Weekly Group Plans, Well-being and the Alexander Technique, What's On

Mindful Movement, Gentle Touch: Care for yourself, while you care for your baby  

An Alexander Class for Parents and Carers (babies welcome)

Mondays 1.30 – 2.30   £10 per class or £45 for 7 weeks

mum dad roland 1959

Learning the principles of mindful movement –  working WITH our bodies, not against them. Help yourself to easier movement and learn how to support your developing child as they grow. 

Clinical trials show the Alexander Technique provides substantial long term relief from lower back pain. It is in the NICE guidelines for Parkinson’s disease to relieve symptoms, including depression and improve balance. It is relaxing, grounding, stress reducing….it can be life changing. 

New 7 week courses starting

Monday  14 October 2019

Macclesfield Methodist Church     Westminster Road, Macclesfield, SK10 1BX

Call Jenny on 07974 944585

Weekly Group Plans, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Moving mindfully

This week we are going to take some time to consider what the founder of our work called the ‘primary control’ and which others refer to as the ‘primary pattern’ – that is, that the body is an integrated whole, not a collection of disconnected parts, and that it needs to move and work as a whole. What I do with my neck affects my feet – what I do with my feet affects my head. It sounds obvious but humans manage to forget this because we are SO absorbed by….where we are going, the facebook page in front of us, butting into the conversation, pulling up one more weed….etc, etc. And then we wonder how we hurt ourselves 🙂

Those in my groups who are new to the work this term will revise what we have learned so far about standing easily, about sitting easily and we will coach one another (a teaching technique I use a LOT) to remind us what we might remember to make life as easy as possible.

And we will look in our anatomy study at the amazing, incredible structure that is the spine. Lizard

Those who have done this work for a while will ALSO revise what we can usefully think about in order to sit/stand easily and then take that knowledge into movement, into transitioning between sitting and standing and standing and lying down and lying down and standing up, while remembering to remember ourselves as well as what we are doing.

AND for the first time I am teaching a shared lesson on Monday afternoon in WhaleyBridge at Riverside Wellbeing. The lesson is full but email me if you would like to be kept posted about future chances to come along.

Weekly Group Plans

Standing firm

This week we move from sitting, to standing. And we will think of how we can stand with more ease and more enjoyment. One regular student of mine, after studying the Alexander work for some years said to me, ‘I know it sounds odd but I used to not enjoy standing and now I do’. Being able to stand in a balanced and easy way is a skill and a gift that is often overlooked and under appreciated – and it is good for us.

So we will look a little at the anatomy of standing, at the weight of the head and where and how it balances on the end of the spine. We will observe each other standing and see what we notice. We will observe and explore the act of standing in ourselves, too.

We may consider how we move between sitting and standing – and explore different ways of doing that with grace and ease. And we will develop a gentle standing warm up routine that we can do on waking or at any time of the day to gently wake up the body and get ready for the day or the activity ahead.

And we will discuss when, how and how much we stand on a daily basis and how we might apply Alexander work to all of that.

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Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com
Weekly Group Plans

Mindful movement

Next week our new Alexander groups start, in Manchester and Macclesfield, with a mixture of students, some completely new to Alexander work and wondering what it is, some people who have taken groups before. We are all students of this profound technique, all learning together.

A few weeks ago I spent 8 days in Dorset studying Alexander with one of MY teachers, Bruce Fertman. And because we are all, all of us, still learning I learned things about myself I didn’t know which I will share with my groups when we start back next week.

And I learned things about teaching the work to others that we will try out in my groups. The theme of much of Bruce Fertman’s teaching and writing is that the Alexander technique is about movement not posture. So I am going to take the theme of mindful movement for our first 5 groups. We will study the basic human forms of sitting, standing, lying, walking and transitioning – with a focus on how we move into and out of and during those forms. And we will help each other to find more ease, more fluidity, more comfort, more grace, more awareness, more enjoyment and even more beauty in those forms.

We will also think together about using the Alexander work when we are under stress – because we are late, because we are anxious, because we are irritated, because we are bored – which is another kind of stress!

And we will specifically apply the work to situations my students suggest for this term – whether that is singing, shopping, doing the gardening or even, as this photo of me on my own course shows, doing aikido!!

I am looking forward very much to seeing old friends again and making new ones. I love this work and I love sharing it. Thanks to all those who are planning to join me in this study in the coming weeks.

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Weekly Group Plans

I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

In our group sessions this term we have been following the theme of Going Deeper – we have looked in more depth at hands and feet and arms – and now we will focus in more depth on the very part of us that focuses best – on the eyes. It was a surprise to me, in my training as an Alexander technique teacher, that I could look gently, without unnecessary effort, without, as it were, going out and grabbing the world, visually. I could let it come to me, I could soften my gaze, I could widen it and take more pleasure in what the world has to show me.

So, this week, in Whaley Bridge, in Fallowfield and in Macclesfield we will think about how we use our eyes. We will consider panoramic vision – our use of our peripheral vision – and explore how it changes our experience of movement and of stillness. We may play games that explore walking and our use of our eyes. We will consider, in particular, the importance of the eyes when we bend down or sit down and how they co-ordinate our movements.

In their book, Movement, Awareness and Creativity, Bartal and Ne’eman write, ‘The human being’s most versatile contact with space is through the visual system, which is the most far-reaching and instantaneous form of perception. So co-ordination between the body and the rest of the world is mainly achieved through sight. Therefore it is essential to co-ordinate body and eye movements.’ (1975:12)

eyes

 

Weekly Group Plans

Raising our arms to the heavens

This week in my Alexander groups we will be thinking about our arms, or as one of my teachers, Bruce Fertman points out, our arm structure. My students today found that just easing the tendency to grip the arms against their sides produced ease throughout the body. And we did that with the aid of a highly technical piece of equipment – a tennis ball – carried around the room under our arm pits!

And we looked at posters showing the muscles of the arms and how they connect deep into the spine. And we played ‘dem bones’, with six people holding six separate bones and working out how they connect to make an arm structure 🙂 A playful session of contemplative anatomy.

What else might we do this week to explore, think about and focus on our wonderfully mobile and beautiful arms? We might do a very traditional Alexander procedure, ‘hands on the back of the chair’ to explore how dynamically we can use both arms together to hold a single object. We may do some ancient Chinese Qi Gong exercises and enjoy the slow, fluid movement of lifting our arms to the heavens, we will probably pick up objects and explore the experience of lifting different weights. And we will read from Bruce Fertman’s book, Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart the section on breathing – because our arms effect our breathing profoundly – as does everything else! arms 2

 

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…….

feet

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 🙂

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