Monthly Archives: July 2016

Secrets of the Moving Body

Eric the skeleton, in trilby hat, looks bemused as a lady mounts a chair and stands on it whilst her torso is bound diagonally in red and yellow tape. Ted Dimon’s workshops are nothing if not graphic. The tapes follow the muscle spirals identified by the anatomist and Alexander Technique devotee, Raymond Dart. “Secrets of the Moving Body”, a 2-day HITE seminar in April in London, mirrors Dr Dimon’s latest book: Neurodynamics: the Art of Mindfulness in Action.

 

He begins by breaking down some of the more intimidating technical language which can obscure rather than aid understanding and mostly describes simple everyday shapes. He is not an anatomist, he says, but had to penetrate the mysteries of anatomical language himself in order to pursue his research and teaching in the Alexander Technique. Dimon aspires to offer a field of knowledge, a theoretical structure, which is specific to the Alexander Technique, and the special dimension of anatomy and physiology which he presented was felt to help everyone understand better what is happening in a lesson. No unnecessary jargon was used, only plain English, with liberal touches of humour.

 

We are suspended from the head, he says, with a perfectly designed system of levers (bones) and motors (muscles) which work together, and curves which counter-balance each other to sustain upright posture and absorb shock – a Lamborghini on orders of magnitude, he remarks.

 

He takes us through stages of evolution with entertaining illustrations of how we arrived at what is arguably a perfect tensegrity structure cooperating with gravity. We must allow it to function properly, respecting the working of the musculo-skeletal system, and this significantly depends on a constructive partnership of head balance and sacro-spinalis lengthening. The sub-occipital muscles and the hyoid bone also play key roles in our self-management, says Dimon. And primary control, a concept specific to FM Alexander’s work, is closely related to the autonomic nervous system.

 

So why does it go wrong? Why, with a body designed for effortless movement and daily tasks, do we unwittingly inflict harm on healthy muscles, ending up with chronic muscle pain? Do we need little men on the ground holding us up by guy-wires as in one of the illustrations, or a course of AT sessions to help us to make more reliable judgements about how we’re using our body? Mindfulness, says Dimon, must be grounded in an understanding of psychophysical functioning and not just in meditative practice.

 

Dimon manages to steer you from the simple to the complex in a painless way, richly aided by the illustrations . He has an engaging teaching style, with anything important being presented several times in different ways. He believes in frequent short breaks and there is never time to get tired. Participants appreciated this and also the opportunity to ask plenty of questions at the seminar – including many they’d never dared ask before. Participants who had read his books felt that this seminar brought them to life.

 

People attending the event came from an unusually wide range of backgrounds: physiotherapy, shiatsu, osteopathy, chiropractic, rheumatology, as well as students from the 3-year Alexander teacher-training courses and experienced Alexander teachers. Surprisingly the teachers were few, perhaps not realising that this seminar would offer new material. Writing as a teacher of the Alexander Technique I always appreciate Dimon’s passionate commitment to the work and take away new ways of explaining and teaching it. He feels that teachers of any subject would benefit from applying the principles involved in this work.

 

It was gratifying that so many different professions were represented and that their evaluations were extremely positive. Conversations overheard in the toilets suggested that non-AT professionals were enjoying the seminar, learning new material and would be thinking differently about the Alexander Technique in the future.

 

There was a plentiful supply of tea, coffee and tasty biscuits, a hallmark of HITE’s events which always goes down well.

 

Anna Cooper, MSTAT