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Posts in the ‘Life and the Alexander Technique’ category

The Introvert’s Social Survival Guide

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Introverts – they’re the shy wallflowers cringing back in their chairs avoiding eye contact, right?

Wrong.  It ain’t necessarily so.  You can be an introvert and still enjoy social situations.  It’s not the same as shyness.

The key difference between introverts and extraverts is how you would choose to recover your energies if you were feeling a bit tired. (more…)

How To Allow

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Here’s a question for you: What can you allow to be, right here and now?

Humans are dissatisfaction-engines.  We resist what is happening and how we feel, either endlessly striving to change things, or distracting ourselves or numbing out.  Cheer up.  Eat a sandwich.  Watch TV.  Get busy.  That sort of thing.

Instead, today look at what you can allow.  What can you let be, without interference or intervention? (more…)

Keep Breathing

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

The air rushes into our lungs and we scream.  The first inhale and exhale, loud and clear, marks the start of our lives.

And it continues on, our constant companion.  Until one day we breathe out but not in again.  The final exhale leaves our body with a death rattle.

From birth to death, breath accompanies us through life.  It calibrates and adjusts, supporting us, meeting our demands, enabling us to do what we want.  It’s an astonishing mechanism.  Here’s some inspiration (pun intended) to enrich your understanding and bring you closer to your breathing. (more…)

Why Taking A Walk Can Solve All Your Problems

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I was talking to a novelist friend of mine recently about her writing process.

‘What do you do in those early stages’, I asked, ‘when the ideas are just twinkles in your eye, seeds or fledgling chicks that need to be incubated and carefully tended, before they grow in to stories, characters, plot?’

‘I go for long walks’, she answered. ‘It takes about an hour for my mind to clear, but then the ideas start flowing and I can solve all my problems’.

She’s not alone.  The lineage of great thinkers and writers who were also great walkers is long and impressive.  Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain all took walks as a problem-solving tool.  Charles Dickens was a prodigious walker, covering miles and miles across London at night and dreaming up his plots and characters.  The Romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth, are famous for tramping over the Lake District.  Contemporary creativity coach Julia Cameron prescribes walking as a vital part of any creative practice.

So what does that mean for you?

Well, walking isn’t just for writers, thinkers and creatives.  We’re all creative, and we all face challenges as part of our everyday lives.  Walking is not only amazing for your health, it can help you to find clarity and solutions that just aren’t accessible from the sofa.

The first phase of a walk is often one where a slow change takes place.  At first you might have a head full of thoughts.  But as you continue on, your mind gradually empties and stills. It’s as if you burn off all that chatter and settle in a zone of peace and quiet.

Then, into this stillness, come the first few thought-bubbles.

‘What if…?’

‘Maybe I could….’

Eventually, solutions and fresh plans show up out of nowhere and you have inspiration for something new to try.  It may not be the perfect answer, but it’s enough to get you out of the mud and unstuck.

Now this emphasis on problem-solving may sound as if you just take your head for a walk.  So I’d add an important body-aware caveat to help you get the most from your walk.

Stay present. Be aware of the movement of your body through space, your feet on the floor.  Don’t look down at the floor.  Keep your gaze level with the horizon and take in the sights and sounds of your surroundings. Notice when you have ‘glazed over’ and gone into internal thinking – you’ll have stopped truly seeing the world around you.  Bring yourself back to the here and now.

Your walk can be as long or as short as is practical. Your body will tell you what it wants to do, whether it wants a good long challenge or a short fresh burst – and you may or may not be able to accommodate that into your day.  Try it out, see what works.  I can guarantee you’ll come back in a better state than when you set out.

 

Enjoyed this?  Want more?  Here’s what to do:

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The first is the e-course ‘7 Steps To Less Pain, More Poise’.  Seven clear, practical ideas to help reduce pain and improve posture, delivered straight to your inbox.

The second is your fortnightly email edition of Well-Being Wednesdays, featuring my freshest tips, ideas and advice for you.

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How To Master The Human Balancing Act

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Human beings.  Two settings.  One: do stuff.  Two: rest.

Pretty straightforward, when you put it like that.

And yet…

The reality of our lives as living organisms is that we spend our time in flux, ossilating from one state to another.  We wake up in the morning and get ourselves going.  From rest, to activity.  As we go through the day, we shift and flow back and forth, more or less active, more or less rested.

Our nervous system has two main branches that manage this flux.  One part helps us with activity, the other with rest.  They delicately balance up through the day as one takes the wheel for a while, then the other, then back again. It’s rapid, skillful and unconscious.  We don’t have to manage this, it happens as a response to our lives. The system knows what to do.

It’s all set up to keep us in a state of homeostasis – tending towards regularity, stability and consistency.  We are designed that way.  It’s a mammal thing.

But our homeostatic tendencies can cause us problems.  If an obese person starts exercising, for example, the body’s first priority is to maintain the status quo and hang on to the weight.  For the body, change is dangerous unless it is very slow.

Some changes, however, inevitably push us out of homeostasis.  As we age our bodily balancing processes get less efficient, opening the door to illness and eventually death.

But what if I have back pain, or weight issues, or poor posture?  How can we make bodily changes?  We live in a culture addicted to the idea of the quick fix, the magic bullet.  The instant, permanent solution.  We buy one after another after another, never questioning whether maybe these solutions don’t deliver because they are in fact fighting with our basic design.

The reality is, change is slow.  And unless change is approached slowly, the body will resist.  It wants homeostasis, remember.

At the same time, flux and variation are constant.  We are always course-correcting, readjusting, balancing.  Against that backdrop, we can gently push at the edges of what is possible for us, making small consistent steps that add up to big changes (eventually) against the backdrop of variety and fluctuation that comes from being – well, alive.

If this makes sense to you, and seems honest and truthful, then you might be suited to learning the Alexander Technique.  It is an effective tool for physical transformation and personal growth, and it works with our design not against it.  Click through to find out ways we could work together.

On Appreciation: Elisabeth Walker and the Alexander Technique

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Elisabeth Walker died on 17th September 2013, aged 99. Before her death, she was the last remaining person to have trained as an Alexander Technique teacher with F.M. Alexander himself. When I went for my very first lesson with her she showed me her graduation certificate, signed by the great man himself.

For me, what set Elisabeth apart was her deep appreciation of life. Her seemed animated from within by a great joy. (more…)

Connection Meditation

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Read each sentence, then allow your breath to flow out and in again. (more…)

How To Take It On The Chin

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Consider the jawbone.  You probably don’t spend much time thinking about it, but this nifty piece of kit does a whole lot of work for you. Not only that, it can wiggle about in all sort of clever ways so that you can chew your food.  But the price of such mobility means it can also be a place for some sneaky tension-holding.  Here’s a short homage to an under-appreciated bone, and a few tips to help you look after yours.

Your jawbone is basically a horse-shoe shape, with two upright wings on either end.  Called the mandible, it’s initially made of two ‘half-horseshoe’ bones which fuse together early on at the front.  Sometimes in men the fusion is incomplete, leaving a gap – think Kirk Douglas and his famous dimple.

Jawbones are tough.  The jawbone is one of the most durable and hard to break muscles in the whole human body.   So you really can ‘take it on the chin’.

Your skull is made up of two main parts: the cranium (the bit with your brain in it) and the mandible (jawbone).  The (in)famous TMJ or temporomandibular joint is the place where these two bits of bone meet.  To be precise, the mandible meets part of the cranium called the temporal bone.  Temporal plus mandible equals ‘temporo-mandibular’ joint.  You see, this anatomy business isn’t as complicated as it seems.

The temporomandibular joint has a little disc in there between the two bony parts, to help it deal with all the wear and tear.  It’s an amazing joint because of the many different actions the jaw can make.  Try it for yourself.  You can move your jaw from side to side, as well as sticking it forward and pulling it back.  You can also, of course, move it up and down.  That’s quite a dance.

To really get to know your jawbone, put your fingers flat on the sides of your face, just in front of your ears.  Then move your jaw through it’s dance routine.  You’ll feel all sorts of bony movement going on in there.  It’s clever stuff, and it’s all in aid of chewing your food.

Digestion begins in the mouth, so your mother was right: it is important to chew your food.  Not only that, but slow, careful eating can contribute to weight loss, because your body will send it’s ‘I’m full, stop eating now please’ signal before you’ve shoveled in a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s if you’re doing it mindfully.  Love your jaw, love your waistline.  It’s a win-win.

In my experience, most of us carry unnecessary tension in the jaw.  The knock-on effect of this can be tightness in the throat, neck and even shoulders.  So looking after your jaw is very helpful in shifting some of these tension patterns.

There are four main muscles involved in moving the jaw, and the most troublesome is the temporalis muscle.   Put your hands flat on either side of your head, just in front of and up above your ears.  Then move your jaw up and down.  You’ll feel the movement of temporalis as it contracts and releases.

An indirect way to release the temporalis is to allow the muscles around your eyes and across your forehead to soften.  You can add in to that the thought of allowing your jawbone to release away from the cranium at the joint, as though you are creating space behind your back teeth.  Breathe and enjoy. Maybe even indulge in a big old yawn, to put some of those jaw muscles through their paces.  That’s got to be the best way to take it on the chin…oh sorry, I’m a bit sleepy…

Enjoyed this?  Want more?  Here’s what to do:

Click here for one simple step to to get your hands on two fabulous freebies.

The first is the e-course ‘7 Steps To Less Pain, More Poise’.  Seven clear, practical ideas to help reduce pain and improve posture, delivered straight to your inbox.

The second is your fortnightly email edition of Well-Being Wednesdays, featuring my freshest tips, ideas and advice for you.

Click here to sign up and get going today.

Declutter Your Life

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

All too often, life gets hectic.  We rush around, struggling to fit it all in.

There’s an easy way to cut through the clutter and simplify your life.  It takes no extra time to do.  Your energy will flow, you’ll be focused and clear.

It’s this. (more…)

How To Know What To Do In Stressful Situations

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Stressful situations are part of life.  Think of three situations in your life that you’ve experienced as stressful.  Just list them to yourself.

Chances are, you didn’t say ‘Landing an aircraft when both engines had failed’ or ‘Keeping a patient alive in surgery when her airway became blocked’.  For most of us, stressful doesn’t mean ‘life or death’.

But for some people it does.  Recently I watched a TV documentary about surgical procedures.  The presenter was looking at innovations in medicine and other professions that could be applied to surgery to make it safer, especially when things don’t go as planned.

So he interviewed top trainers leading the world in training fire-fighters to deal with complex scenarios.  He spoke to Formula One teams who have seconds to repair cars and refit tyres in the pit before the car goes out again into tremendous high-pressure situations.  He spoke to Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his passenger plane on the Hudson River in 2009 after losing both engines when birds flew into them and they stopped working.  And he spoke to surgical teams at international centres of excellence like Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (just around the corner from me here), who are developing safer ways to remove all the anesthetic and life support equipment from patients immediately after surgery, and deliver them safely to intensive care.

It was a fascinating programme.  Across all these diverse, dangerous and stressful situations, all the teams had just one tool they all used to help them stay safe.  They know it works because they’ve studied things like incident rates before and after using this tool.

So what is this amazing tool? (more…)