Tag Archives: Alexander Technique workshop

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

 

Alexander Technique in the Saddle – Origins

FM  Alexander on Horse

FM Alexander on Horse

Saddle work has a long history in the Alexander Technique. In 1955, a 4-year- old girl with spina bifida started having lessons with FM Alexander. She didn’t have the use of her legs and was unable to sit up. But Alexander was confident that if he could get the girl to stand, he would be able to help her walk.

Alas, Alexander died soon after their meeting. But his assistant teachers had a bright idea. To help the youngster gain more balance, they worked with her while she sat on a toy donkey. It was fun for the girl and easier for the teachers. She was able to sit comfortably on her sitting bones and the teachers could help her overall co-ordination and get release on her legs.

As she grew, the donkey was replaced by a wooden trestle with a horse’s saddle. By the time she was 13, the Technique had helped her build up enough upper body support to start to walk with callipers and crutches. This led the way forward to leading an independent life, going to university, driving and working.

In time, saddle work expanded and was also used to work with other Alexander students. It is an enormously helpful way to get undoing and lengthening in the legs. Our legs and hip joints often tend to get very tight and tense, particularly with the amount of sitting in modern life. Saddle work can also help with lower back pain, particularly in the lumbar and sacro-iliac areas.

In fact, sitting in a saddle is often feels easier than sitting in a chair, as the balance is directly on the sitting bones. Also, excessive tensions in the legs and the hips can release, often including those we are unaware of. Often we are not even aware we are holding tensions unnecessarily. The Alexander Technique helps us get to the tensions even held below the radar.

For horse riders, practising on a wooden horse with hands on guidance by an Alexander teacher helps to get a sense of a good seat, without needing to grip with the legs, buttocks or back. And a wooden horse won’t respond to any riding signals so is a good opportunity for experimentation!

FM Alexander himself was a keen horseman, as was his assistant Walter Carrington. Today horse riding and Alexander Technique have close connections. See Back-in-the-saddle-thoughts-on-recovery-riding-and-the-alexander-technique written by one of our students, a rider.

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 Improve Your Seat – Riding and Alexander Technique Workshop today.