Congratulations to Sue Laurie, whose book 'Touching Lives: Memoirs of An Alexander Technique Teacher working with the RSC and National Theatre' launches at the NT tomorrow. Sue has just celebrated her 80th birthday and what she has achieved – and is still achieving – in the theatre world is phenomenal. Her pupils include Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Lenny Henry. The book will retail at £14.99 but is available at a pre-publication price of £11.99 plus p&p up until tomorrow (14th September 2016) using this link: HITE - pre order copy of Touching Lives by Sue Laurie
Today I visited David Hockney's wonderful exhibition, 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life. It's a fascinating experience for students of the Alexander Technique, as each sitter brings their own uniqueness to how they sit in the same yellow chair. Some are more balanced, 'up' and calmly alert than others.
A couple of additional points of interest from an Alexander Technique perspective:
I've just learned that John McEnroe learned the Alexander Technique. Did it help calm him down?
As Wimbledon 2016 gets under way, perhaps you're feeling inspired to get your own racquet out of the cupboard. Whether you're a regular or an occasional tennis player, you have probably acquired a bunch of habits that are unhelpful on court. For example, do you tense up when a killer smash opportunity comes your way? Do you engage in too much mental chatter if the game starts to go badly? If so, check out 'The Alexander Technique: A Way to Effortless, Natural Tennis'. In this article on his Tennis without Tension website, professional tennis coach and certified Alexander Technique teacher Gary Adelman describes how the Alexander Technique can help tennis players maximise performance and minimise effort and tension in their game. "Play!"
'Posture doesn't just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them'
A shout-out to Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from her new job as a receptionist because she refused to wear high heels. Nicola set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so that women cannot be forced to wear high heeled shoes at work. You can sign it by clicking here. Yesterday Portico, the outsourcing firm that employed Nicola, announced "with immediate effect all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-36272893
It is well known that high heels can lead to back pain, as the weight of the wearer is thrown forward, requiring increased muscular effort - particularly in the lower back - to remain upright. Alexander Teacher Robert Rickover explains further in his article The Pitfalls of High Heels.
'A Lawyer's Guide to the Alexander Technique' by Karen G Krueger
Whatever the activity, you can apply the Alexander Technique to it and get beneficial results. To emphasis this point, F M Alexander used to say, "If you're a burglar, it [his Technique] will make you a better burglar." Now, in America, a niche book has been published for professionals on the right side of the law: 'A Lawyer's Guide to the Alexander Technique' by Karen G Krueger. The author was herself a top New York lawyer for many years, until severe back pain led her to discover the Alexander Technique and subsequently retrain as an Alexander Technique teacher. In this video interview from Bloomberg Law, Karen eloquently explains what the Alexander Technique is and how it helped her overcome her physical problems and deal better with stress.
When my son Reuben was at kindergarten, his wonderful headteacher Lucille Sher was convinced that the UK, with its early formal schooling was - and still is - getting it wrong. In his first few years at primary school, Reuben clearly wanted to move around. "The body," as we Alexander Teachers are wont to say, "is designed to move." But my son's teachers wanted and needed him to sit still.
An excellent article in today's Guardian Education section outlines how research findings are accumulating in support of the children learning through play well into key stage 2, "up to around 8." Five types of play are identified: physical, symbolic, with rules, with objects, and pretence. A variety of skills are developed through each. Click here to read the article.
Incidentally, the definition (quoting Lego's Education Head Hanne Rasmussen) of play as "a playful state of mind in which...you are open and try different things and are in a positive flow" also describes a state of being I rediscovered, as an adult, through the Alexander Technique.
Feeling pessimistic about the world in 2016? Worried about the spread of fundamentalism and mindless violence? Thursday's 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 did indeed give me pause for thought. It was by Theos Director Elizabeth Oldfield and - with its emphasis on habits of mind, habits affecting outcomes, and consciously choosing not to react fearfully - resonates with the Alexander Technique as I understand it:
"...Christians believe a hopeful habit of mind is worth cultivating. Not because there is nothing to be afraid of, but because there is something to hope in. And because, as behavioural psychologists would agree, our habits of mind become habits in our lives, and habits affect outcomes. Choosing to hope draws us out beyond ourselves, while fear drives us inward. Hope gives us courage to face the very real pain and horror of the world, and not to cower in fear, but to set about doing what we can to make a dent in it."
Christmas party season. "So what do you do?" I am asked. When I say I teach the Alexander Technique, three responses are possible:
1) The person straightens up - they have heard of the Technique and have a vague idea that it is 'about posture';
2) They look completely blank;
3) They know about the Technique because they have had lessons.
In scenario three, an interesting conversation invariably ensues. In situations 1) and 2) I am obliged to try and explain what the Alexander Technique is. This is something that I, and many other Alexander Teachers I know, admit to finding difficult. Hence my delight when I came across the following definition of the Technique. In 20 years of teaching, I think it is the best short explanation I have read:
"The Alexander Technique is a self-empowering, self-care method that leads to improved muscle tone and general coordination. Its teaching is centred on avoidance of unnecessary mental and physical tension in everyday activities through increasing calm attention to yourself and your surroundings, with priority being given to poise of the head and the whole spine. Learning and applying the Technique can ease chronic back pain and may also be helpful for reducing unwanted general muscle tension and stiffness, breathing or vocal problems, anxiety and various stress-related conditions." Source: Press Release www.alexandertechnique.co.uk
A study published this week demonstrates that participants with chronic neck pain gained significantly more benefit from Alexander Technique lessons than from the usual GP-led care (painkillers, physio) alone. The study was funded by Arthritis UK and managed by a research team based at the University of York. Learn more...