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

Friday, 07 June 2013

Alexander Technique and Gardening

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Alexander Technique and Gardening The weather in Edinburgh has finally turned into Summer, the grass is just starting to grow and it is time for many people to tend to their gardens. My Osteopath friends tell me that they get busy at this time of year with people seeking treatment for the injuries they do to themselves, in what is supposed to be an enjoyable activity but involves people in physical work they are not used to. It is also a time when I find myself teaching pupils about how to use themselves in the garden, which is a terrific place to learn about one’s use and apply the technique. The lessons are often necessary as newer pupils have often not thought about their use in the garden and are therefore prone to snagging and hurting themselves. What follows are a few observations about what one can learn to look after oneself while gardening in order to make it a more enjoyable experience. To understand them, you really need the experience of lessons and the help of a teacher. All of them can be easily demonstrated to ensure a proper and correct understanding and then it is practice; practice all the time in putting the use of yourself, and particularly your head and your neck, first.

Firstly, it is useful to learn how to squat well. This takes time and those people that can squat often do it by tightening and shortening. It is important to lengthen up in order to go down into a squat. It takes time to learn how to do this but is well worth the effort, making low level work easier and allowing safe lifting of heavier objects through a proper use of the back.

Secondly, learn how use your back when lifting without narrowing it by tensing and shortening the arms.

Thirdly, learn how to use your hands when placing them on something in order to lift it and how to make pincer and power grips without shortening the flexors of the hand and arms. This is very easy to learn and when you do, you will find that you can be aware of your back widening in support of whatever activity that you are undertaking. A good thing to remember here is that in taking hold of anything, whether in a pincer or a power grip, somebody else should be able to easily remove the object from your hand without a struggle. This applies not just in gardening, but in sport with a club or a racket, in musicianship with holding a bow or an instrument, and in art or writing in how you hold a brush or a pencil.

Fourthly, when digging, learn how to drive the spade by extending the leg and not leaning heavily forward and down on the spade and trying to push it down.

Throughout it all of course you need as a first consideration to be keeping your neck free and your head going forward and up before letting the back lengthen and widen. These are always primary to anything else. Putting it all together is sometimes tricky, as is properly understanding what is meant in each instruction, which is why lessons are important. When you do manage to put it all together, the work involved in gardening should seem easier, there will be less risk of injury and more time to enjoy your garden if the weather holds.

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.