Ten years ago I stumbled upon the best kept secret of performing artists across the globe and something that was to change my life dramatically.
I went along for my first Alexander Technique lesson out of curiosity not really knowing what to expect. The sessions are referred to as lessons because strictly speaking the technique is not a therapy but rather an educational process, although it has many therapeutic benefits.
At the time I was a mother of a young child and had been suffering from crippling RSI in both my wrists for two years on and off since the birth of my daughter. I was feeling pretty low about things and was not expecting something I was going to primarily for a vocal reason to help with my RSI or to lift my spirits and sense of wellbeing.
I found that that first lesson did both and I also learnt that the majority of Repetitive Strain Injuries are caused by people misusing themselves. It’s not what you do but the way that you do it.
In Alexander Technique lessons I discovered how to stop hurting myself by changing my habitual patterns of movement and behaviour. I was taught that the way I use myself affects how I function.
I noticed a wonderful ‘side effect’ of lessons was that as the functional problems began to shift I began to feel less anxious and more comfortable in my body. I experienced a greater sense of mental clarity and well-being. If you have lived with any sort of long term pain, you will know how much it can affect your mental state and leave you feeling rather ‘fuzzy’.
I realised that my posture was improving when several people remarked to me that I had good poise or moved gracefully. This was particularly remarkable for someone who had always been told quite the opposite as a child. In fact, I had often been told that I needed to stand up straight and that I walked as if I was wearing heavy wellies and traipsing through thick mud.
Something that stuck in my mind was the day I dropped a glass at work and as it smashed on the floor I realised that I had no physical response to it. I didn’t recoil, or tense up, or feel any adrenalin discharge itself into my nervous system. I simply walked over to the dust pan and brush and cleared it up and then forgot about it. I didn’t reprimand myself for ages afterwards or let it ruin my equilibrium. This is remarkable I thought to myself. These lessons have literally changed how I respond to the stimulus around me. I am much calmer. This is a different way of being.
The Technique can help you achieve optimum balance, posture and coordination in everything you do. It can help you to cope with stress and physical problems.
It is a powerful tool for personal development, self-awareness, mindfulness and learning new skills
The mind and body are seen as an indivisible whole and it works chiefly on the premise of this psychophysical unity. It is a skill for self-development that can be applied to any daily activity and I always like to say to people that whatever you do it can help you to do it better.
There are no fixed exercises in my lessons as I teach you tools that can be applied in your daily lives to any activity. The only homework I am likely to give you is to lie down! This is simply lying on your back in the classic Semi Supine position with the back of your head resting on some books and your knees bent up towards the ceiling. I had trouble lying still in the beginning when I first started lessons in the same way that I had always had trouble with trying to meditate. I wasn’t very comfortable in my body and my mind would be rushing around at a hundred miles an hour.
Through this gentle mind/body work and undoing of unhelpful habituated tension habits I gradually learnt to be present and can now meditate or lie in semi supine for as long a time as I want, in fact I think I have gone the other way as I could happily stay there for hours!
I am really excited to be joining the team at The Recover Clinic and look forward to sharing with you my knowledge of something that I view as applied common sense and the ultimate self-help skill.
Below is a list of individuals and Multinational Companies who have benefited from Alexander Technique:
Roald Dahl, George Bernard Shaw, John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, Leonardo Di Caprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Dame Judy Dench, Helena Bonham-Carter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Alan Rickman, John Cleese, Kevin Spacey, Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Madonna, Pierce Brosnan Paul McCartney and Sting. Google, Cabinet Office in Whitehall, BBC, HM Treasury, over 20 NHS Trusts and hospitals.
(Sarah is a member of STAT, The Society of the Teachers of the Alexander Technique. She did her three years’ full time training at The Brighton Alexander Technique College with internationally renowned Master Alexander Technique teacher and author, Carolyn Nicholls. She is fully insured and DBS checked. She is the first Alexander Technique Teacher to be studying for an MA with Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance specialising in teaching the Alexander Technique to performing artists. This includes placements at The Globe Theatre and The Royal College of Music. For more information on Sarah please go to www.sarahbarfoot.co.uk)