freedom for life

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

Thursday, 01 May 2014

Live Long and Prosper

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No, not a blog on Star Trek, but a blog on how to help make this a reality by looking after yourself through learning the Alexander Technique and developing Constructive Conscious Control. What put me in mind of this were reports this week in The Independent and The Telegraph of how various simple functional tests in adults, such as being able to stand on one leg for more than 10 seconds or get in an out of a chair more than 37 times in a minute, are good predictors of life expectancy for people in their early fifties. At 51, I am glad to say I passed both tests easily when I did them this morning.

The research was carried out by Rachel Cooper of the Medical Research Council who specialises in this kind of work. The conclusions drawn from this kind of research all emphasise the importance of keeping active in daily life, developing better balance and maintaining freedom of movement in activity. These are all things that Alexander Technique helps with. In fact, they are central to Alexander work with its emphasis on poise and balance in everyday activities; its emphasis on conscious control in the act of living. For what Alexander discovered was a practical method of becoming aware of the effects of how we co-ordinate or use ourselves on how we function.

Too often our use establishes patterns of movement that gradually limit our range of movement and weaken what needs to be strong. So, when it comes to sitting to standing, many people by their fifties are unable to stand up without using their hands to push themselves up. This weakens their backs and puts pressure on all their joints, interferes with their balance and breathing, not just in the act of standing up, but in the standing itself, and they commonly take this interference into their next activity. Like compound interest the misuse here grows, reducing their standard of general functioning, creating risks for the future, reducing the quality of life of the present.

It does not need to be like this; while the practice of the Alexander Technique is for life, the basics of getting out of a chair unsupported can be taught in minutes. The journey towards a longer, fuller life starts with stopping yourself before you next stand up and ensuring that you move with poise and balance. If you do not know how, then you can come and learn. Along, the way, you will find yourself better at almost any skill you choose to practice, for at the heart of most things done well, are focus, poise, balance, and Alexander Technique gives you a way of finding them easily, continually throughout your life, a life in which I trust you live long and prosper.

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.