Get in touch with your spine. When the spine is allowed to function as an integrated whole it gives us strength. It’s an interesting fact that the only parts of ourselves we cannot see without the use of a mirror are the head and the back. So we need to develop a different kind of awareness and trust in this inner core structure. Developing freedom of movement along the whole length of the spine, allowing the head to be poised by directing the spine to rise up through the body.

The spine is the true core or ‘inner comfort’ of the body which gives it strength. The word comfort comes from the Latin ‘com’ and ‘forte’ which means ‘with’ and ‘strong’.

Sayings like “He has no backbone” or “Don’t be so spineless” are expressions that describe an attitude showing a lack of aim or direction, a lack of presence in the now. When teaching groups I sometimes get them to walk around the room thinking that they don’t have a spine and head, that they are simply arms and legs. They end up walking slowly, without energy, heavily and don’t like it one bit. I then ask them to imagine that they are just a spine and head walking around the room. Now they flow along, peacefully, happily and with lots of energy. Try it yourself.

Did you know that the cartilage discs between the vertebrae in your spine are largely made of water, especially the inner nucleus. During waking hours spent most of the time in an upright position, standing walking or sitting (and admit it, often slumped), these discs become compressed and lose moisture. Normally it is only during the night when we lie down in bed that the pressure is sufficiently reduced so the discs can again soak up lost moisture. This is one reason why we are a little taller when we wake up in the morning and gradually become shorter as the day goes on.

Alexander Technique teaches you the perfect remedy for this. Taking 15-20 minutes lying down in semi-supine the Alexander way once or twice during the day allows this re-plumping up of the discs and may help prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Your Alexander teacher will show you the best way to do this.

Find a quiet space, ideally on a slightly cushioned hard surface, e.g. a mat on the floor. Put a few paperback books or a yoga block to support your head (not the neck). You want to have enough support under the head that your chin isn’t tipped up but not so much that it is tucked down on your throat. Have your knees bent with the feet flat o

 

n the mat, about shoulder width apart. Allow your arms to release away from the shoulders and fold the forearm and hand back to rest gently on the front of your body. Gravity will do the work for you to help let go of excessive tension and holding in the body, gradually allowing your spine to lengthen and your whole body expand. Let your eyes stay open if the light isn’t too much.

If you haven’t got 15 or 20 minutes do it for 5 or 10, but don’t put it off. This is a great way to unwind and allow mind and body to work as one.

Fascia is the ‘new muscle’. Everybody is talking and writing about it and working with it.

Fascia is the connective tissue that envelopes and interconnects every part of our body. It is the thin sheath of stuff that covers each muscle, each muscle fibre, every organ, blood vessel – well everything actually. You may know it as a tendon when it becomes thicker at the end of a muscle and connects it to a bone.

I first came to understand about it when I was training in the early 80’s and I still remember some descriptions of it that made me understand the amazing interconnectedness of this extraordinary part of us. One image was that if you could take away everything except the fascia you would be left with a ghostly 3D image of the person, a bit like the ghostly outline of a stick insect after it has shed its skin, except it isn’t just the outside but it makes an internal outline as well. The other was something an osteopath said: Imagine that when the human being was made, with all the skin, bones, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and organs. And just when you thought it would be ready to go live you realised that all these parts would rub against each other. What a painful mess that would be. So you open up a little hole in the top of the head and pour in a thin film which would seep in between every little part of the body. This film would make the parts move and glide smoothly over each other.

Fascia is strong, elastic, moist and kind of slippery so it can move about easily when we move, breathe or eat. So that we can move about freely and easily!

It doesn’t act like muscles. Muscles get direct instruction from the brain via the motor nerves. You can talk directly to them asking them to contract or you can stop sending a contracting muscle and allow it to release. The way I like to think of the fascia is that it behaves as if its one and only purpose is to hold you together in whatever shape you make, whatever limit you put to it. So for example, if you are slouching at the desk for 8 hours it shrinks to that shape, if you use too much muscle effort to do everything or you over-tighten muscles with intense strength exercises without the release element, your fascia will hold you in that tight muscle bound shape.

Over time these habits of misuse will make the fascia, the tendons, shorten and that is why you might have a great Alexander lesson but the effects wear off. You have managed to let go of tension and feel longer, wider and freer after the lesson, but later you feel that you are ‘getting pulled back’ into the shrunken, tighter shape again.

That is because fascia takes time to change. It can be released by deep tissue massage of various kinds, and stretching and keeping mobile will help too. But as we know if we do these activities with the old habit pattern we will simply revert to the status quo. Alexander Technique aims to re-educate the way you co-ordinate your muscle use so that gradually you will free the fascia and prevent it tightening. As you learn to stop slouching down and to stop over-shortening muscles, the fascia will be stretched and gradually be longer as it get the message that this is the new limit you put on it.

An elastic stretchy fascia is wonderful for everyday life as well as for running, playing sports, working out, singing or playing any instrument!

 

Hand Writing 2

Our handwriting is an expression of our use. Obviously if we use a lot of excessive tension then we might be pressing harder with the pen, or we might having difficulty in controlling the outcome and have a sprawling handwriting, or the tightness in the hand and arm and neck might make us write in tiny tight letters.

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CityATS new website

I hope visitors to this website will find it easy to use and that they like the fresh and spacious look.

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I have always thought that one day I would like to run my own Alexander teacher training school and this is now becoming a reality. City Alexander Technique School has been approved by STAT (The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) and we are now accepting applications with a projected start in September this year.

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