Personal experience leads me to corroborate the benefits of the Alexander Technzique for people with Parkinson's, as reported in my previous post (11/4/19). In February I attended a training course for experienced AT teachers, on teaching the Technique to students with this particular neurological disease. Over two days, we had a number of opportunities to work with people who have Parkinson's (two of whom appear in this photo), in activities such as walking and sitting. The changes were plain to see! My thanks to Loretta Manson, Liz Dodgson, Dai Richards and Regina Stratil, who designed and ran a superb training programme.
Today is World Parkinson's Day. Did you know that the NICE Guidelines include a recommendation to "consider the Alexander Technique for people with Parkinson's Disease who are experiencing balance or motor-function problems"?
This is because of robust research, in particular by Chloe Stallibrass MSTAT, which demonstrated that Alexander Technique lessons led to a significantly increased ability to carry out everyday activities. Participants in the randomised control trial (2002) also reported subjective improvements in balance, posture and walking, as well as improved coping ability and reduced stress.
Today the international Alexander community celebrates the 150th birthday of our founding father, F M Alexander. 'F M' - as he is affectionately known - was born in Wynyard, Tasmania in 1869. His career as an actor, reciting Shakespeare to Australian audiences, was threatened by vocal problems. Repeatedly, he found his voice would grow hoarse mid-performance. The leading doctors of the day were unable to help him, other than by telling him to rest his voice. Alexander deduced that it must be something he was doing that was causing the problem. But what? He resolved to find out for himself. The rest, as they say, is history. To find out what happened next, click here.
Looking to find out more about the Alexander Technique? Come to my 2-hour 'taster' workshop on Friday 9 November (10.30-12.30)! Enlightenment and enjoyment guaranteed, not to mention coffee and cake.
Maximum of 5 participants.
Further information and booking form:
Take a look at this marvelous portrait, from the National Portrait Gallery's collection. It's of Sir Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), literary critic and member of the Bloomsbury Group, painted by the Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant in 1944.
I love the sitter's easy upright pose - an example to us all, and so different from the 'slump and peer' posture most of us adopt when reading or writing (or texting) these days. Notice how Desmond MacCarthy uses another book to create a makeshift reading slope.
I have just read a remarkable autobiography by a remarkable woman: 'LET IT GO' by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH. There's a pun in the title, as Steve Shirley made her fortune by founding and building a computer software company in the days when IT (as in 'Information Technology') was in its infancy. During her phenomenally successful career, she learned to let go in several senses - through empowering others, through relinquishing control when it was time to move on, and through giving away millions of pounds through 'intelligent philanthropy'.
Letting go is also a recurring theme in the Alexander Technique, be it letting go of unnecessary muscle tension, of habitual over-reaction to a stimulus, of patterns of moving that cause undue wear and tear, or of fixed ideas. A little like Dame Stephanie Shirley, the Alexander Technique student who learns to let go finds that they expand into their best selves as a result. Less is more!
There is much emphasis in the Alexander Technique on undoing the collapsing and narrowing tendencies that accompany life in our sedentary, indoor and hi-tech modern world. As I jogged through my local wood early this morning, it occurred to me that a walk (or run) in nature can be our friend in this regard. There is nothing like ancient woodland, with birds singing from undergrowth to highest canopy, to invite one’s awareness up and out. And as we are what Alexander termed ‘psychophysical unities’ (i.e. mind and body are inseparably linked), the body expands into greater length, openness and – dare I say – ‘springiness’ in response.
My recent post ('I never thought I could do that' 12/12/17) about a new study investigating the benefit of AT to older people with a fear of falling reminded me of a 2007 research project that covered similar ground. Almost ten years ago, I attended a very inspiring presentation by two American colleagues, Sarah Barker and Glenna Batson. Their pilot study at the University of South Carolina explored the effects of a two-week trial of the Alexander Technique on elderly people living in a residential community.
Sarah and Glenna showed us video footage of participants being tested before and after their series of group AT lessons. The improvement in the elderly people's balance and co-ordination was plain to see. Thanks to a little googling, I have discovered that the video clips can now be viewed on youtube - and by following this link.
Recently I have been working with a mentally sprightly but physically frail octogenarian who is very unsteady on her feet. The most striking improvement is that, whereas when she first came for AT lessons she rose from a chair with difficulty, relying heavily on her arms, now - with a little directed thinking - she can get up without using her hands.
Today I learned of a new UK pilot study which investigated the changes following an AT group intervention for older people with a fear of falling. It concludes that "the intervention had a positive impact on falls-related and physical skills" - and also on psychological wellbeing.
The research paper, co-authored by AT teachers Lesley Glover and Jane Clappison, along with a team from the University of Hull, is published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine (January 2018). It can be accessed free via this link until January 2018.
Happy National Lying Down Day! - so designated by STAT (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) as part of International Alexander Awareness Week, 9-15 October.
STAT is encouraging everyone to tweet photos of themselves in semi-supine, #LieDownDay #SemiSupine #AlexanderTechnique, and has produced a short video with tips on how to lie in the position beloved of Alexander teachers and students, also known as balanced resting state or constructive rest.