place of balance you can make a decision about what you would like to do.
MEANS WHEREBY : The way you do things, how you move, the process of an activity. You pay attention to the way you do something, your movement or what you eat, you become more present. With regards to eating, you are then in a position to notice and decide if you are hungry, have had enough to eat, or would like something different than the usual. As a consequence you will taste and enjoy your food more.
END GAINING : A term describing the habit of just focusing of the end you wish to achieve, to stand or sit, get your coat on, eat your meal. Reacting or living in this way you will not notice so much of what you are doing. You will not know if you are tightening your neck and taking yourself out of balance. You may not taste the food you have just eaten, or indeed realize how much you have eaten.
I hope you enjoy them and they help you think about what you do.
Poised and balanced in movement and action is something we would all like and can find when we learn the Alexander Technique.
In this picture you can see how both the people looked balanced, one bending down the other reaching up. Their heads are leading, their backs are lengthening and arms freely moving. There is a sense of calm about them.
Cycling using the Alexander Technique;
This summer I’ve been cycling as much as possible as I have bought myself a light weight road bike. Riding this is a completely different experience to my old bike, not only is it light and very moveable but so responsive to power input. Hills are not nearly so daunting now!
From an Alexander point of view, if I keep my neck free and just allow my neck and back extensors to support my head and back, and not contract my head extensors, my whole back works in conjunction with my legs and arms. Breathing becomes easier and with my legs efficiently connecting into my back, cycling becomes easier and it feels so good!
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and I cycled 35 miles ending by coming up Cheddar Gorge and over the Mendips home.
February blog: notes to the Yukon
Recently I was asked to write a paragraph to describe the Alexander Technique to a young man who is living in the wilds of the Yukon, together with any thoughts about how he could use the Technique to help him. He has no Alexander Teacher to see, no internet access, no books, no mirror but an abundance of self reliance. So this is what I sent to the Yukon.
Notes to the Yukon:
The Alexander Technique is about ‘conscious control of the individual ‘ as F. M. Alexander called one of his books. Our reaction to stimuli -the world about us – is largely habitual and subconscious. In these reactions we often tighten our muscles inappropriately so that we are no longer poised and balanced.
As we function as a psychophysical unity we must use our thinking to change our imbalances in our musculature. Alexander devised a way of thinking to accomplish this. This thinking involves stopping (which he called inhibition) and choosing a new way to go about the activity (directions). He also realized that for us to be able to do this we need to pay attention to the means whereby we achieve our goals/ aims and not focus solely on our ends.
One of the ways to begin to learn this is to lie on the floor, on your back, with your head supported and your legs bent so that you feet are fairly close to your bottom and hip width apart, and think. Think of releasing tension in your neck, think of freedom through the curves of your spine. Allow your hips, knees, ankles to release, your shoulders to widen. Do this every day for at least 10 minutes.
I hope you enjoy it, and good luck. Belinda
New Years resolution.
When I was walking the dog this morning I made my New Years resolution, to notice myself more often. ( The ‘more often’ gives me freedom of choice as I am not setting any parameters.) You might ask what “notice myself” means. It is noticing how I’m moving or carrying out an action, such as walking, washing up or watching TV, at any moment. As I was out this morning walking along a particularly rough and slippery path I found I was looking down just in front of me. My immediate response was ‘I need to do that so I don’t fall’, but lifted my head anyway, knowing this was not the case and I could just lower my eyes to see instead, only to discover that a few moments later I was doing the same again! So I thought ‘what is the relationship of my head and neck joint to my sit bones?’ That momentary stop in my thinking and noticing what I was doing was enough for me to change my balance and to walk easily with my eyes freely moving around so I could see the beautiful countryside around me and where I was walking. Happy new year to you, and I hope you enjoy your discoveries!
Walking on a very pebbly beach. April 2013
Walking on a beach covered in large round pebble boulders can be quite a challenge, as they roll and wobble under my feet. My balance is really tested as the ground moves with every step. Immediately I want to watch my feet, concentrate and narrow my field of attention so that I can balance properly. Will all this trying to keep balance help me? I find not. So I decided to trust in the process – if I allowed my feet and ankles, and so the whole of me, to move and adjust to the movement of the stones beneath them I would indeed find balance in motion. I didn’t watch the ground just in front of me and my every step. Instead I chose my path across the stones, a bit like doing a puzzle or join-the –dots! Then looked ahead to where I was heading and using my peripheral vision to place my feet on each stone, headed across the beach. With thoughts of freeing my neck and going up I had a wonderful time walking on this terrain, the wobbles were fun and propelled me into my next step.
My first blog February 11th 2013
So, here is my first blog.Where do I start? I found I had so many decisions to make; should it be long or short and sweet, chatty or to the point and then there is the subject matter. Shall I give an answer to the question I am so often asked: ‘So, what’s the Alexander Technique then?’ Maybe I’d discuss one or two of the principles or even how the Alexander Technique is relevant to creativity. They are for another time, instead I’m going to tell you how I used the Alexander Technique to write this blog. First I stopped (principle – inhibition) both my thoughts that were going round and round, and physically. I let go of the tension in my neck and let my back lengthen and widen (principle – directions) so that I came into balance and poise. I now had the option of movement both physically and crucially in my thinking, and I could choose how to go about writing this. Instead of reacting habitually, when I would just sit down and get on with it, and then have many mistakes to correct (end-gaining), I drew a mind map of my ideas. The various ideas were interconnected and I could see clearly what I wanted to write today. I now had a plan (principle – means-whereby) as to what to write for my first blog.