Everyone’s got a story

January 28, 2009

I thought I’d start with a quick run-down of why i started learning the Alexander technique. 

It was a dark and stormy night… in 2002. I had been suffering from back pain and mobility problems in both my arms and legs (stiff joints, loss of strength, muscle spasms – that kind of thing). Chiropractic didn’t seem to shift it and the exercises prescribed by the physio seemed to make things worse. I started to suspect that my problems were being caused by the way I was doing things. There was something about the way I moved, the way I sat at the computer maybe, that was doing me harm. Doctors and medical people said that this was possibly the case, but there was nothing they knew that could help me with that (in an exchange bizarrely reminiscent of the one Alexander had with his own doctor).

But then…I found a book about the Alexander technique on my flat mate’s shelf and it seemed to suggest there was a way to change how you actually moved, walked and so  on.

Coming out of my first session nothing felt dramatically changed. I noticed that my legs felt like they were attached to my pelvis in a slightly different way than usual. I hopped down the stairs of the tube station and there was an unmistakeable “springy-ness” about me that was different. I remember a slightly freer feeling in my limbs. These effects were fairly subtle and slight, but still quite intriguing.

Subsequent sessions produced similar sensations of freedom and lightness, but never lasting more than a day or so. And whenever I sat down to work at my computer, it wasn’t long before I felt like an immobile lump once again. Why couldn’t I maintain this nice feeling of freedom and mobility?

There seemed to be no quick fix or easy answer but I felt that the insights I gained when going for Alexander lessons, and when applying these principles on my own, were helping me understand the way I moved in a much more fundamental way than I had previously thought possible. Though I don’t think I was easy to teach. I can remember the odd wryly amused grin from an Alexander teacher who was trying to get through to me, like the time I explained I was “concentrating on not concentrating”.

But as my awareness grew, I was able to let go of habits and tensions that were unhelpful and contributing to my problems, patterns of tension I’d been holding onto for years. The gradual improvements in my overall mobility were very exciting to notice, having previously resigned myself to just being “broken”, or simply “old” (given I was 28 at this point, I’d quite like to go back in time and give myself a slap).

Within a few years I had taken the step of enrolling in a training course, to learn to become a teacher of the technique. This may seem a bit extreme but I knew I still had a lot to learn about it, and I was deeply interested because of the help it was giving me – almost obsessed.

And there we are… seven years later. My back’s certainly loads stronger, though i still have to be careful when sitting at a computer that i don’t overdo it, and that i pay attention to my use (and don’t get sucked back into old habits). My left knee doesn’t go “crrkkk!” every time i straighten it, which i’m pleased about. Even long-distance running doesn’t seem to leave me with aches and pains any more. I don’t get panic attacks or breathing problems any more, which i used to quite frequently. And people I meet often comment on how much better i look than a few years ago.

So yeah… I’m one of those people who’ll chew your head off in the pub telling you about the benefits of some weird health fad they’ve discovered… Well, hopefully not.