freedom for life

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

Monday, 05 October 2015

Stillness

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A few years ago, I went to hear Paco Peña play during the Festival here in Edinburgh. As well as the flamenco dancers you would expect, he had with him a troupe of African dancers. Both sets of dancers were equally fine, totally different in style and yet had something in common, which I recognise from teaching Alexander Technique.

Flamenco, highly stylised in its gestures, with it characteristic rhythms was contrasted with shaking dances from Africa. In both the performers achieved a stillness in the use of their head and neck which allowed for bodies and limb to move in co-ordinated rhythms to the music. Watching the performance taught me a lot about stillness and dance, and I have been thinking about it a lot, since I took up dancing last year and made 2015 into my year of dance.

Movement Medicine and 5 Rhythms, both dance meditation practices, have given me a place to develop my conscious control from an Alexander perspective, while exploring the non- and pre-verbal aspects of living, that deeply influence each of us with regard to what it means for us to be in the world.

Deep changes in being involve finding stillness. The ‘still point’ is where ‘the dance is,’ to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. My dancer who emerges on the dance floor is Alexander’s self that emerges in daily life, if I allow myself to really stop and allow my creativity, spontaneity a place.

It prevents a ‘hardening of the categories’ and encourages us to develop habits of process, where we meet people and events as we find them in their uniqueness, rather than as stock characters in an old and familiar play. This kind of freshness, aliveness to possibilities, allows for a direction of travel through life, where we integrate our actions with our breathing, trust not just our heads, but listen to our hearts and if we are courageous enough open them to the people who are around us. Which is often what needs to happen in therapy, where people who come, have often lost trust in others and themselves.

It can be no easy task learning to trust others. Part of my work as a therapist and as Alexander Technique teacher is to create a safe space and safe relationship where people can learn to feel again what has been, frozen, lost, hidden or never developed. In this finding the stillness, where we are ‘breathed’ as the mystics would say, we find a freedom and a potentiality not just in movement but in words and relationships, where we can speak of how it is, rather than get lost in conceptualisations that hide more than they reveal.

Stillness allows for the creative spontaneity, that allows us to adapt to the vagaries and vicissitudes of life; that allows us to dream new futures, see new possibilities, have hopes for a good life, a better life. In this, as always, it is the qualities of our relationships with ourselves, other and the earth, that are of most significance – and which can only be found in stillness, in the ‘standing now’ of the Greeks, before speech, as a prelude to speech, to the speech by which we care for ourselves and others.

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.