PHYSICALITY – The Alexander Technique (The Rock Chick)

Next up it’s the Rock Chick’s turn to contribute to Body Confidence Week  (Which may have to become Body Confidence Ten Days, because of all the great and varied posts sent in by the EDs this week!!  I’m definitely looking forward to some more themed weeks in the coming months!)

Thanks everyone 🙂

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

 

I’ve really enjoyed #Bodyconfidenceweek. There have been plenty of inspirational stories from my fellow bloggers, each story illustrating a different challenge and/or experience. I hadn’t realised just how difficult (almost!) everyone finds accepting his or her body, just as it is. Either that or Miss Twenty Nine has assembled a particularly ‘challenged’ group of bloggers! Reading the posts by The Mermaid and Southern Belle, in particular, I wondered what I could add to the theme…

I was brought up in a healthy eating, supportive, active household, and I’ve never had issues with food.

Of course, I still have issues with my body! Like any woman (person?) I could make you a list of things I don’t like: my nose, my thighs are to big, I have beard/moustache paranoia (glad it’s not just me, Flash!), I have hairy nipples (!), I look so young I still get ID’ed (this’ll be a good thing one day)… etc.

And a much shorter one of things I do like: umm…. Struggling.

However, I’ve not been through any body-image crises (touchwood). I rarely wear make-up, and I tend to wear what I feel comfortable in. I don’t read celeb magazines, so I avoid the worst of media pressure. Pretty boring, really.

One pattern I’ve noticed in common in lots of the posts, however, is that ‘body confidence’ grows with time.

And I realised that this was true for me too, but in my case it’s not something I did all on my own. I had a little help, in the last year or two, from something called the Alexander Technique.

Until recently the most frustrating thing about my body was the amount of tension in it.

Backache, stiff neck, you name it – I had it.

I am an only child, and for a long time I found it easier to interact with adults than kids my own age.  And as a result, I was very tense around other people my own age.  Maybe the two are not linked, but I thought they were.  It’s like I thought that, to make people like me, I had to sort of, hold myself in. So that all the things about my personality that I thought people wouldn’t like were buried in a deep locker.

I didn’t know this until recently, of course.

I thought my stiff back and neck was because I was stressed, I had bad posture, or because I was doing too much sport. I tried pilates, massage, osteotheraphy, physiotherapy… I tried to ‘sit up straight’. Nothing helped.

I thought my tension was something unavoidable, that nothing could be done.

This might sounds ridiculous. Linking a stiff neck with a deep-seated fear of … other children!

But, I promise you; I know it to be true. And I know it now thanks to the Alexander Technique.

I started AT about 18 months ago. I was recommended it by a friend who had a similar problem with neck pain, and had had a good experience with AT. At the time I had another specific problem: I was struggling to breathe and getting chest pains when doing very high-intensity sport. I was diagnosed with asthma, but no amount or type of steroid inhaler would solve the problem. I had a range of complicated tests, but everything (lungs, heart, body) was clear.

I do not have asthma, or any of the other horrible things google might convince you of…! Which was great news, but I was still left with the problem that I couldn’t do the things I loved – play hockey, for example – without being left a heaving wreck after a quick sprint…

My friend told me that AT might help. I was sceptical, but I was also desperate! It couldn’t hurt to try.

When I started AT I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Probably if you’re reading this and you’ve heard of it, you might think that it is something like yoga. I thought it was like pilates. Or, if you’ve never heard of it… you might think it is some kind of crazy alternative therapy, or counselling.

It is none of things. But it IS very difficult to describe! Let me try. A popular definition in the version of AT I do* is

 

The Alexander Technique is

the

study

of

thinking

in relation to

movement

 

So: it is something you study. It is not an exercise class.

It is the study of thinking. This refers to ‘thinking’ on the broadest scale. Not just, what you might call, ‘active’ thinking. Like I am doing now as I try to write this post. But also more ‘passive’ thinking. The signals that the brain sends when you decide to stand up from a chair, or put your right arm on your head, or whatever. I.e. both conscious AND sub-conscious thoughts. And particularly the latter.

And it is the study of thinking in relation to movement. And again, this is ‘movement’ in the broadest sense. It is very rare (impossible?) to be truly static. Remember the game sleeping lions?! Sitting ‘still’ in a chair still allows for movement. So it is about finding the best way to ‘move’, by thinking about it. And by the best way, I mean the most efficient way, using the minimum amount of effort.

And for me, that is the main thing about the Alexander Technique. Using the minimum amount of effort. It is, essentially, the study of laziness!!

It is what makes it so eminently sensible, but also what makes it very counterintuitive in the modern world, in which we must always strive to do more, be better, achieve more… the very idea of NOT doing something in order to improve – is surprisingly difficult to accept.

I took a friend with me to an AT lesson last week, and she was amazed at the freedom with which she could move, once the teacher encouraged her to STOP DOING all the unnecessary things she was doing just to sit still. It is not necessary to contract all the muscles in your neck to hold your head up. It really is not! And it is not necessary to use your head to stand up from a chair, for example. Just unfold your legs. Try it. Stand up without using your head/neck. You might have to think about it…

Anyway. It is not an exaggeration to say that AT has changed my life. It has allowed me to break bad habits, and I no longer suffer from neck pain. I can play sport again. I am constantly learning and improving. And it has had another consequence, and that is much improved body confidence.

I am much more confortable in my own skin. I have broken the cycle of bottling things up through tensing my muscles.

I accept that people will like me, or not.

Lifting my shoulders and looking down at the street won’t change that.

The impact of the Alexander Technique is a very personal thing. I’ve tried to describe a little of what it has been like for me. I’d recommend you try it too 🙂

The Rock Chick

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  1. A Round-Up of Body Confidence Week | The 30 Dates Blog

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