freedom for life

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

Friday, 03 May 2013


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In the process of developing and extending constructive conscious control, one of the things that sometimes happens is that people can start to experience discomfort and pain. Sometimes this involves a return of the symptoms that brought people to Alexander Technique in the first place; at other times the pain and discomfort arise in new places. When this happens, there is often a divergence of opinion as to what is occurring between the teacher and pupil. This divergence can be quickly and easily cleared up by understanding, what I refer to with pupils, as snagging.

Snagging occurs most often for some very particular and inter-linked reasons, two of which concerning context and structure will be outlined today, and two of which I outline in the follow up blog in three weeks time. Before I turn to the reasons, it is worth looking at the divergence in judgement as to what is happening between pupil and teacher.

The pupil understandably is concerned about their experience of pain and discomfort. In judging this experience the tendency is usually to immediately judge things negatively and to make certain assumptions. The most common is that no progress has been made, that they have gone backwards to the beginning and that they have learned nothing. Invariably none of these things are actually the case when looked at from the point of view of learning the Technique and developing conscious control.

From that point of view, there is a contextual element to developing conscious control and this provides the first reason why snagging occurs. It is simply much easier to be aware of our use in some activities rather than in others. With new pupils, it is often much easier to apply the technique in walking, for example, than elsewhere. As their use improves in walking, it highlights their old habit of shortening and narrowing in other activities, which become noticeably uncomfortable. Often this is because through the improving use, as the muscular and connective tissues adapt to the new carriage, their physical structure changes. When this happens other things often need to change and free off to allow everything to work together, to flow together. At this point, where there is a need for structural change and things become stuck and uncomfortable people often understandably revert again to their old habits for dealing with pain and end up going in the wrong direction. It is at this point that they need to stop and to allow themselves to lengthen and connect so that everything frees off and becomes comfortable as it regularly does in the lessons when this needs to be addressed.

Context and structure, separately and together, provide reasons for snagging which can always be overcome through application of the Technique to further develop constructive conscious control. This applies as much to the beginner as to the adept. We are always, always learning and developing, deepening and growing in conscious control provided we remember to stop and allow ourselves to find our way up to freedom, where we can breathe through lengthening and widening.

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.