Why I became a teacher.
From my early teens I remember having problems with my ‘posture’. Sitting for long periods at school made the area between my shoulder blades and my upper back go numb, and walking any distance left me with an ache in my lower back.
Later I also developed neck pain and I was never really comfortable. My teachers would frequently tell me 'stand up straight', and 'pull those shoulders back'.
Over the years I went through a panoply of diagnostic and therapeutic treatments; pain killers, x-rays on my back and neck, MRI scan, physio, traction, osteopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic and McTimoney chiropractic treatment. Some of these gave me short-term relief, but nothing really solved the problems.
I reached the stage where I was just going round in circles; the McTimoney chiropractor re-aligned my bones but within a couple of weeks I was back to where I started and the whole process would repeat. I now know that habitual and harmful patterns of tension in my muscles pulled everything out of place again.
My McTimoney chiropractor told me that unless I got my muscles sorted out my problems wouldn’t go away and she recommended that I have some remedial massage. I had several sessions of massage and this helped to wake up some of the muscles that had become numb with lack of use. It soon became clear to me how much tension I was carrying but waking these muscles up gave me more and different pain thorough my neck and shoulders. I went back to my doctor who reeled off list of alternative therapies I could try but was she was unconvincing.
I was at a loss and didn’t really know where to go or what to do next.
It was around this time (2004) that I came across the Alexander Technique a couple of times by coincidence, in a magazine article and then a promotional display in the local natural health centre. This was enough to trigger an interest, it all appeared to be very logical and seemed to fit my problems so I did a bit of research and came to the conclusion that the principles taught in the Alexander Technique made complete sense.
The Alexander Technique encourages you to let go of excess tension and teaches you to stop interfering with your natural functioning, which then allows your body to work as nature intended. By trying to 'stand up straight' and 'pull the shoulders back' I had been using my voluntary muscles, so I would quickly tire and then slump even more. My habitual and harmful patterns of tension were interfering with my natural wellbeing rendering the deep postural muscles ineffective. Instead of releasing and expanding I was constantly tightening and contracting.
It all started to fit together. I knew my posture was very poor and that I carried a lot of tension, and I desperately wanted to change.
I felt fairly confident that the Alexander Technique would help my posture but I was slightly skeptical about whether it would improve my ease of movement or my confidence, however it has proved itself in all of these and more besides.
Within a couple of months of starting lessons I knew that I had eventually found something that was really going to help me. A few days after my 8th lesson I was walking into town and was suddenly aware of a sense of freedom through my hips.
After 13 lessons I was lying in Semi-supine and felt my shoulders start to release. The more lessons I had, the more I wanted. The more release I got, the more I wanted. The more I learnt about the Technique, the more I wanted to know. A desire to train to teach the Alexander Technique formed in my mind and grew stronger and stronger.
Nine months after commencing lessons life threw something else at me; I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The Alexander technique helped me manage my energy levels through the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had an interest I could peruse when I felt up to it and I had a goal to aim for - to train to become a teacher. I was also helping myself and taking some responsibility for my own health by lying in Semi-supine and applying the Alexander Technique to my life. Without the Technique I am convinced I would have fallen into depression and I don’t know how I would have recovered.
Although the Technique is not a therapy, it does have therapeutic benefits and I really looked forward to my lessons.
Over the years I have sought out lessons with different teachers to give me more experience. I was lucky enough to have a couple of lessons with Elisabeth Walker who was the last living teacher to be taught by FM Alexander himself. I have also had a number of lessons with John Nicholls who is probably the most renowned teacher these days.
In 2011 I began a training apprenticeship with Tony Foxton, who in turn was trained by John and Lynn Nicholls.
In February 2014 I completed and passed the three year Alexander Technique Teacher Training Course and gained my teaching certificate from Alexander Technique International (ATI).
Now that I am an Alexander Technique Teacher I now know that those comments from my school teachers were not helpful and that anyone following this advice will actually be holding themselves in an unnatural position, adding in extra layers of tension and causing themselves more problems.
For me the AT has been life changing, I am in far less pain, my ‘posture’ is continuing to improve, I feel calmer, more confident and am discovering my natural ease of movement. The benefits just get better and better. The Alexander Technique has given me the tools and positivity to manage the dips in energy levels I still get with Chronic Fatigue.
I hope my experiences with pain and discomfort, and my journey with the Alexander Technique make me more sympathetic to my pupil’s problems. I really enjoy helping others reap the long term benefits that the Alexander Technique has to offer.