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

Thursday, 09 February 2017

On the uses of the Alexander Technique or how to think and adapt

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I think I must have been twenty six when I went for my first Alexander Technique lesson. The primary reason for going then, as it is for many people, was to find help with a musculo-skeletal problem. In my case it was the sciatica that was at times crippling and limiting what I could hope to do with my life. While my progress was slow in developing the conscious control whereby I could live a full and active life, there were brief glimpses from the start of something different to what I was then experiencing. 

Those differences were not just in relation to my back, but in terms of being less stressed and these, along with the promise of conscious control, lured me further along the way that led me to train to teach Alexander’s Technique. Which has been a good decision and along that way, I have found that my reasons for travelling in that direction are reconstrued in the light of my ongoing experience, not least the ability of being able to live a full and active life, a possibility that seemed distant and was for my twenty-six-year old receding beyond the horizon.
One reason that has remained constant and comes ever more to the fore is using the Technique to adapt to changing circumstances whether they be physical, personal or political. 
Physical changes are present in our lives, whether we like it or not as we pass through the various stages of life from being an infant to childhood and beyond to the point where we start to fail and decline. There is a natural life cycle here which one sees in the way children choose to co-ordinate or use themselves, should that be given half a chance. Unfortunately, what they are faced with, whether it be school seating or small screens, distracts them from this journey into adulthood and they start to distort themselves into ‘distraction from distraction’ as TS Eliot put it and into end-gaining. Rare is the person who escapes this journey and does not need a practice of re-education, such as the Alexander Technique provides, to bring themselves back to themselves and the possibilities that are afforded to them from being present to their own unique arising and growth.

There are in this journey, times when we have to adapt to different levels and types of physicality for which Alexander Technique is most helpful in insuring that such transitions occur without injury and leave us more co-ordinated and integrated than before. Something I am very aware of having recently gone into a ten-day intensive dance retreat not dance fit and then having to readapt to a world where I have to find my freedom not in dancing but in sitting and writing. 
I am also aware of the importance of Alexander Technique to me in adapting to the changing world in which I live, where with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump old certainties are passing. As this old order passes and one waits with uncertainty in the unknownness of the new emerging order to find one’s way forward, I find it useful in avoiding too much ‘hostility’ with regard to changes I regret. ‘Hostility’ has a special meaning within Personal Construct Pyschology which Jonathan Raskin recently blogged about in Psychology Today.

‘Hostility’ is an attempt to ‘cook the books’ when our constructions of how the world is, or how we would like it to be, fails and we start trying to extort others into validating what has already failed in its predictive venture. We all do it at times but not necessarily on such a grand scale as President Trump and his inability to accept that the crowds at his inauguration were substantially less than at President Obama’s. It is easy to spot in others with regard to politics both here and across the Atlantic at the moment; the trick though is to see the beam in one’s own eye first. And, here it is back to basics, the basics of breathing and understanding one’s own position and that of the others that we disagree with. This is what allows politics to work with its inevitable compromises as people seek to work out what they have in common to move forward, despite their profound disagreements, rather than force others into their ways of being. The dialogue at this level, funded on courtesy is the basis of morality, at a more personal level the dialogue gives rise to ethics. Which ever level you are at, the important thing remains not to force your constructions on others but to stop, breathe and be curious about who you have in front of you.

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.