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

Saturday, 08 November 2014

Living on the Edge

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One of the facts of movement is that we move best when we are unstable but balanced. This is often a discomforting fact, something that we would prefer to avoid by seeking stability, predictability, limiting our choices to the already known. Life though has the habit of intervening when we go down this road; at some point we will be caught short. In simple movement terms, if we are trying to move and be stable, then we establish limits to what we can do and make ourselves prone to hurt and injury.

To move into balance, it is necessary to let go of stability, to unknow what we know, to pass through a moment of instability, without balance in order to find ourselves balancing on the edge, ready to step forward into the unknown in order to know it. Alexander Technique is as a process, as Joseph Rowntree, of ‘reasoning into the unknown.’ It helps us find the edge and step forward into a life of uncertainty, discovery and creation. It is there at the beginning of our first lesson, when we stand in front of a chair for the first time thinking we know how to stand.

The invite to place your feet under your hips and turn them out by 45 degrees, releases most people into a free balance, as they stop pulling forward by shortening by placing their weight through the balls of their feet. At the same time, their breathing releases, the gold standard, in terms of feedback of how we are doing. This free balance requires nothing else from us but the placing of the feet and freeing ourselves to look ahead. It teaches us how to stand well, without our usual effort and sets us up for learning the guiding orders in relation to movement and action.

There at the beginning of lessons, we are starting to unknow our most basic patterns of movement, in terms of standing, walking, sitting and taking hold of the world. Beginning there is a prelude to becoming more conscious of our habits, our ways of approaching things and other people. As our consciousness grows, as we grow our awareness, we learn the difference between attending directly to ourselves and being aware our selves with our attention free to gaze, glance and focus in our surrounding worlds. Within our growing awareness, subsidiary to our attention we learn the meaning of the guiding orders, in terms of distinctions between the small movements of the micro actions, that can interfere or co-ordinate the use of our self.

It is perhaps worth noting here that Alexander’s definition of self is very wide and loose and seeks to includes everything of our phenomenological experience. In this I think it can be related to both William James ‘self of selves’ and Jung’s idea of a Self, an archetype of wholeness that emerges in the process of time, in the process which is ourselves. And Alexander’s idea of the primary control, that use of the head and the neck in relation to the torso, is a control in process, that for him was a universal constant in our process of living, that is always taking us to our edges. Tantalizing us forward into unknowing our past and our present by moving forward into a future of increasing wholeness. We are never standing still in this, we are always moving forward with new levels of integration emerging if we work the process, of keeping our necks free, our heads going forward and up as we allow ourselves to lengthen and to widen, integrating ourselves in a daily practice of increasing psycho-physical integration. Through conscious control, we become whole again.

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.