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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Posture – A Radical Change

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Old solutions to problems that persist, reappear, rebranded, as wholesome technology. The promise is of effortless relief, with little or no demands on people’s powers, intellectual or physical. Of course, from the Alexander perspective, separating the intellectual from the physical, the mind from the body, is a category mistake that divides what is unified in the psycho-physical. The need is to repare a separation that arose in practice and thought many hundreds of years ago.


The habit of separation, hardened to the point where mind, body and soul became seen as separate substances, not part of a single unified whole, continues to inform solutions that miss and ignore the facts of our corporeality and embodiment. Our ability to act is compromised in being bypassed by misunderstandings that have developed over centuries. 


This can be seen in the return of the fashion for corsetry, this time for men, as well as women. A guinea-pig reporter in today’s Independent finds himself ‘almost breathless and strangely upright’ in a T-shirt that promises ‘Zonal core muscle compression’ that ‘sculptures, shapes and slims the torso,’ according to the maker’s website. The problem with this approach is expressed succinctly and accurately, in the second comment, at the foot of the article – ‘Yeah- that's what your own muscles are meant to do!’


Well said Anne! Corsetry, artificial supports, are rarely helpful, weakening what needs to be strengthened, strengthening what needs to weakened, putting an over reliance on something external rather than using the rather wonderful support and mechanisms that evolved for keeping us upright and breathing. It is the use of that support and those mechanisms that is fundamental to Alexander’s work. To use them requires a consciousness of them that is usually lacking; a consciousness that only develops in practical experience and can be gained quickly and easily in Alexander lessons. Where the emphasis is not on posture as a static holding, but as a dynamic preparedness for action, which is poised, balanced and alert, to the possibilities of a situation. 

 

This shows itself rather differently to the sculpted form of corsetry; it is free and easy, dynamic and related in its form, aesthetic in the ease of movement, poise and balance. It relies on the muscles deep to the spine to support us, as they evolved to do. It relies not on a direct effort to hold ourselves up, but goes the indirect way, inhibiting where we pull ourselves down, where we pull ourselves out of shape, so that the work falls naturally and easily on to the muscles that evolved to support us, give us shape, grace of movement, lightness on our feet, lightness in our being.

 

Posture as preparation for action, which is maintained in action, is a radical departure from common perceptions of posture. It is one that is concerned with the ’co-ordination of parts within the whole’, or physiology as Claude Bernard defined it, that respects the integrity of the organism within the frame of action. Where Alexander radicalizes this even further is in taking it from the realms of theory into the realms of practice, making it available to everybody, as a ‘constructive conscious control’, that is practical, simple, and available to all. 

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.


The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.


I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.