Workshop Saturday 9th June, Working with Computers/Smartphone using Alexander Technique and Yoga

Cost is £28. There is an early bird discount of £22 if you apply before 12th May 2018

Computers and smart phone cause a lot of people problems. Aches and pains, even debilitating conditions and injuries.

But what if we could figure out what was really causing each one of us the problem? This workshop uses ideas from the Alexander Technique and Yoga to explore the remedies for computer / smart phone issues.

Human beings have always had tools. These tools that have evolved over time to be part of our culture and we use them in ways that are almost semi-conscious. How often to you think about the way you hold a knife when you cut an apple? That’s because the design has evolved and it’s now an accepted part of our culture.

It wasn’t always like this, think what it would to be one of the first to use a knife to cut your food.

It’s the same with a computer. Compared to most of our tools, it’s in the very early stages of design and development.

What if there was a different way of being with a computer or smart phone that actually felt good in your body? What if we could slow down and take the time to figure out how to use these tools to actually make your life better? Come along to this workshop and find out how to do this.

The workshop will consist of

Body mapping
Body mapping offers the opportunity to bring the more anatomical approaches into a more thoughtful reflective approach which combines movement, function, anatomy and emotion in one package. It looks at what our internal map of our body is and then asks how we feel about that.

Yoga Poses
We’ll be working with some simple poses that help you recover from working on a computer.

Personal work on your issues
General knowledge of your body and doing Yoga stretches help, but it is figuring what exactly your issues are that will really help you make a difference. In this part, we’ll be using the Alexander Technique to build a more personal approach to your work with computers and smart phones.

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class.

It is suitable for all yoga practitioners including complete beginners.

Click here to apply for this workshop

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

April 12th, 2018

Working with computers, how to find ease

I’m at an Alexander Technique retreat and I’ve been given a student who has never done yoga, never done Alexander Technique and he wants to sort out his shoulders. After a bit of going back and forth, it turns out that the source of his problems was how he worked on a computer.

I asked him to recreate the situation in his office, we set up a desk with a computer and a phone. He started doing what he normally did. He tucked his phone into his shoulder, started typing and then tried to answer a question from his colleague – all at the same time. I was struck not by his posture (which is never a static thing), but by his timing.

He was trying to do everything all at once, answer the phone, talk, type. Most of the problem wasn’t something he was doing in his body, it was something he was doing in his life. His body was just desperately trying to keep up and sending him urgent signals that he was doing too much!

Donna Farhi says “I think now I can say I hardly ever meet people who truly have spinal problems. I meet spines that have people problems.”

And that was the case here. Just asking him to figure out how to do one thing at a time produced a noticeable change. He stopped crouching over his computer, sat up, looked around and for the first time took a deep breath.

That wasn’t all I needed to do with him.
I also needed to work with how he rotated his forearm to hold a mouse. Like many people, he had locked his elbow to his side and that meant he couldn’t rotate his forearm comfortably to hold a mouse.

After a bit of work with my hands, he was getting more comfortable.

Of course, unless he also figured out how to put these ideas into practice using the idea from the retreat, then he would simply revert back to his old problem.

Once you’ve figured out what the issue is, you still need to practice to make sure that you remain problem free.

I’m going to be looking into this topic in more depth in my workshop on ease in computer use with Yoga and the Alexander Technique in a couple of months.

Using Computers & Smart Phones with ease using Yoga and the Alexander Technique. Saturday 9th June 2018, 10am to 1pm (https://www.yogaground.com/workshop/39)

Come along to this workshop and find out how to do this.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

April 12th, 2018

How asanas end up being difficult

At the end of a recent workshop, one of my students was doing Bakasana (child’s pose). It’s a pose done lying face down on the ground with your legs folded underneath you. I looked over and s
he didn’t look at all comfortable.

She said that she found it difficult and then tried a series of different self adjustments in rapid succession.
 I started to wonder about that. What was going on for her?

After asking some questions, it turned out that She expected it should be easy for her because when she went to a class, the teacher told the students to rest and relax in child’s pose. So, she had the idea that this should be easy for her and when it wasn’t she immediately started to think that there was something wrong.

What if, I asked, if she dropped the ‘should’ in her idea of the pose and just went with what it was? It started to help.

That’s the interesting thing about having a real body and doing yoga. Some poses are easy and manageable and some aren’t so much. Most people love child’s pose and find it soothing and restful. But not all.

We’re wired to frame at least some of our happiness about how we fit into a group. If you’re in a group and everyone seems to be enjoying child’s pose and you’re not, it’s all too easy to frame it as you not really belonging.

Once that thought takes root, then all sorts of difficult thoughts spin up about not being good enough, being the odd one out.

When I think about setting up a class where everyone can belong, I never frame that belonging on how well or not you are doing in the pose. I’m interested in using the pose to see what shows up. If it’s difficult, does the difficult you show up? Or can you be easy with what’s there? If it is easy, are you easy too or do you immediately switch off, go into a mind wandering state?

Then the asanas are tools we use to reveal the camouflage that hides our natural design. 

In so doing, we can find that the poses are actually simple and easy as long as we are willing to go at our own pace.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

March 29th, 2018

How far is it safe for you to stretch in Yoga?

Around 8 years ago, my phone rang and at the other end was a very upset yoga teacher friend of mine. She wanted to update her website, so she got a photographer and went through some poses. Of course, she wanted to have some impressive photos, not just run of the mill stuff. She was doing the splits when she tore her hamstring muscles at the back of her leg off the bone. Ouch!! That was an injury that took 6 months to heal up.

The source of Yoga injuries? Generally, it’s someone going too far and too fast for their body. Somehow, a whole web of expectations is created about what the pose is, peer pressure and how your body works; and then something goes ping.

This is where the Alexander Technique can be very helpful. Firstly, it has a culture of deep enquiry into how much is enough. The AT jargon for this is non end-gaining.
Secondly, it is a study of human integration. When you study integration, the key question doesn’t become “how far can I go?” or “how much pain can I endure?”, it becomes “how can I bring this movement into my integration?”.

That simple question of “how can I bring this movement into my integration?” is very different from “how far”, the question itself contains a restraint. If you can’t bring your stretch into your integration, then that’s a sign that you need to consider another way of doing it. Perhaps (a radical idea!), not doing it at all?

Integration in Alexander Technique is facilitated by primary movement (also called primary control). Primary movement is what happens when your head and spine are in a certain relationship with each other. If you’re sitting upright reading this, if your head nods forward at your spines’ top joint and that encourages your spine and head to move slightly upwards, you’ve got your primary movement/control working.

When you have access to this primary movement, you’re moving away from sympathetic dominance. Sympathetic dominance is fight / flight, an important part of our survival functioning. But it has the unfortunate side effect of drastically impairing your long term decision making ability and it also cuts out sensation in your body. When you’ve got access to primary movement, you’re moving toward parasympathetic dominance (the relaxation response) and you have much better access to sensation and therefore are much more likely to pay attention to signs that your body has reached the end of that stretch.

There’s never any absolutes, you can still go too far in Yoga using the Alexander Technique, it’s just a little less likely. It’s certainly not a quick fix either. Most people who I’ve worked with who have significant injuries through yoga have multiple causes for those injuries. They have had to work through many issues to get themselves into a place where they are heading towards an injury free practice.

We all need speed bumps on the road at times and if you do Yoga regularly, the Alexander Technique could be yours.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

March 16th, 2018

Working with wholeness, how to remember you are already whole?

I’m in an Alexander Technique lesson in 2017 and I’ve got my forearms on the table. My teacher is asking me to pay attention to the opposition between my fingers lengthening forward on the table and my legs and feet lengthening down to the ground.

All this is AT jargon for remembering to be whole in any action that we do.

We can just remember that we’re whole. That’s a good start.

When we remember that our wholeness includes a relationship between parts of us, then that idea of wholeness become richer. Oppositions are a way to remember wholeness by paying attention to two things at once, head against feet. Or left hand against right hand.

It’s a great way of bringing tone into a movement. And it’s a great way of reminding ourselves that we tend to rush. When we rush, we are usually preoccupied with a small part of the thing we are doing.

Have fun with oppositions, an elegant way to remember that you are whole!

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

March 9th, 2018

Workshop results, Yoga and Alexander Technique, February 2018

It was a freezing cold day so rather having a talking session to introduce myself and the work, we started with some physical movement to get some circulation going.

Then we did some body mapping games with head and pelvis. These were to introduce ideas about the importance of the head spine relationship. And for people to get in touch with asymmetries in their pelvis’s relationship with the ground and their spine.

We did a sequence using the effortless rest/lying down procedure to get in touch with the larger muscles of the body in the legs while having the head fully supported.

Afterwards, we all walked around. Some people noticed some differences in terms of having a more aligned pelvis and an easier relationship with their head.

I had originally planned a lot of restorative poses but the cold meant that everyone wanted to move. So we did some simple movements and a few yoga poses. Then did a long restorative svasana (everyone was wrapped in 2 blankets!)

In the last part of the class, I invite the participants to work one to one with me. Most people had brought many different things. One guy wanted to work on meditation sitting crossed legged and also with tension in his ja. Then one woman wanted to work on arms swings and child’s pose. Finally, another woman wanted to work on sitting cross legged.

Managed to remember to start from saying what I liked about it. Then went on to explore. Found that both the people who were sitting cross legged were locking in their hip joints, had no experience or skill in setting up a self-adjusting, micro movements between legs and pelvis.

I found that the common thread in all the individual work was that everyone had lots of ‘shoulds’ in their idea of the movement. And those ‘shoulds’ were creating tension for them.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

March 2nd, 2018

Why does it take so long to get results?

I’ve written about a student who wanted know about why it took so long to get results.

This is why.
Because it takes that long for numbness to wear off.
Because we don’t believe it’s possible even though we see it each time we go to class or have a lesson.
Because there are parts of us who need to hide behind the trees for a few years to make sure that it’s safe to come out.
Because it’s a skill that’s just as rich as playing music.
Because the whole thing is really fun and we just like it.
Because it’s really hard and we need that long to get over how hard it all is.
Because we see the gap between where we are right now and where we could be and we either despair and give up or we power on through. When we power on through, we tend to just repeat the same mistakes. When we give up, nothing changes.
Because it just is.

So why put yourself through all that?

I can’t say why you should. I can just say what I’ve found when I show up and do my practice without needing something from it.

I just practice.

Well, I enjoy it. Not always, there are some days when I’m sleep deprived and would rather just stay in bed. Mostly though, it’s become something that’s just me. I used to get anxious that my practice wasn’t the same as other people and therefore maybe wasn’t as good. Now I don’t care, my practice feeds something that makes me more real, more alive.

The more I practice, the better I get at it and the easier it is to get results.

And every now and then, I get instantaneous success!

It doesn’t have to take years, it’s just that sometimes it does.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

February 21st, 2018

How long does it take to fix my shoulder?

Last year, I had a student with shoulder tension come to me for a series of lessons. His osteopath had recommended yoga.

We talked a bit and then he pointed to his shoulder and asked ‘How long does it take?’ He wanted to know how long it would take to fix his shoulder.

My answer, after thinking about it for a while was: ‘3-5 years’.

His response: ‘Huh!!?’

Here’s why it can take that long.

Because the change towards resolving the shoulder tension usually isn’t that long. A few lessons should see some progress. But the problem is that tension will come back. That’s because it’s rooted in habit. Not just superficial habit, but patterns of thought attitude and behaviour which have been around a long time and are hard to change.

Because deep change is difficult. It takes time and it takes practice. Both are big challenges, particularly in the beginning.

Because the change that needs to be made is immediate and simple. Simple is not easy. There’s nowhere to hide. You get it or you don’t. And most of the time you don’t. Most of the time I don’t either. That can be very confrontational, particularly if you have a strong thing about being right or about being perfect.

In essence, you practice over and over again to get something that is an overnight success.

So a lot of the 3-5 years is spent being compassionate about not getting it.

About dealing with the frustration and anxiety that brings up. About learning to practice with a strong desire for progress and at the same time letting go of any attachment to results.

Here’s the thing, if you do that, you’ll get results. And those results will be rich, amazing and bring you back to yourself. The practice is something where you can be you, without some expectation of what you can or can’t do. Then there’s a good chance that you’ll fix that shoulder thing.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

February 9th, 2018

How our brains and eyes come together to help us move

It’s around 8am and I just standing on my yoga mat and looking at the world. I do this everything morning if I can manage it. I’m not staring or fixing my gaze on one spot, I’m steadily deliberately moving my gaze around the environment, so I don’t miss anything.

It’s easy to miss something by jumping from one object to another so, I’m keeping the movement smooth.

It’s also easy to have a rigid gaze where the environment is there but I’m missing in action. So; I keep remembering that seeing is an action that happens in my brain and if I’m able to place some awareness in my brain, then I’ll be involved in that act of seeing.

After a bit I start moving so that I’m still moving my gaze but now my whole body is involved in supporting me as a I change my orientation to the environment. On a good day, this is how I do my morning sun salutation. It’s everything being there as a whole thing. And there’s a sequence that comes from my intentions that flows through to my brain, my eyes, my head and then my whole body.

In Yoga, this is called Drishti, which translates as gaze. This way of working was first introduced to me not by a yogi, but by the inventor of the Eyebody Method, Peter Grunwald.

Quite often, the way that we move when we’re whole is deeply buried within our intuition and we have no way of languaging it. It just is. That makes sense when we consider that we learn to very early in our lives and mostly through a simple intention to explore our environment. We try lots of different things; at some point it works and we’re crawling, rolling and finally walking and running.

Here’s a suggestion. Simply intend to include your brain and eyes in the way that your head moves and your body follows. Don’t change anything. Be kind, be generous to yourself, you’re just exploring something new. If you find yourself being too literal about what leads and what follows, think of it as brain and eyes being included your head mediating or influencing your movement.

The point is not to spin up into a critical, judgemental, perfect thing where you’ll never succeed; but to acknowledge that you already know how to see and how to move. Checking things out like this allows you to figure out what you’d like to change.

It’s easy to run into problems by trying to do something right, to end up imposing a fixed idea of movement that doesn’t go with that deeply intuitive way of moving.

The only true freedom we have is where to place our focus and our gaze is the physical embodiment of that focus. Making the decision to consciously transition your gaze without jumping while you’re moving is an act of courage . It’s an act against the habits of a lifetime of a restless gaze that jumps from this thing to that thing without ever discovering what lies within.

I’ll be exploring this and other things when I do my workshop on Yoga and the Alexander Technique on Saturday 24th February 2018. There’s still some spaces left.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

February 1st, 2018

What are you doing about your back pain?

One of my students came to me this week and complained about lower back pain. I did some work with her, but nothing really changed.

Then I asked her about her lower back, what did she think that it did? She gave a long and detailed list. I was impressed with her clarity; most students have to stop and think about that. But I wanted more clarity, so I asked her what was her back’s most important job?

Holding her up was the answer. Her back was not doing a good job according to her.

I asked her: ‘what if your back didn’t need to hold you up. What if the natural design of your back meant that you were always fully supported’.

It didn’t make much difference.

Then I repeated it, this time using my hands for reinforcement. When someone has a core support strategy that’s faulty, it can feel risky to even think of changing. Asking them to change cognitively doesn’t cut it, their mind spins into over-drive, their body resists.

They need the experience of having a real choice. That’s the beauty of Alexander Technique hands on work, it can give you the experience of having another choice. It’s incredibly rewarding for me as a teacher to have this skill to offer. She noticed a definite shift in her lower back. Then the rest is PPP (practice, practice, practice). Practice is still a deal, but it’s easier when you know that you’ve been able to do it at least once.

So, if you have a realisation that your body is working way too hard and it doesn’t need to because you have a faulty idea about how your body works, is it all over unless you can get to a teacher who can guide you with your hands?

No, there’s another option. That is about creating an environment where your body has no option but to let go. And that is restorative yoga, the art of using props to restore ease in the way you deal with the world.

I’m covering all the options (body mapping, hands on guidance and using props) in creating ease in Yoga using the Alexander Technique workshop on February 24th 2018. There’s still space if you want to sign up.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to my free 5-part course on pain free shoulders.

January 26th, 2018