Category Archives: Olympics

Olympics Team GB Equestrian Gold, Silver & the Alexander Technique

Fantastic to see the Olympic Gold medal achieved by the GB Showjumping team – Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles – following the nail biting jump off against the Netherlands.  Fortunately, unlike far too numerous to list, England football penalty shoot outs, the Team GB Showjumping team won!  I remembered watching Nick Skelton in the 1980s competing and so it was especially great to see him achieve Gold today.  And that on top of the Silver medal achieved by the GB Eventing team last week involving William Fox-Pitt, Nicola Wilson, Zara Phillips Mary King and Tina Cook.  Well done Equestrian Team GB!!!

All my life I have been fascinated by the beauty, the unity, the strength and grace of horse and rider.

Poise of the rider is one of the fundamental pillars of good horsemanship.  Recently, I have been having a course of horse riding lessons with a new instructor.  She was interested to learn that I was an Alexander Technique teacher and asked me lots of questions about it.  Because it is a technique embraced by many riders she had initially thought that it was developed within and solely for the equestrian field.  She was surprised to hear that FM Alexander, the founder of the Alexander Technique was an actor who was trying to resolve his breathing and vocal problems.

But she re-iterated its importance to riders and by the end of the lesson said that I had been far easier to teach and was picking up riding skills and building a good relationship and partnership with the horse far quicker than most riders.  ‘Every rider should have Alexander Technique lessons’ she exclaimed.  ‘They’d be far easier to teach’!

The whole issue of finding one’s seat in a poised, fluid and dynamic way which gives a sense of expansiveness through the rider to the horse through all transitions is eased by learning the Alexander Technique alongside taking riding lessons.  But why is that?

When we sit on a horse we bring with us all the habitual thought and postural patterns that we have accumulated thus far.  That includes how we slump at a desk with eyes focused on a computer screen, or collapse into an armchair.  How we hold the reins will be conditioned by how we habitually hold our knife and fork, our toothbrush or a pen!  These patterns of tension become a way of being and we take them into riding a horse.

As riders, we may know and have been told countless times that good posture is important in horse riding.  Consequently, we may put in huge efforts to sit up straight, look out and keep the heels down.  But it isn’t natural to have to make such an effort, it is hard to maintain it, it doesn’t bring the best out of the horse and to top it all, it can be painful.  Believe it or not, natural poise and good posture should be and feel effortless, like you see in a baby sitting with its head beautifully balanced on top of its spine, with a sense of calm and aliveness in its eyes.

If you find that you struggle to sit up straight without a lot of effort it is not that you are lazy and not working hard enough, or are not strong enough and need to do more exercises.  It is just that you have, over the years, got into habits which have led to your postural mechanisms getting out of kilter such that the wrong muscles are doing the wrong jobs.  Jobs for which they are not best suited.  You might be making huge muscular efforts but the results aren’t great and there is a lot of unnecessary stress and strain going on.

With the help of an Alexander Technique teacher you can begin to breathe a sigh of relief.  You will gradually learn how to consciously prevent unnecessary tensions, stress and strain and how to encourage your natural poise to come through again.  Your poise has not been extinguished, it is in you as your birthright as a human being and can, be allowed to blossom again.

You will learn a process of thinking, moving and being which will not only enhance all the activities in your life, but crucially as a rider, will enable you to ‘find your seat’ and explore new depths of beauty and unity in riding.

The next HITE ‘Improve your Seat’ workshop is from 1:30 – 4:30pm on Saturday 6th October at 10 Harley Street, London W1G 9PF.  Designed especially for riders, you will gain insights and experiences through the application of the Alexander Technique on how you can find a comfortable posture and even seat on the saddle and discover a more harmonious connection with your horse.

For further information and to book your place click on HITE Improve Your Seat Riding and Alexander Technique Workshops today.

Alexander Technique and the Olympics

Have just finished with my last Alexander Technique client in Harley Street for the day and walked through Cavendish Square and onto Oxford Street.  Yes – you CAN feel the difference!  The energy and numbers of people filled with excitement, anticipation and expectation of the Olympic Games is palpable.  And that it is not raining, just now, is a bonus!

At HITE we are really looking forward to the Olympics Opening Ceremony.  Not so much for the ceremony itself but because it marks the start of the Games that have been 7 years in gestation.  We want to see the athletes, the A-W of sports from archery to weightlifting (there is no X, Y or Z!) and perhaps like many others endeavour to discern what makes the greatest great.

What are the ingredients, in what quantity, regularity, combination and timing?  Natural talent, childhood motivation and encouragement, or was it an ‘I’ll show them’ attitude?  Hours, days, weeks, months, years; a lifetime’s dedication to get to this moment – the starting line.

To how many other people, projects and distractions has one built up the ability to say, ‘No’, in order to focus on the ultimate glory of Gold at London 2012.  In the Alexander Technique, knowing what we do not want is as important as knowing what we do want.  The saying ‘no’ comes first in order to open up the space and the pathways for what we do want to be realised.

How much does nutrition matter?  From Jamaican Usain Bolt who got Olympic gold at Beijing and broke the world record for the men’s 100m on a pre-race meal of chicken nuggets, to the claims from Serbian male tennis gold-medal-seeking Novak Djokovic that eating gluten free has helped to improve his energy and form.

The men’s 100m sprint is somehow absolutely mesmerising.  Who is the fastest man on the planet? Usain Bolt said yesterday that if he wins the Gold in London 2012 he will become a legend.  This is what he has been preparing and hoping for; the years of dedication will all be over in less than 10 seconds – and that’s about the length of time it would have taken you to read this sentence.  Everything must work at this moment.  The reaction from the starting pistol, the burst of strength and sheer power, the co-ordination, flow, energy, obsession and determination all coming to the fore.

But as Alexander Technique teachers we will also have our trained eyes open across all of the sports for the ‘Primary Control’ working within the athlete.  The ‘Primary Control’ is the unique head-neck-back relationship which is the lynchpin of the Alexander Technique for optimum performance – be it in sport, music, acting, business and our daily life.  It is not only available to Olympic athletes but is the birthright of all of us.  It is that natural, flowing co-ordination that you see in a young child where movement appears flowing and effortless.  It is when mind and body are in an inseparable state of dynamic poise, which helps us to reach our potential in all of our ventures whilst maximising rather than jeopardising our health and well-being.

So on that note, HITE would like to wish you all the most fantastic London 2012 Olympic Games, and we’ll keep you updated with our insights as they progress.  And do send us your observations and comments.  If you are interested in improving your running, cycling, swimming, horse riding, or any other of the Olympic sport, by learning the Alexander Technique, then contact us today by email or tel +44 (0) 20 7567 8461.  You won’t regret it!