Archive for the ‘Yoga classes / workshops’ Category

Workshop results, Computers, Yoga and the Alexander Technique, June 2018

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

We started out with some Alexander directions as a way of warming up connection between mind and body. Alexander directions are invitations to your body to release, usually they are words but sometimes they can be images. We did negative directions, paradoxical directions and then freedom directions. Negative directions are in the form of ‘I’m not compressing my neck’. Paradoxical directions are saying something that is contradicted by what you’re doing. If you say ‘I’m not walking’ while walking, it can free up the habitual part of you that gets involved in walking.

We did some head / spine body mapping by finding the contrast between head pulling down on spine and head leaving spine and head resting on spine. Then we did some mapping of how our pelvis was aligned within our body by doing dog tail (tail tucked under), duck tail (tail pulled back) and dinosaur tail (pelvis in neutral). These terms come from Robyn Avalon’s Living in a Body series of workshops.

Normally, I’ll leave at that for my initial set of ideas for body mapping. However, all of the class were my regulars so we could go deeper. In this case we went into the interior of our head and I showed how brain and eyes worked together with the scarves as the optic nerves. Was very interesting in how that worked out.

I talked about learning the skill of differentiation. How to become more sensitive to the things that cause us problems closer to the moment they kick. I also talked about the skill of keeping directions light, of putting in the order and then waiting for the result to come back.

The yoga part of the class was a reasonably leisurely sun salutation. We lots of Eyebody line movement practice with back bend and forward bend to integrate brain, eyes, vision and the environment. All the people in the class noticed that sometimes they were really in their bodies, sometimes in their eyes or brain but rarely in everything all at once. That is a skill that takes some practice.

Ended the yoga part with a great restorative pose for each. It was really peaceful and quiet.

Then on to the computing part of the class. This took a bit of setting up but after a while we had a set of functioning computers.

I asked the participants write an email to someone easy, then someone difficult. I timed them while they were doing it. It was interesting that everyone completely underestimated how long it took to type the email to someone difficult. Most people assumed that it would take a similar amount of time. They were very surprised when they found it took twice as long.

We did some more body mapping with forearm rotation and flexion at the elbow. It turns out that how your elbow moves as your hand comes to type on the computer is really important.

Then I did a bit of individual work with each person. One person wanted to work on checking data. It involved lots of head rotation between one screen and another. We worked on slowing down the rotation so she could take in the information she needed between one screen and the next.

Another person wanted to work on being really hunched over the computer, knowing that it was bad for her but somehow not doing anything about it. I worked with getting her more comfortable where she was at. Then I got her to come slowly out of it.

The participants said they enjoyed the workshop and said that they found the work with their upper body on the computer particularly helpful.

How do you get out of pain caused by computers?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Computers are often a cause of pain and we can get confused about the real source of that pain. This is about what happened to me on retreat recently where I looking into the cause of my own pain. More on the computers later.

I was on an Eyebody retreat recently and woke up with some pain in my lower back. This is unusual for me and although I was tempted to ignore it, I had a feeling that it was trying to tell me something. Alexander Teacher Jeremy Chance often says that pain is what is right about you, not what is wrong.

I decided to investigate.

I asked myself the questions that I normally ask all my students. Better during the day or during the night? Definitely better during the day. Just asking questions started to get me out of injury panic mode. Injury panic mode is where I start to believe that I have something permanently wrong with me and my future fills with fearful thoughts of pain.

After a bit, I realised it was my bed. I was away from home in an unfamiliar bed. F*ing bedding fell off every night. I was tensing to keep it on.

Better but not quite there.

I started reflecting on something the workshop leader, Peter Grunwald had said: “This is a seeing workshop, not a feeling workshop”. I realised that I had been taking this literally and had been suppressing, ignoring and denying my feelings.

And in so doing, I had cut off one of my most vital resources. My ability to sense the small micro self correcting movements which informs and supports most of my alignment work. My body was simply reminding me that I had forgotten. I was putting a twist into my lower back that isn’t part of the design of our lower spine.

Once I had brought these small movements back, in a couple of hours the pain was gone and in fact my lower back felt better than it had for a while.

When I reflected more on this, I realised that he didn’t ask anyone to suppress their feelings. Quite the opposite, he asked that they let their feelings come up without attaching any particular meaning to them. All too often, at the first sign of any unfamiliar sensation, students grab at that feeling and start trying to do something in their bodies to control it.

I figured out that I need to include the qualities of permission and allowing in my learning. Rather than getting caught up in over literal interpretations of other people’s ideas, maps and methods.

There is a common fear among yoga students going to a workshop that they will somehow be persuaded to do something that injures them. If injuries happen, sometimes the root cause of them is a student disconnecting from their own wisdom and inner resources.

This is why I take some care to set up a teaching environment that is about creating exploration from a place of curiosity.

It’s about developing and prioritising the student’s felt sense of what is going on. I’ve found from experience every student needs a way of creating this exploration for themselves. Many need a lot of structure. Some need more permission and allowing. It all depends on what I’m attempting to teach, where I’m at and where my students are at.

In 2015 I went to assist on a teacher training retreat lead by Donna Farhi. I realised that I had some interesting stuff to say about things that most yoga people over look. The connection between their heads and their spines. How to integrate a piece of learning. How to talk about co-ordination.

I also realised that I needed to do more work on the connection between feet, ankles and ground. My Alexander Technique training had given me a bias of working on my upper body. I set myself the task of having something useful and interesting to say about every major joint in the body.

That’s a long journey but I’m getting there.

In the process, all sorts of interesting connections are emerging from my head to the rest of my body.

I’ve long known that it’s often not the stuff that we do on the mat that solves all our physical aches and pains. It’s developing an awareness that you can carry into your everyday life. That’s why I’ve always included a section in my workshops that all my students to work on situations that cause them tension.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be taking that one step further and holding a workshop on a major cause of tension in most people’s lives: how we all work on computers, smart phones and other devices.

I’ve already given this workshop to a group of Alexander teachers.

You can download all sorts of advice about working with computers and smart phones. Taking breaks. Adjusting the ergonomics of your chair or work station. Doing some stretches that get your body moving. But these are all short term and often superficial fixes.

The course I lead focusses on what’s really important when you work on a computer. Your relationship to your body and to your environment.

It doesn’t fix your shoulders, it works on teaching principles that will allow you to fix those shoulders long term. It gives you skills to include your body in whatever you do in life.

I have a rare skill set for this. I’ve used computers professionally for over 25 years, even built my own PCs and I’m an Alexander / Yoga teacher. I won’t be offering this course again at this price and for this small size group. Take advantage while you can.

Computers/Smartphone, Alexander Technique and Yoga, London, Saturday 9th June 2018, 10am to 1pm. Cost is £28.

Click here for more information.

Why do we hunch over smart phones?

Friday, May 18th, 2018

I was walking in my local park recently when my eye was caught by a woman walking towards me. She was walking well, an easy stride and a natural free movement.

Then she took out her phone to check a message. Instant transformation for the worse. She hunched over, her body locked up and her natural stride disappeared to be replaced by something much more awkward.

That little mini drama is played out with almost everyone I know (often including me!).

It’s the moment of disappearing into a whole set of beliefs, movements and attitudes that end up creating that hunched up, iposture look.

What causes this?
I think there are 3 main causes.

We don’t really know what smart phones are. We’re bombarded by marketing that presents them as cool, friendly and trustworthy devices. Yet, what are they really to you?

We don’t know what we truly believe about who we are and how we interact with the world. Smart phones are often used as an extension to how we interact with the world. If we have trouble with that, then smart phones will probably be an aspect of that.

We don’t know how our bodies work when they are functioning naturally. We hold on to faulty internal maps of where and what everything in our body does.

A simple example: if you think that your jaw is part of your head (as opposed to being a limb of your skull) then you’ll probably push your chin out as you look at your smart phone screen. That movement of pushing your chin out is the start of the iposture problem.

Want to find out more? Come along to my workshop on Computers, Smartphone, Yoga and the Alexander Technique on Saturday 9th June 10am to 1pm in London, UK.

Are your hands causing you tight shoulders and neck?

Friday, April 27th, 2018

I was at Robyn Avalon’s Alexander Teacher training workshop a few weeks ago.

There’s one particular exercise that she does with hands. You touch something with tense hands. Then you touch again, this time consciously dropping as much tension from your hands as you can manage.

It’s striking how little we can feel when our hands are tight. Trying to feel with your hands becomes an effort.

Many of us try and feel something in your hands by tightening something in your shoulders and neck. When that doesn’t work, we persuade ourselves that we feel something, even though the feeling is not really there. Or we give up and conclude that our hands are not accessible.

What would it be like to turn off the tension so that you can feel what’s under your hands? When you turn off the tension, even if that turning off is imperfect, you start to notice what’s really under your hands.

Textures and surfaces start talking through you. Another realm of being drops into place and a wordless experience is there for the having.

For our wordy, visually stimulated, devices obsessed culture, this can be an antidote.

Another world is there.

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.

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

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

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

Working with computers, how to find ease

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

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.

Workshop results, Yoga and Alexander Technique, February 2018

Friday, March 2nd, 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.

Workshop report: The art of yoga practice, November 2017

Friday, December 1st, 2017

We covered a lot of ground in the workshop. We did some body-mapping games to get head / spine connection and then to play around with different ways of pelvises relate to legs.

Then we started a very leisurely sun salutation, using some of the movements to do further mapping of how legs and arms worked. I modified the forward bend to include a mini squat (called monkey in the Alexander technique) as a way of practicing an important life movement. It’s a movement that really helps our spine when we need to change levels but most people over use their spines and under use their legs.

We played around with putting weight through our hands. One of the participants had usually experienced pain in her wrist when she did downward dog. I used this an opportunity to see how wrist bones worked, how force and energy are transmitted through our hands, into our wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulder girdles, ribs and then spine.

We did some work with upward dog / cobra. In particular, the under-valued role of pelvis and legs in this pose in support our heads to lead the movement. We looked at the real shape of a spine in back bends as opposed to a fantasy spine shape (it’s not an even curve, your lower spine and neck curve more than your upper spine)

After a long restorative Savasana, we did some individual work where the participants brought their own issues to the class and asked how to do some work with them. A sample of this included a person who wanted to work on spinal rotation within lunges as a yoga pose. Another wanted to work on rising to her feet after she had been sitting on the floor.

Yoga poses, working our bodies natural design

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

I’m standing on the beautiful beach in New Zealand. It’s 2010, and I’ve finished Donna Farhi’s yoga teacher training course.

I’ve signed up for four day walk in New Zealand’s South Island. With me on the walk is a group of American tourists. One of them is trying to do Warrior II. He’s trying hard to get the perfect pose. I can see him visibly making an effort and probably straining himself in the process. Thing is it looks really uncomfortable for his body.

He’s put his left foot at 90° to the other foot and he’s trying to put his pelvis so that he’s in one line with his body. And the problem is that our bodies are just not designed to do that. The average external rotation of the hip joint is 45°, he was trying for a full 90°, twice as much as the average range. Someone told him to do this and he was trying his best to do it.

No criticism or judgment about this, I often find myself doing things that other people have told me to do without really thinking them through. And the result is often discomfort or sometimes even strain. I’m getting a little better at stopping that kind of getting-myself-into-a-panice-trying-to-fit-into-the-class-movement thing because, well, it just hurts too much.

Some of the problem is just simple view point. Take a look at Warrior II from the side and it looks like the pelvis is completely flat.

Vector image from pixabay


But take a look from another perspective and it’s obvious that the pelvis is at an angle.

Warrior II, image from Flickr

 

And that’s the main theme of the workshop in 2 weeks, figuring out how to practice in a way that suits your body. There are still spaces in the workshop why not come along and just see how it works for you?

Workshop, Saturday 25th November 2017, Creating a yoga practice

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

When we start to practice yoga, we generally do someone else’s practice. We go to a class and we do the poses. Many people find this an enriching and empowering experience. Some find that these practices suit them and they can continue them as a life long practice.

But after a while, we can notice that there are gaps in these practices, we can get stuck, even end up trying to do a practice which injures us.

So this class is about creating your own practice by looking at your life as it is right now and then figuring what you truly need (as opposed to what you think you need) and then setting up ways to get those needs met. It will include:

  • Looking at the basics, how you stand, you walk, you lie down and sit. These are areas which most of us do in ways that create suffering and extra stress 
  • Setting up simple and effective ways to know your own body without become overwhelmed with anatomical information 
  • Setting up ways to integrate how we see with how we move. 
  • Looking at yoga poses that come from a deep understanding of your body and allow you to grow. Rather than retrofitting a yoga pose on to an already stressed body and then wondering why it doesn’t seem to be working 
  • Looking at the psychology of practice, how to use insights from neuroscience, psychology and the wisdom traditions to set up a practice that is simple, satisfying and possible for you to do enjoyably and well. 

If you are a teacher, this approach is also very useful for generating further material for your classes, or just helping a student solve a particular issue that they bring to class
.

If you are a student this approach is useful for developing your practice further and bringing you the results that you want.

The workshop will be based on insights from the ways that Alexander technique and Eyebody can help a yoga practice.

It will contain a mixture of guided movements/poses and then will have some space for personal work on poses within the group setting.

Click here to apply for the workshop.