freedom for life

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

Monday, 12 January 2015

Really Stopping

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If you really stop, and I mean really stop, and especially if you are not used to stopping, then it really feels to most people that they cannot do anything, and so they revert to the familiar, and the habitual. The familiar and the habitual have their uses; they can help us to successfully navigate life but they can also trap, harden us to the new, stop us from exploring, inhibit our spontaneity, hinder our creativity. Unless, that is, our habits support our exploring, release our spontaneity and open us up to the possibilities of ourselves and our lives.

This is as true for me twenty five years after first encountering Alexander’s Technique as it is for someone coming to it for the first time. Their experience, in a first lesson on learning what it is they do, that they do not want to be doing, where they do it and when, and then successfully inhibiting or stopping it – is of not knowing how to actually move and get into action. It just feels impossible to move without resorting to the known and the familiar, the habitual.

If you have read this far and you have no Alexander experience, then it is important to be clear that what you do not want is anything that interferes with your breathing, anything that leaves you shortening and narrowing in stature, anything that is that constricts you and your experience of the world you are encountering. Which is often easier said than done and why, in the beginning in Alexander, we strip things down to the basic actions, like standing, walking, sitting, take hold of the world, looking at and being with another, articulating our thoughts to them and ourselves.

Outside the teaching room, these actions are embedded in life, saturated in meaning but we can and do learn that our manner of use - that is what we do with our head, in relation to our neck and torso - has a constant effect on our functioning and performance, whatever the situation we find ourselves in. At first, this is pared down in the teaching room to the simple acts listed above and taken out into life. Later if you take it far enough, into the act of thinking and using your intelligence, which is a prerequisite for learning Alexander’s technique and developing conscious control, it becomes a process of opening you up further to the world you find yourself in and a process of continually becoming more of your self. In the process you find yourself, as I have been finding myself this week, as my conscious control is developing and my manner of use is improving, faced with deeply held core habits and opening myself up by inhibiting them and finding myself at my edge. Where the leap into the unknown is the same as it always has been, where it was in the beginning, with Alexander, as it is for me, of trusting oneself, one’s reason, one’s thinking, in moving forward without the certainty of it feeling right and allowing oneself to find oneself, where one finds oneself, with a greater freedom in being one’s self.

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.