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

Friday, 05 July 2013

Relax Can Equal Collapse

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Relax Can Equal Collapse It is holiday time and people are heading off for what they are hoping to be a relaxing break. It is often at this point that newer pupils often think they can take a holiday from the Alexander Technique, which they have been learning to apply in their daily life. What then happens is that they fall back on habits for relaxing which are really habits for collapsing. The equating of relaxing and collapsing, while culturally re-enforced, emerges, I think, from the fact that if you have been over tensing and clenching everything up, a jolly good slump and collapse initially feels great. It comes at a price though, of less energy, poor organisation and poor preparation for action. These often bring with them the return of various symptoms that had brought people for Alexander lessons in the first place.

In learning new habits of coordination, it often takes time and this experience of discomfort to bring people to the point of reconstruing their habits for resting and relaxation. Alexander Technique is as much concerned with this, as with the active phase of action. If we are poised and balanced while at rest, then we are well organised to act dynamically, we do not need to brace ourselves for action. Both phases of the movement between action and resting can and should be done without disturbing poise and balance, otherwise we move between excess tension and collapsing as a matter of course.

Semi-supine is a great way to learn about the resting phase. It makes all the difference and with it, one learns that you properly relax by allowing yourself to expand through lengthening and widening. You also learn that proper relaxation ends with a feeling of being lightly energised, ready to do the next thing rather than sleepy relaxed. Learning this involves not just understanding the mechanics of action through how you use yourself, but breaking out of cultural norms that equate collapsing with relaxing. If you do both, then an active or restful holiday, depending on your choice, becomes possible that leaves you poised and balanced, as well as relaxed and refreshed for the return home and the return to normal everyday life.

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.