Weekly Group Plans

Walk softly, tread lightly

Next week is week seven of our current ten week Alexander Technique course and we are going to be thinking about our feet, and about how we walk – and about walking softly, lightly on the earth. The converse is fairly obviously something we don’t want to do – we don’t want to walk heavily, stiffly, we don’t want our legs or feet to feel hard or immobile. We don’t want to strut, to stamp, to stalk – well, most of us don’t. We DO want to walk easily, gently, with enjoyment, with grace and beauty, even.

And one of the activities we will try is exactly that, thinking first of how we DON’T want to walk and then looking at the opposites, to find positive ideas, positive images to think of while we walk. In the Alexander technique, this kind of thinking is called direction.

We might also work at waking up the foot, walking over different surfaces, rubbing and flexing our feet gently, with kindness. And we will look at the wonderful image of the foot in Albinus on Anatomy by Hale and Coyle.

We may work on standing in a lunge, exploring rocking and shifting our weight back and forward, observing pictures of people in the lunge position, and playing a game I call, ‘Make like a stork’! You will have to come along to find out more!

And we will read some of Bruce Fertman’s post on  Walking.

And then we will softly, lightly, with joy, walk out into the week ahead…….


Weekly Group Plans

‘Going Deeper’ – hands like silk

‘Hands like silk’ is the image and focus for the first week of ‘Going Deeper’. A soft hand is sometimes the key to a soft, poised, responsive body. If your hand is soft it is actually quite hard to maintain a lot of tension anywhere else.

So, one thing we will do this week is to warm up our hands. To stroke them, one at a time, turning one hand ‘off’ and leaving the other ‘on’. The ‘on’ hand strokes the ‘off’ hand and then vice versa.

You might then think of turning the hand up just a little, say to tension level of 2, where 0 is asleep and 10 is a clenched fist level of tension, and with a soft but awake hand, wash your face. Then with just two soft fingers, try taping your lower jaw and up over the skull. Explore the back of the skull, where it meets the spine. Stroke soft hands around your throat and neck and shoulders. Pause, breathe, notice how you feel.

Another exercise is simply to touch each finger tip in turn, moving it gently from the tip outwards. Then gently interlace your fingers and let one hand rotate the other hand and then swap.

Having woken up our hand we might then go for a ‘sensing’ walk. We put our awareness into our feet and let our feet take us to some point or object in the room that interests us, then we take our awareness into our hands and explore an object or surface with ‘exploratory’ hands or ‘mouse’ hands – delicate, curious. Then we pause and move on. I am indebted to one of my teachers,  Bruce Fertman,for this exercise and for ‘mouse hands’ 🙂

For teachers, one important point in working in groups is to allow enough time after each exercise to reflect on our learning, to let our learning ‘sink into’ our minds and bodies. Don’t do too much, too quickly.

Another exercise we might do this week is just to look at hands in pictures – noticing how tense or soft or beautiful they are. Learning to observe in others, in this way, increases our powers of observation in ourselves, too.

Finally, we might think of letting an object open our hand rather than our hand opening to grasp an object. Try this on your leg,. Sit down and let your hand, in an off position, slightly curled, relaxed, rest on your leg., with the back of the hand touching the leg. Then turn the hand over and slowly pull your elbow back, letting your hand slide back over your leg so that your hand molds itself to the shape of your leg.

Try it with a large ball or other object. Rest the back of your hand on the object – it could be a mug or something else with soft contours – then turn your hand and let it slide itself around the object. Notice the difference between this way of making contact with an object and the usual ‘grip’ ‘grab’ ‘grasp’ approach most of us adopt most of the time.

To reinforce your learning, watch a video of a Japanese Tea Ceremonyand pay attention to how quietly and precisely the practitioner uses their hands – and notice how quiet the hand that is NOT moving is. Often, even when not active, our ‘off’ hand can be very tense. hands like silk

Weekly Group Plans

How I work in groups – a way of thinking and planning

The joy and the challenge of teaching and studying the Alexander Technique in groups is, of course, that everybody is at a different place in their learning but that you need a topic, a theme, an activity, that everyone can relate to and benefit from thinking about.

And I work with more than one group – and each group is different! So, the way I am working at the moment is to look at each half term as a whole – that is five weeks of study, with each group lasting two hours – and I plan an overall theme for that half term with a slightly different focus for each week. Then, the specific content of each group will differ, depending on the personalities and experience and wishes of the members of the group- and probably my mood and the weather! But the overarching theme will be constant.

Last half term I took the theme of ‘making friends’ – with each other, with standing, with walking, with sitting…and we played and studied and talked within that theme. This half term I am thinking of ‘Going Deeper’ and we will be looking in more detail at hands and how we touch, feet and how we walk, arms and how we lift or carry or stretch up and down….And I will write up those workshops here as I plan them – for any of my group members who would like to refer to them, for any Alexander Teachers who wonder how they might work in groups – and for any passing dinosaurs who wonder why all my group members talk about dinosaur tails 🙂

spiral stair girton