Alexander Technique and MS

Following the recent news of Christina Applegate‘s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, I was moved to share my own story of the illness…

It’s now twenty-seven years since my diagnosis and Multiple Sclerosis has led me to a career path I couldn’t have imagined during my early days of working in TV. I am now an Alexander Technique teacher helping people to improve their consciousness of postural habits and manage their anxiety and/or aches and pains. Working at the Pimlico Alexander Technique Centre over the past ten years, I’ve come to realise what an underused anti-anxiety tool the Technique is. When it comes to Multiple Sclerosis experience has shown me that the most important thing is to manage my anxiety.

 

It was 1994 and I was in my twenties, working in film and television and enjoying my job, when my problems with sight and balance were finally explained as a mild case of Multiple Sclerosis. At the time I was a regular visitor to an osteopath to relieve severe tension in my neck and shoulders, bad enough to restrict movement. When I consulted my doctors they could only offer the advice, ‘I hope your case of MS does not worsen, just get on and live your life’. Clearly there was (and still is) no cure for this disease.

After that bombshell my main concern was to find a way to live a full and normal life, free from pain. I decided to investigate the world of complementary health for a solution. I started with my diet- getting rid of any junk food, I then saw psychotherapists, reflexologists, even masseuses. They all helped a bit, but when up against chronic neck and shoulder pain they didn’t really show any marked sign of improvement. I saw an osteopath; they were by far the greatest help and the relief from pain was significant, however it was a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and the pain soon returned.

It was a friend from my yoga class that turned me onto the Alexander Technique; a form of complementary health started by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor, who when faced with persistent vocal problems that doctors were unable to prevent, analysed his own postural habits and movement. He found that he was exerting unnecessary tension in muscles which, when released, significantly eased movement. The Alexander Technique was born. Since then it has been used in performing arts schools with everyone from Madonna and Victoria Beckham to Roald Dahl and Sting having practised the technique.

I booked a lesson immediately and found it transformative. It followed on from where the osteopathy left off, directly re-establishing my overall balance and easing unnecessary tension by improved postural habits. I carried on with my lessons, and over time I achieved my goal of living a normal and pain-free life. Ten years later I began the three year training course to become a teacher of the Technique.

It’s now twenty-seven years since my diagnosis and Multiple Sclerosis has led me onto a career path I couldn’t have imagined during my early days of working in TV. I now teach the Alexander Technique out of the Pimlico Centre, seeing between five and eight students a day. I should probably point out here that the reason I use the term ‘students’ is because that’s exactly what they are, students.

The Alexander Technique doesn’t tell you to ‘bend this way, stretch that way, right good, off you go’, instead it teaches you to become aware of your individual postural habits over a course of time, so once you know how to maintain a comfortable and natural sense of poise, you can carry on doing so in your everyday life. The Technique is often known for its ability to improve posture, but it is very much a form of self-help to be carried through one’s life. The results in improved self awareness encourage confidence and   promote self-worth.

My students are an eclectic mix, coming from all ages and walks of life, including: singers, nurses, barristers, fitness instructors and even a martial arts instructor and a Member of Parliament. I see all of my students on a one to one basis, in a relaxed and friendly environment, assessing what they are here to achieve, before teaching them the Technique in a way that relates to their problems and goals, and can be applied to their everyday life.

 

Alexander Technique for Pianists

The Pimlico Centre for Alexander Technique

 and Bankside Keys Music Tuition present a workshop:

 

“Would you like to know how the Alexander Technique

helps your piano playing?”

 

With Hidemi Hatada MSTAT

 

Saturday 7th August 10.00am to 12.30pm

 

at CTC, Chelsea Harbour SW6

  

An opportunity to discover more about your postural habits at the piano and how they affect your overall performance.

Hidemi is a professional singer and a keyboard player, and a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She qualified as an Alexander Technique teacher in 1996 with Walter and Dylis Carrington. She teaches at two Alexander Technique teacher training courses and is a registered Alexander Technique teacher of the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and taught on the Music Course at the Royal Hospital School. She also lectures on the Music Course at Soai University and Doshisha Women’s college of Liberal Arts, Japan.

This workshop is open to participants and spectators. If you would like to be a participant, please select one or two sections from pieces you know or are working on. You will be asked to play these short extracts to the workshop as a whole, so that Hidemi can work on you while you are playing.

Maximum number of participants: 5 – Cost £30

Maximum number of spectators: 25 – Cost £10

To book a place please call or text Susanna on 07887 592361 or email susannascouller@btinternet.com

Location: Constructive Teaching Centre, Imperial Wharf overground,  www.atiw.org

Thank You Doctor

THANK YOU DOCTOR

It’s time to show gratitude to all the Doctors referring to us, particularly those at Basuto Medical Centre in Parsons Green, Street Medical Practice in  Sloane Square and the Basil Street Practice Knightsbridge. Now that the Government have given the go-ahead to all the close-contact professions, we are welcoming new referrals with open arms. Over the past decade the joy of working with Doctors is not just the lovely patients and interesting cases they send our way, but their appreciation and understanding of what we do. They are equipped to spot when a person’s postural habits might be the ongoing source of their pain. We have learned so much from them, so here’s to coming out of lockdown and the growing confidence we are starting to see.

Posture and the Alexander Technique

Yes it’s the P word.  It’s almost a dirty word to some Alexander Technique teachers, but why?  It’s the word that resonates most effectively with the general public, and improved posture is certainly a lovely side effect of learning the Alexander Technique. One problem is that when people think of “good posture” they see someone stiff and upright, and stiffness is precisely what we are trying to UNdo when we’re taking lessons in the Alexander Technique. Perhaps it’s also the problem of implying that there is a “right way” to stand and sit and move. Searching for perfection will just create stiffness. FM Alexander said there’s no such thing as the right position, only a right direction. I have no real problem with the word posture myself, or with friends admiring my posture. It should be good. And I look around in London and see plenty of examples of what people quite reasonably could refer to as bad posture, like slumping in a chair in front of a PC all day and hyper-extending the lumbar spine until the discs have no option but to start slipping. There’s no avoiding the word, so why not embrace it? And then when you do have the opportunity to actually teach someone the Alexander Technique, there is your chance to get them used to all the language we use. But until such time, posture is just fine.