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

Bruce Fertman in Macclesfield

“Gravity and Grace”

Alexander Workshops with Bruce Fertman
Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 April, 2020 

Morton Hall Community Centre Union Road Macclesfield SK11 7BN   
Saturday 18th April 10.00 – 16.00 (Lunch 12.30 – 13.30)and Sunday 19 April 10.00 – 16.00 (Lunch 12.30 – 13.30) 

Please see for more information: https://peacefulbodyschool.com

Fees: £100 per day and £160.00 for both days.

To reserve your place, or for more information, please email Ruth Davis – ruth.a.davis@me.com

Prayer, Silence and stillness, Spirituality, Well-being and the Alexander Technique, What's On

Prayer and the Body: A Workshop

  • A workshop for people of any faith or none
  • Explore what an embodied spiritual practice might look and feel like
  • As part of the workshop we will make and share bread
  • Free workshop, donations to cost of church heating welcome

Facilitators: Jenny Fox Eades, Alexander teacher and Third Order Franciscan; Nick Eades, Qi Gong and Tai chi practitioner

Saturday 7 December 2019

St Peter’s Church, Windmill Street

Macclesfield, SK11 7HS

11am – 3pm

Wear comfortable clothes, bring a light lunch and a blanket or shawl

At the still point of the turning world, there the dance is’

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

Spirituality, Well-being and the Alexander Technique, Well-being in education

Learn from a master mover…..

An excellent talk on movement and why the fitness industry gets it badly wrong from a fitness expert and male model, Roger Frampton. He highlights the ridiculous practice of Western cultures of taking master movers – also known as children – who squat naturally and with ease and then teaching them to SIT for 7 or 8 hours a day.

AT toddler playing in a squat iStock_000012881728XSmall (2)

I suspect that this single practice, the practice of replacing the natural human positions of standing and squatting with sitting on that man made, modern and malign invention THE CHAIR probably contributes more to the epidemic of back pain in the Western world than anything else.

Sitting, slumped over, limits our breathing, contracts our spines, weakens our core muscles and probably much more. We used to squat – Frampton calls it the ‘pre-chair resting position’ – why were we made to stop???

photo of boy wearing headphone
Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

Frampton says we should watch children to understand how our bodies want to move and try to get back our full range of movement – the movement we once had. He criticizes the outcome focus of the fitness industry – constantly measuring time, distance, repetitions, weight – and says we should focus instead on HOW we move – and focus on movement, not looks, not muscles. Work with your body, not against it, he says and prioritize the spine. You are, as a Chinese saying has it, as old as your spine.

So, the Alexander Technique – not about posture but about movement – put movement first, understand how your body wants to move, used to move – find an Alexander teacher or, perhaps better still, watch a small child.

adult baby business child
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Reflections on Previous Groups, Uncategorized, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Walking on Sunshine together

On Saturday, 16 people turned up at St Peter’s Church, Macclesfield to explore the simple, yet complex movement of walking. We all know how to walk. What we don’t always know is how WE walk and how we might walk with more ease, more enjoyment. And that is what we explored together.

And it was immense fun – a really good workshop. And people learned a great deal. And we metaphorically covered a great deal of ground though we physically didn’t walk any great distances.

And looking back on any workshop or group session I COULD pat myself on the back, as the person running the workshop and say ‘well-done, I ran a good workshop’. Or, alternatively, ‘that didn’t work, I must not be a very good teacher’. And in these days of an education system that measures teachers on how well their students do, that is certainly a tendency. But that view, it seems to me, puts TOO much emphasis on the role of the teacher and not enough on the role of everyone else in the room.

It’s not that the teacher has NO role or responsibility. Of course they do. It was my job, yesterday, to ensure that the physical and emotional environment was as safe as possible – that people knew they weren’t going to be judged or criticized. I try to make sure the physical environment is as beautiful as possible too – that tells participants I value them. As does the fruit and treacle flap jack at break time. And it’s my job to be as skillful a teacher as I can be, to keep studying and learning myself and to teach as clearly as I know how. I am responsible for the pace of the workshop, the content of the workshop.

On this particular afternoon I was also lucky enough to have two other Alexander technique teachers to help me, the lovely Janey Goodearl and the wonderful Su Harrison.

But – and it is an important but – the other people in the room play an absolutely essential role in the success of any workshop. Their openness to learning, their generosity to one another, their courage in being willing to change and look at new ways of doing things are things the teacher or workshop leader can encourage but not actually give. Only the participants can do that.

So, as I look back on Saturday’s workshop and reflect on it, I have to pay tribute to the open-hearted, warm, friendly and open-minded participants for the learning that took place. To Janey and to Su, for their invaluable help and to all the lovely people who came together to form a community of learning the Alexander technique together.

If we learn, we change. And at the end of four hours, people had changed. They said,

‘I feel safe and more stable and more appreciative of the ground’ 

‘I learned how strong my lower body is’

‘when I went for a walk I thought more about the process of walking instead of being in my head’ 

I felt more grounded, more connected with the ground’

‘I felt a lot more stable, I looked up, I enjoyed going for a walk!’

‘I’m taking away a sense of freedom and stability’ 

‘I’m taking away the need to slow down’

‘I’m going to be a bit gentler with myself about change’ 

‘I learned that holding yourself rigid is a silly waste of effort’ 

Well done, those students of the Alexander work. And thank you for a good afternoon’s learning.

man walking near body of water
Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

 

Reflections on Previous Groups, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Let’s play at being a pelvic floor!!!

Sometimes, running Alexander Technique groups is the MOST enjoyable, satisfying and above all, funniest job I can imagine. And today was one of those days. There aren’t many groups of people where I can picture myself saying, ‘Let’s imagine we are a pelvis, and then paint ourselves a pelvic floor!’ but my Union Chapel Alexander groups are that kind of group so today we did precisely that.

First, though, we began with me deciding and admitting that I need to learn how to teach voice as an Alexander technique teacher and that I need my groups to teach me how to do it. There are singers in my groups and other voice users – that is, other humans! So why would I not use these experts to learn from?

We are language using animals. On the radio today I heard a paleo-linguist say that speech is finely controlled breathing. And the Alexander technique is, first and foremost,  a breathing technique. So, with the help of Harriet Anderson’s excellent The Thinking Teacher’s Body we first thought about standing in a quiet, balanced way so that our musical instrument, i.e. our body, was as aligned and relaxed as possible. And while John, (thank you John) read aloud an extract from Harriet’s book I went round and used my hands to help people explore that quiet standing.

Then we did one of Harriet’s ‘Explorations’ and attempted to vocalize in a really good slump. And we explored how that sounded and how that felt. Linda said it felt like a large fat cat trying to squeeze through a small cat flap! And then we explored vocalizing while in a more balanced and open state – and the difference that made.

But it was after coffee that we became a pelvis! Martyn and Linda were the ischial tuberosities, Fiona the pubic synthesis. John was the sternum and spinal column, other group members were the iliac crests. And I painted in a pelvic floor.

When we could stop laughing enough  to think about what we had done, we agreed that this was a funny, powerful way to explore our mental body maps – and to learn about and think about the extraordinary miracle that is the human body. So my thanks to one of MY teachers, Bruce Fertman for both the ideas and the confidence to try them out.

We did a LOT of voice work today – and I felt I learned a huge amount from my committed and generous students. And we all felt we had started to explore a way of studying the Alexander technique together – and breath and voice – that we can extend and develop in future sessions. And we laughed – a lot. And I LOVED the session. As always, I feel grateful and privileged to teach this work.

So, here’s to more pelvis building….. and to more tuning of the musical instrument that is the human body.

brown and black cut away acoustic guitar
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

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.

Well-being and the Alexander Technique

New Year’s Resolution – stop exercising, improve your well-being!

Yes, seriously.

To explain…..

I have recently been introduced to the work of  Ido Portal , inventor of  The Movement Culture. His basic idea is that we don’t move enough. And when we do move we ‘exercise’ within a fairly narrow range of movements and then, because we only do one sport, we injure ourselves by overspecializing.

As an Alexander Technique teacher I love watching his videos – his movement is beautifully. But I also love that he has developed a philosophy of movement which I find very compelling. Basically he says move more, in more ways. Be less of a specialists, more of a generalist. Humans are designed to move in many, many ways.

And I could not agree more. Children naturally move through a wide range. When out walking they also skip, jump, run, climb, swing, lean down, reach up, clamber, slide. As we age we narrow this range of movement – we just walk, on one level, at one speed.

And the modern world, with it’s ‘labour saving devices’ contrives to save us from moving even more. Cars mean we don’t walk, lifts mean we don’t climb stairs, remote controls mean we don’t even get up to change television channel. We hire a cleaner to clean our windows and our house, we get a dog walker to walk the dog. And then we go to the gym, or yoga class to ‘exercise’ the body we have stopped moving.

Perhaps the problem is the word ‘exercise’. Exercise seems to be a chore, a duty, more about health than about pleasure. If we stopped thinking of ‘exercise’ and instead thought of ‘how can I move more today?’ How can I enjoy movement more? Not, how can I reduce my movement, ‘save’ time and energy, but how can I treasure every opportunity to move my incredible body?

So, a New Year’s Resolution – exercise less and move more. Find movement classes, enjoy moving. Oh and consider learning the Alexander Technique to refine your movement and make it even more enjoyable, easy, free – beautiful, even. Happy New Year everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer, Silence and stillness, Spirituality, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Be Still and wait: prayer, the body and the Alexander Technique – reflections on a workshop

What I LOVE about teaching the Alexander technique in groups and workshops are the WONDERFUL people who rock up to them! AND how much I learn. And last Saturday’s workshop, Be Still and Wait: Prayer, the body and the Alexander Technique, was no exception.

A few were people I knew already – including my husband who was an extraordinarily kind, unobtrusive, supportive gofer. Mostly, they were people I didn’t know – from Manchester, from Whaley Bridge, from Wildboarclough.

I was nervous. I hadn’t run a workshop on prayer and the AT before. But mostly I was thrilled that people had come to explore and to be open – and above all to PLAY – with these most important topics. And I opened by saying that I am not an expert on either the Alexander technique nor prayer. But I am a student of both and that I was grateful for fellow students to study with.

And my first question could have generated another workshop just on its own. What, I asked, does the Alexander Technique mean to you now, in one word or short phrase? And what does prayer mean to you now, in one word or phrase?

And they said, after time for thought and discussion, that the Alexander technique means……openness, friendship, skeletons (!), balance, rootedness, awareness, posture, environment, connection, self-awareness, embodiment, harmony, alignment, poise, possibility.

Honestly, I was in awe of those responses! From people with a very little, or in some cases no, previous experience of the technique. Those who are relatively new to a discipline sometimes see it with a freshness and clarity that those who have studied for longer can miss.

And they said that prayer means ……silence, stillness, deep silence, laughter, connection, alignment, comfort, openness, harmony, uncertainty, conversation with God, environment, spiritual awareness, spiritual connection, balance, and friendship.

And we looked at our lists with some amazement, all struck by the overlap, the similarities and connections between them. And I COULD have asked – are there any words or phrases from either list that could NOT go on the other? But we had sat and talked long enough and I wanted them up and moving 🙂

So I will save that question for another workshop.

So what did we do then? Well, we did some contemplative anatomy, something I have learned from one of MY teachers, Bruce Fertman, Peaceful Body School. We looked at the fact that we have, not two arms but one arm structure and at how wide and spacious that arm structure is. And then, in threes and in silence, we made bread, softly, creatively, with love and gentleness and awareness of that spacious arm structure. It baked while we ate lunch, filling the space with a wonderful aroma and waking up the sense of smell as our morning activities had woken up our senses of touch, sight, hearing, kinaesthesia and proprioception.

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And I read, after lunch, from a book by Kabir Helminski Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the Essential Self. And we engaged in patient, waiting, open listening and discussion. And we went for a walk, channeling our inner dinosaurs because the room was quite chilly by that time. And then we gave one another bread, the bread that we had made with love and attention and openness.

And we used our senses of touch and sight and kinaesthesia and proprioception to explore and choose and add a Christmas decoration to the Christmas tree in the church we were meeting in.

And then we said our goodbyes and said what we were taking away from our four hours together, four hours of playful exploration of the Alexander technique and prayer. And mostly what I take away is a memory of how beautiful humans are, how kind, how generous, how thoughtful, how funny. We are not all like that all the time. But we all CAN be like that, some of the time. And that, in this season of Advent, of waiting, gives me hope.

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My workshop plan – a playful plan for a playful workshop. And no, for students who know me well, we DIDN’T get through a fraction of it!

Prayer, Spirituality, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Prayer, the body, the Alexander Technique and bad backs

What’s your body got to do with prayer? Isn’t it the soul that prays, anyway??

Over the years – and in different traditions – the way we stand or sit or kneel to pray has changed and some would say it doesn’t much matter what our bodies are doing when we pray. But perhaps it does matter and perhaps thinking about how we stand or sit or kneel might even deepen and enrich our prayer lives. IMG_20140814_140412

The bible has a lot to say about bodies. In the Old Testament, when the people of God ignored God’s law it says, ‘They turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their necks’ (Nehemiah 9. 29). The psalmist exhorts ‘Do not harden your hearts’ (Ps 95) and tells us to ‘Stand in awe’ (Psalm 4) and ‘Lift up your hands in the holy places and praise the Lord’ (Psalm 134).

The Alexander technique also has a lot to say about bodies. Many people, myself included, first encounter it because it can help to ease or prevent bad backs. And happily, after a few lessons, my bad back got a lot better, But what made me carry ON having lessons was noticing in myself psychological and emotional changes – I felt calmer, less likely to over-react to situations. I decided to train as a TEACHER of the Alexander technique – which is a 3 year full time training – at least partly because of the psychological – and spiritual – depths it seemed to offer. And also because it is undoubtedly a good way of helping other people with bad backs!

The Alexander technique, which has been around for over 100 years, was first seen as a voice or breathing technique and only later became associated with the relief of chronic back and neck pain. Really, it is about the WHOLE of you – body, mind, emotions, spirit – and how you do the things you do every day – how you ARE in the world. As you become more aware of how you do the things you do, you also become more able to keep calm and think and notice and choose how to respond to the things life throws at you.

Which brings me to the body and prayer. Prayer is sometimes called ‘paying attention’ (Simone Weil) – paying attention to God, to what is really there. In the Alexander technique you learn to pay attention to your usual patterns of thought, movement and behaviour – and gradually to notice what is really happening. And you can learn to press the pause button, to quieten down and choose not to move carelessly, not to react without thought, not to get drawn into endless rumination.

All of these are skills we can use in prayer. In prayer we are choosing to open our eyes rather than to close them, to open or soften our hearts rather than to harden them. We can choose to give ourselves permission to let go – of unwanted thoughts, of unnecessary tension. And we can choose to pay more attention to ourselves and our bodies, which God has created and which God delights in. When I teach the Alexander technique, either in 1:1 lessons or in groups, my underlying aim is always for people to enjoy their bodies – and their lives –their whole selves, a little bit more.

Learning the Alexander technique has certainly changed how I pray. I now tend to keep my eyes open, rather than to close them, as it helps me stay alert and tuned into the world and myself. St Francis prayed that way too so I am in good company!  I vary the position I pray in. When I notice tension creeping in I allow myself to let it go.

So, is there a right way to pray, physically speaking? In terms of position, no. We can pray in any position at all – lying, standing, sitting or kneeling. If you are tense or uncomfortable, however, then it matters because YOU matter.

Here are some ideas to play with to deepen your awareness of your body while you pray:

  • Consider whether your posture suits the kind of prayer you want to practice. If you are engaged in confession, a position with bowed head might be suitable. But is it as suitable for praise? Or for thanks giving?
  • Play with different positions for prayer and consider introducing more variety into how you pray.
  • Pray while moving, walking, bread making or dancing even! I have learned some prayers to say by heart so that I can say them while running in the hills in the morning.
  • Notice tension in your body as you pray and just give yourself permission to let it go.
  • Ask God for a soft, open heart. What might that actually feel like physically?
  • Smile when praying – it lifts the spirits and softens the heart
  • Try praying with your eyes open – like St Francis – so that you can enjoy God’s creation

Fundamentally, consider how you treat yourself, in body, mind and spirit. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves. So that means treating our neighbour – AND ourselves, ALL of ourselves – with consideration and respect.

As well as being an Alexander Technique teacher, Jenny is also a member of the  Third Order of St Francis and part of a lay leadership team in in the Church of England.