Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gift certificates are great - graduations and Christmas

Here is just the thing for a memorable Christmas or graduation present. Better than a massage, and instructive too.

Are you close to someone who is graduating soon? After all that hard work, they deserve a treat and maybe some posture recovery from slouching over books and the laptop.

Here's a snapshot from Certigift, where you can buy my gift certificates

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dancing with the stars

Dancing can be fun, even when you haven't done it for 3 years.

Recently, Sandra and I rejoined the Melbourne Colonial Dancers in Collingwood. Smiling faces greeted us.

I was intent on applying the idea from Alexander Technique to “think up” and to look out at eye level. As a result, I was less focused on my feet.

Skilled Irish or flamenco dancers move their feet rapidly with the head almost motionless because they are “up” in the clouds. Thinking that way really does help, even for novices.

Dancing in 2011. I'm in light blue top.
Listening to the music made it easier to anticipate likely steps, without jumping in too quickly. Using peripheral vision and being very aware of the other dancers is important.

After several dances, my left leg was dragging slightly. I had broken that leg as a teenager, and it was in plaster for months. I was consciously asking for length up the left leg and body. But old habits tend to become stronger as we tire.

After making changes to my daily exercise routine, the leg problem has virtually disappeared. A few weeks ago, we danced all night at the Colonials 40th anniversary ball.

You are welcome to join us in Collingwood every Wednesday. Check out the Melbourne Colonial Dancers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How far can you safely reach?

I bought a fruit juice today, freshly squeezed in a big bench top machine.

The attendant had to reach a long way to put the fruit in.
Her arm was at full stretch.

I watched her a few times, and then offered a suggestion.

“Pull the machine closer and rotate it a little - so the ‘fruit’ hole is no further away than the cup that collects the juice."

The aim - much shorter arm movements.

She asked me “are you a chiropractor?” We both laughed as I explained a little about Alexander Technique.

Most people simply don't notice how their work setup affects their movements or posture, even if they suffer pain.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Three tips for using your mobile phone well

He says "yes" to all three questions
Using a mobile phone causes problems with posture unless you are very mindful. This also applies to using a laptop.

Observe yourself 
  1. How much do you hunch over?
  2. Do you crane forward from the base of the neck?  
  3. Do you then pull your head back a little or a lot?

Three tips on what you can do

  1. Think about being long up the front of your body. Stop if you start to become rigid in the front or back.
  2. Practice nodding with very little movements - as though you are acknowledging what a friend is saying. Notice that your head pivots roughly at your ear lobes. 
  3. Imagine shining a torch from your forehead. Initially straight ahead. Now angle the beam down towards your phone (thanks to Rossi for this idea).
Much better!
Next step?
Simple ideas, yes. Putting them together can be tricky.

If you use the phone or laptop a lot, why not get it right now?

Set yourself on the right path and:
  • initiate a class with me where you work or live, 
  • book private lessons with me 
  • organise a skype session

In another post, I’ll look at arm and back issues with the mobile phone

Other relevant posts
Slumping and your ribs at work
Is your head well balanced?
Look up and down with ease

Some recent research
Johnson et al. (2011). Technique, muscle activity and kinematic differences in young adults texting on mobile phones. Ergonomics,  Vol.  54 Issue 5, pp. 477-487.

Strakera et al. (2008) A comparison of posture and muscle activity during tablet computer, desktop computer and paper use by young children. Ergonomics,  Vol.  51 Issue  4, pp. 540-555.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Everyone is welcome
Introductory workshop 

Applying Alexander Technique
Learn how to use your body naturally, using the right amount of effort

“Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. 
You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you” (John Cleese)

6 - 7 pm Wednesday 29th October
Alphington Community Centre, 2 Kelvin Rd
(near Alphington train station and shops).
Entry fee - a small donation on the night to Journeys for Climate Justice.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Stress solutions in October with Alexander Technique

When we are stressed, our health can suffer in many different ways. Stress is very common, and should be addressed sooner rather than later as it has cumulative health effects over time.

For the many people who have to deal with stress in their work and personal lives, Alexander Technique can provide effective relief and it teaches great self-management tools.

If you book soon, I am offering:
  • big discounts to organisations that invite me to their workplace
  • discounted one-on-one sessions in my practice in Fairfield/Alphington
  • free introductory workshops for community groups.

Click here to check out my track record with running group activities.

Why this offer now?

  •  International Alexander Technique Awareness Week runs from October 6 - 12. This year’s theme is Manage Stress Effectively with the Alexander Technique. 
  • Safe Work Australia Month is October, on the theme Work safe. Home safe.

Contact me before October 12, to take up the offer between now and December 15. Email me please to book or for more information.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Group activities with Alexander Technique are great!

Take a look at my group activities with Alexander Technique over the last three years, I'm tickled at their range. It has been loads of fun as well as educational for me as well as for participants. Most activities I have run myself, and some with fellow teacher Anne Mallen.

There have been workshops for 'corporate' clients, including:
  • Department of Sustainability and Primary Industries
  • Hume Council
  • Jika Jika Community Centre (for staff)
  • Port Phillip Council 
  • RM Consulting Group 
  • State Services Authority 
  • Thornbury High School (for staff)
  • Victorian Environment Assessment Council
Following several of these workshops, Anne and I helped individuals one-on-one at their desks. Feedback has been extremely positive, and I am happy to share reports to clients if your organisation is interested in engaging me.

Conducting impromptu activities is great fun.

  • I have done this during a tea break at the Land for Wildlife Conference
  • Participants during a session at the Thriving in Uncertainty Conference just loved my quiet work during a long session on a totally unrelated topic; I went around the circle, placing hands gently on their shoulders and back encouraging release of tension. One person commented that it made him much more aware of himself and others, consequently he spoke less than usual!

Regular classes have been held at Hub Melbourne, and Jika Jika Community Centre (with Anne)

I have also run introductory activities for:
  • Australian Vietnamese Women's Association
  • Clifton Hill Medical Group
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greensborough Chiropractic
  • Injured Workers Group
  • Transition Darebin "Sustaining Ourselves" workshop
  • The Centre (North Melbourne)
  • U3A (Melbourne CBD)
  • Victorian Facilitator's Network
While travelling in 2014, I also worked with
  • Neurological Rehabilitation Centre in Edgware Community hospital
  • Over 55s group in Edgware, Middlesex, England
  • Act 4 theatre group in Colombo, Sri Lanka
 On returning to Australia, I helped senior teacher Penny McDonald at her regular classes with actors at the Howard Fine Acting Studio and 16th Street Actors Studio.

 Lectures about Alexander Technique have been given to staff at the State Services Authority, and the Medical Faculty in Colombo University, Sri Lanka.

Anne and I also worked with a group on their walking styles in Fitzroy Gardens, as part of their activities for the Global Corporate Challenge "the world's largest and most exciting workplace health and wellness program". 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My first aid course and posture

I successfully renewed my first aid certificate recently. It was a great opportunity to reflect on our posture when we sit, stand and lie down.

This certificate enables my clients to claim Alexander Technique lessons on health insurance, just like physiotherapy or remedial massage. It is hard to imagine when first aid training might be needed in my clinic. No regrets though, as it will help if I'm on the scene of an accident. And there is always a slight possibility of someone having a fall or heart attack in benign circumstances.

The recent training course raised questions of posture, including how the head sits on top of the spine.

The instructor was in his 40s, he moved well. He rarely stood still, and rarely with his two feet parallel. Think Tai chi, boxing or a martial art - one foot was usually behind the other, and pointing to the side. Try it!

Others in the room did not move so well, and are likely to have more postural problems in later life. For long periods, many held a slump, crossed legs, or were twisted. Their spine would be curved in the wrong places, the deep postural muscles running along the back of the spine would not be used effectively, and other muscles would be compensating. OK for a short time, but I suspect it is habitual with these people. A few didn't even stand up during the short breaks. Scientific research now suggests two minutes walking for every 20 minutes of sitting.

I found some interesting points in the written material. How to turn an unconscious, injured person onto their side so that their air passages don’t block is a core part of the training:  “Make sure you are rolling the body not twisting the spine”. The head needs to stay in alignment with the spine to minimise risks in case the neck has broken.

In our everyday life, this alignment of head and spine is also vital for long-term health, which is why it is central to the teaching of Alexander Technique.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What posture is best at the keyboard?

In the last post, I wrote about the natural position for our hands when typing or playing piano.

Our posture can make it easier or harder when using a keyboard. Alan Kogosowski  (Genius of the Piano) provides a great description that resonates with me.

He describes using the seat as a fulcrum on which to pivot the body, so that our energy ascends even as our weight is taken by the chair. Our upper back, between the shoulder blades, can then provide support to the arms. Our arms are no longer carrying themselves alone, but the whole of us is poised for action

I suggest you play with this initially by finding your sit bones and pivoting gently back and forward (see my blog Towards a better way to sit). Notice what difference it makes to your upper back, and then to your arms.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Natural hand position at the keyboard

Have you thought about the position of your hands on the keyboard? Yes, there is a natural position that applies to both computer and piano? You can find it easily by dropping your arms down by your sides, so that they hang limply. In this way, the fingers will slightly curl in.

I had not been aware of this until reading a book on how Chopin wrote his Etudes to emphasise the natural hand position, and which could damage the hands if not played in the right way (Alan Kogosowski Genius of the Piano 2005). The natural position is one in which the hand forms a loose fist, with the fingers hanging easily. A google search shows that ergonomists also recommend this for computer use.

The correct hand position allows the fingers to more easily accomplish their task. While they may reach for other keys, the fingers quickly return to this natural position. For touch typists this may be easier than for others – but it is something to aim for. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Brushing your teeth

How do you brush your teeth? Probably you use more tension than necessary. Observe yourself, accept any tension for a moment - and then ask for release. How easily can you let go?

It's a great way to get a sense of what Alexander Technique offers. Being mindful twice a day, when in the bathroom, is a really good preparation for our lifelong journey of staying freely upright.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Aha, so that's how you apply Alexander Technique – a testimonial

This testimonial is from Mary, pathology worker. It illustrates the self-help that Alexander Technique offers with support from a teacher. She explains her approach to reinforcing new habits.

"I have been having ongoing spasms and pain in my neck, shoulders and upper back for the last year with regular visits to physio and follow up stretching and exercises only giving temporary relief. In frustration I came to the realisation that I needed a different approach. I had been introduced to Alexander Technique many years ago in a pain management program after a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (see definition below). I remembered that it was helpful and very gentle.