Mind over matter
My wife went to Alexander Technique (AT) lessons well before I did. Not exactly indifferent - Iâ€™d had a life-long lower-back weakness and an interest in posture - I hadnâ€™t thought that AT, whatever it was, was for me. In 2005, arthritis in my right knee shifted my feelings about coping with joint problems, and I booked a lesson with Mary. I donâ€™t think that Iâ€™ve missed a session since.
There has never been a dull moment in our lessons, partly from the variety and creativity of Maryâ€™s teaching style, partly from our working together on the challenge which an AT approach presents to my sceptical attitude to the power of thought. I have become a convert to the fact that movement starts in the brain - which is why â€˜inhibitionâ€™ and â€˜directionâ€™ in the Alexander sense, work. A lifetime of unthinking, undirected movement had left me with problems. More than six years of freeing my neck, allowing my head to be freely poised, my back to lengthen and widen, freeing in the front, letting my knees and ankles be free and my fingers and toes lengthen, has not exactly worked a miracle, but it feels pretty similar.
My posture needed a bit of attention
I first read about the Alexander technique in a glossy magazine at the hairdressers. What attracted me was the information that it could help with postural problems, and mine needed a bit of attention.
It was quite a while after that, that I eventually found someone who was giving lessons, so decided to give it a try. That was at least eight years ago, could be longer, and I can't imagine life without it.
I'm sure my teacher will agree that originally I was quite focused on the posture problem, and totally oblivious to other issues which were actually all connected, but it took some time before I twigged what was going on.
Over time, I've become much more aware of how I react to situations, and to some extent, why I react like that. That awareness has no doubt helped me to progress within the Technique, and to see how interlinked the body is, and how powerful the mind can be.
As I said, I can't imagine life without the Technique, as it can be applied to any movement and any situation, and has recently helped with my running progress.
I think it's important to stress that as well as the physical benefits I've felt, I've also met some lovely people, and made some good friends. I try to attend the sessions our teacher arranges periodically for the group, and they're always good fun and sociable events.
It's interesting that over the last few years there has been more acknowledgement by the "establishment" that the Alexander Technique has a great deal to offer, although I think we would all accept that it can't cure everything for everyone. However, if in doubt, I would always recommend giving it a try.
After all these years I can still be amazed at what comes out of a lesson, helped on with a bit of friendly banter.
Kicking â€˜Sit up! Donâ€™t slouch!â€™ into touch
Having undergone surgery for a lumbar prolapsed disc I found that I still had undoing problems with lower back pain and subsequently developed a shoulder problem. An article in the BMJ (BMJ 2008;337:9884) prompted me to have AT lessons with Mary.
Initially I was apprehensive of one to one lessons but through Maryâ€™s consistent encouragement gentleness and patience I have come to value and benefit from the one to one teaching and hands on technique. I had always blamed my â€˜poor postureâ€™ for my bad back but felt unable to improve the situation alone. The AT has given me back a lot of confidence and self- awareness and taught me how to use my body with elegance and poise. I have a better understanding of habitual behaviour and the enormous influence that my mind has on my body.
The hard part for me has been putting the Technique into practice on a daily basis particularly during a hectic and demanding day- this has demanded a certain amount of discipline on my part and remains a challenge.
Learning and using the Technique has certainly reduced significantly the amount of lower back pain I experience and, I anticipate, will protect me from further misuse injuries in the future.
I would whole heartedly recommend AT lessons to anyone and Mary is a superb and supportive teacher.
Dr Helen Dallal
Dealing with stress
I started learning the Technique because a friend saw that I was continually in pain and stressed and recommended that I see Mary.
The intial benefits of the Technique were improvements in managing my back pain and a problem with my left leg after a bad injury to the calf muscle some years ago.
There were unexpected benefits in other ways too, though. I suffer from problems with fear, for example, the fear of confrontation even in small ways.
The Technique teaches that we continually respond in a habitual way to the things that happen, both around us and in our heads. Learning the Technique has helped me to understand that it is always possible to pause, not just before making a habitual movement, but also before thinking a habitual thought. The pause makes it possible to react in a different way, to make a decision rather than simply responding out of habit.
I have been learning the Technique for three years and it has transformed my life in the way I cope with the many simple situations in life that are for me very stressful.
It has gradually become an integral part of my life and what I have learnt will always support me in the future.