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Thinking in Activity, Back into Balance

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What's the difference?

You might well be sitting here and wondering what the difference is between the therapy you’ve been having for a sore back or stiff neck and the Alexander Technique, and whether it might be worth your while exploring it further.

Unlike osteopathy or chiropractic treatment, the Alexander Technique is an educational technique in that it has something to teach a pupil as opposed to something being done to a patient. The learning experience might at first seem a little unfamiliar, a teacher working on you with their hands whilst speaking to you about balance, poise, where the head sits on top of the spine and where your hip joints are etc. etc. You may find lying on the table also unfamiliar, as the teacher works with your body there as well as in the chair. In fact it may all feel very unfamiliar, and rightly so. Unlearning our subconcious habits is something unfamiliar to all of us, until that is we come to lessons on a regular basis. But something unfamiliar need not necessarily be a ‘bad’ thing. Indeed, it may awaken things within ourselves that we weren’t even aware of, such as the awareness of how we stand, whether we look down too much, whether we are stiffening our shoulders etc. It is  both the hands of an Alexander Technique teacher together with the directions of a pupil which can bring our attention to these and other habits if we so allow them to. Gradually we become accustomed to the way of working with a teacher and it will soon feel normal and less unfamiliar. Of course the world outside may still view it as unfamiliar and often at times unnatural, but it’s what happens in the teaching situation that is of importance, not what anyone else thinks. Working with a teacher also demands a certain level of trust as well. Trust that they will work with me in a professional manner which encourages well-being and learning. Certainly seeking out a teacher who has undergone a three-year 1600 training course is a first step towards this.

Working with a teacher often instills an increased level of self-confidence as the musculature begins to expand into increased width and length, people often sense a feeling of lightness when they leave a lesson, whereas a therapy may need you feeling pulled apart, as if someone really has been doing something to you, which indeed they have. The body has the ability to lengthen and widen of its own accord, if the circumstances encourage this, there is no need for anyone to do anything to anyone else. Yes, the hands and voice do guide the pupil into a more beneficial posture, but they don’t seek to ‘do’ and therein lies the difference. The guidance is gentle and non-invasive, you don’t need to undress or wear special clothing, you can come to a lesson dressed as you are.

Having something to learn is also a revelation if you are suffering from pain. Usually when we’re suffering from pain, we just want the pain to go away and we will seek out anything in order for this to happen, which is how therapies have developed. But with the prospect of actually being taught something by a teacher, lessons can vary every time whilst also remaining the same. That is, what you are taught remains the same, direction and inhibition, stopping, but at the same time what you are taught changes every time because each time you have a lesson you are in a different mindset, it might be at the beginning of the day, during the day or at the end of the day, and each time you will be thinking about different things ahead of your commitments. In other words, each lesson will be different and yet the same, because you will be learning the same principles over and over again, whatever it is that you do in a lesson. It is this repetition of the same principles that also make the Alexander Technique unique and mean that the principles are instilled into the pupil without the need to return of lessons on a regular basis past a given point in time.

So if you’re still sitting there wondering whether to seek out a lesson, why not give it a trial run? You have nothing to lose and to gain, well a pain-free life in better balance and with improved poise. Also a greater sense of well-being about yourself.  One or two lessons a week may well rid you of the pain you’ve been in faster than you think, although there is no guarantee of this of course. But the Technique does have a proven track record when it comes to the treatment of chronic back pain and neck tension, as recent studies have demonstrated.

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