Monday, May 6, 2019

Soften your eyes

Try this activity and observe for yourself how important our eyes are in releasing unnecessary tension throughout the body and mind.
Ask for the muscles surrounding the eyes to soften.
Allow any release of tension to spread .... up to your forehead and back to the neck.
Scan the web of muscle across the whole head and neck .... and descending down the back.
What do you notice?
Now that you know the process, try the exercise with closed eyes.

If the neck muscles let go of any tension, maybe you grew a little taller .... just from the tiny activity of softening the eyes.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Managing morning stiffness

Are you like me and find you're often stiff in the mornings? I often find my left hip is a bit sore. Osteoarthritis is probably the cause for me, but it can also be worn joints or muscle tightness. As we age, the cartilage protecting the joint dries and stiffens, and also the joint is less well lubricated with synovial fluid. Importantly, for managing stiffness and pain, "weak muscles and stiff tendons tend to tighten during sleep" (Harvard Health online).

I don't have a consistent "fix", but use Alexander Technique to help. I watch my reactions, ask in different ways for my whole body to lengthen, and importantly try to avoid tightening around the pain. I also apply the Technique on a morning walk, and when doing the hamstring and quad stretches that also help. Finally, constructive rest reduces stiffness and makes us aware of how we tighten up. Try it in the mornings, and at night before bed. Let me know if you need help with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marilyn Monroe studied Alexander Technique

What's the connection between Marilyn Monroe and Alexander Technique? One of the last books she was reading before her death in 1962 is one by F.M. Alexander himself called Man's Supreme Inheritance. Her copy of this book featured in the Marilyn exhibition held at Bendigo Art Gallery in 2016. She was closely reading the book not long before her death as indicated by the many annotations up to page 157, where she had placed a bookmark.
You may have an image of Marilyn Monroe as preoccupied with her body image, but she have a great mind and was a true intellectual. Her library had over 400 books, with favourite authors including Joyce, Freud, Hemingway.
I would love to read those annotations! Looking at my own copy of Man's Supreme Inheritance, Marilyn would have been reading sections of the book such as:
. Conscious control
. Applied conscious control
. Habits of thought and of body
In her last interview, Marilyn says "An actor is not a machine, no matter how much they want to say you are. Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you're a human being, you feel, you suffer. You're gay, you're sick, you're nervous or whatever. Like any creative human being, I would like a bit more control so that it would be a little easier for me when the director says, "One tear, right now," that one tear would pop out. But once there came two tears because I thought, "How dare he?" Goethe said, "Talent is developed in privacy," you know? And it's really true. There is a need for aloneness, which I don't think most people realise for an actor." Richard Meryman, Life, 3 August 1962. The extract is from an edited version of the interview
By control, I think she is getting at something like the psychophysical unity stressed by Alexander - essential for great acting. Alexander himself had been a Shakespearean reciter.
Marilyn also owned another book by Alexander, the much more readable Use of the Self. Her copy sold at auction in 1999

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Allow your back to do less

First published as Look after your back in an email newsletter 

Too many of us are subtly stressing our backs, whether in standing, walking or sitting.

Even if we have a standing desk, we all do lots of sitting at work and home, in the car, and on public transport. It can add up to hours each day.

Thankfully, just a few actions can make a big difference.

Why our backs do more 

Our human body is perfectly designed for an upright life. The lower vertebrae are thickest, and we have a low centre of gravity. Unlike chimps, we have four curves to the spine; two are added as the very young child learns to stand and walk (Dr Stephen Curnow, ABC RN The Body Sphere, 30 July 2016).

But now, our lifestyle choices mean that we place more stress on our spine than in ancient times.

Furthermore, humans now live much longer and so our backs are asked to carry the strain of poor use over many more years. Our parts wear out!

Did you know that life expectancy for women increased from 51 in 1881 to 84 in 2009. For men, the increase was from 47 to 79 (ABS 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, Mar 2011).

Changing lifestyle habits 

We have more control over the habits associated with our lifestyle than over our life span. Habits of misuse create postural problems.

With care and re-education, the tear and wear can be avoided or at least greatly reduced.

Here are some tips to get you thinking.

Find the length of your back 

Wiggle as you sit on a chair - that's more or less where your lower back starts. The tail bone curls slightly under your bottom.

Nod your head very gently as though you are agreeing with me. Notice the head is pivoting just below your ear lobes.

Now you have found the length of the spine.

Secure your base of support 

First time. Pivot forward in a chair as far as you can comfortably go, thinking about length in the front and back of the body (check the photo). Stop if you feel any pain.

Notice how your pelvis is now tilted forward (as in the photo).

Keeping this tilt, use your arms to help lift your bottom right into the back of the chair.

Now unwind so that you are fully upright.

Does your pelvis still have some of the forward tilt? Are you slumping as much as before? Are you pressing as heavily into the back of the chair?

Thanks to fellow teacher Paul Cook for this activity.

Next time, as you do this exercise, observe if there is any tightening at the other end of the spine, around your shoulders and neck. If so, ask for release in this area as you move.

Other blog posts to help 

These blog posts are also aimed at helping our backs.
* Resting the back is great for desk-bound people
* Hold your head high
* Observation is the starting point to improving our well-being. Observing ourselves in the chair - 1
* Our necks are the fulcrum for the whole body. Look up and down with ease - at the computer and elsewhere - 1

Want to take this further? 

I hope that the information and tips are useful to you. If you are struggling at all, or feel any tension, why don't you explore the Alexander Technique further?

People benefit greatly from lessons with a teacher. A package of six lessons is recommended, but I suggest that you start with trying one lesson. Why don't you ring me on 0488 956 506 or email jimxwaite @ to book a lesson today?

For the workplace, I now have a great presentation. I use it to explain Alexander Technique, the evidence for its effectiveness, and what I offer in the workplace - and how it can help with work health and safety. Who should I talk to in your organisation? Please let me know.