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

Friday, 01 February 2013

Poise in the Act of Living

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The continuing radical nature of Alexander's thought and work has been brought home to me, as I prepare to write an article next week. Which means no blogs for the next two weeks. 


I touched on the radical nature of Alexander's work in the last blog in relation to posture and the renewed fashion for corsetry. I could equally well have written the same the week before in relation to physical literacy in schools, where what is important is not sport itself for physical literacy but what we do or do not do in everyday acts of living. It is in our everyday acts of life, such as sitting, walking, standing, that our co-ordination, through our manner of using ourselves, conditions how well we function, day-to-day, minute-to-minute. The lack of awareness of this, cultivated by a reliance on habit, and the assumption that somehow we just know how to just do these simple acts, can end up as a cultivated ignorance, which is then perpetuated by the continuation of approaches to fitness and rehabilitation that can be shown to fail. 

That failure stretches back over the hundred years or more that Alexander started to make his work known though his writings and continues today, as the aforementioned blogs sought to highlight. What is missed is the rather uncomfortable truth of Alexander's work, which is also a hopeful truth. The discomfort lies in knowing and learning how responsible we are and can be for how we function. The hope lies in the possibilities of conscious control for rehabilitation, development and prevention that are then revealed. It was the hope of prevention that inspired much of what Alexander argued for in his later writings. He hoped children would be taught in such a way that they did not learn to make the undue effort where they stiffened their torso, reducing the mobility of their thorax, while increasing the lordosis of their spine. He hoped that doctors could be trained to have knowledge of how use effects functioning and the course of disease. This call from Alexander for doctors to be trained was supported at the time by members of the medical community and was taken up again last year by retired consultant Kieran Tobin in the Irish Times.

While such a revolution, as it would undoubtedly be, would be welcome, I suspect it is far off and unlikely given the state of things. However this does not prevent individual people, non-experts, becoming experts on how their own use affects their functioning and health. This needs to be learned in lessons, through the application of Alexander’s Technique to simple acts of living, before being taken out into life through conscious control. Conscious control applied leads to improving use, that raises continually the standard of functioning, developing balance, poise, ease of movement, fluidity of movement, grace in everyday life, for anyone and everyone who cares to learn and apply the technique. An Alexander Technique teacher can demonstrate all of this quickly and easily. So, if you want to know more, come along to a workshop or for a lesson. Or if Edinburgh is too far away, look up a colleague on the STAT website.

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.