Mark Claireaux has over 12 years experience and as with all certified Alexander Technique Teachers and is the author of this blog where he teaches people to 'unlearn' bad habits that might be doing them harm. He teaches activities such as sitting, standing, walking and lying down.
Recently I felt that I was being dragged down inside.
Even with my 15 years of Alexander Technique experience I got a sense of down on the inside. I didn’t panic and it hadn’t lead to any actual physical pain (yet). I am quite curious so I looked literally into myself. I got a sense of my upper chest pulling down a bit more than it had. Was I depressed? Was this grief from when my Mother passed a way and then I realised that it was a lack of pride.
That secret I had as a child
about being gay that I keep inside for many years and lead to sense of ‘Not good enough’ was rearing it’s ugly head again. I couldn’t believe it. For f*** sake I thought I’d dealt with this. I came out to my family in my early 20’s, I volunteered on gay switchboard and even set up a “coming out group”. I went on every Pride march for many years and joined an airline as a steward for goodness sakes. However there it was there still in my chest “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. I know this is not particularly a gay occurrence in fact I woud say it is rife in the population. Not a good enough parent, or not good enough at my job, not good enough husband or wife etc, etc……..
I have spent years discovering how we hold feelings and emotions in our bodies, recognising that I kept a lot of my feelings inside (My parents didn’t encourage public displays of emotions).
What happens physically in our bodies when we are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed etc but also joy, elation and even love.
Alexander’s main discovery of the relationship of the head to the neck and the back and how this relates to the above emotions. We often use the head as an expression of a feeling eg: ‘Head over heels in love’ – Banging our heads against a brick wall, what feeling does this conjure up? Running around like a headless chicken etc, etc. However do we ever actually think about where our head actually is in space.
Does it always makes sense to be upright. What if you have just received some bad news about a close relative dying. What does our body want to do? You may have had experience of this. What did you do? It may have depended on where you were and who was with you.
A Breathing exploration that will help us to feel calm, so this could help if we feel anxious.
What are the stimulus that makes us feel stressed or anxious. Is it lack of time, other people, situations? We will explore ways to help ourselves.
Learning to take ownership of what is happening in our bodies rather than blaming others. I use this expression “What am I doing in my body when…………”
We will find an antidote for some of the negative feelings we have (Remember that no emotion is bad but we can become over habitualized and these feelings can lead to physical pain). They did in my case.
We will place the following qualities in the body:
Courage and Compassion, Love and Kindness
Don not worry if you don’t think it is possible to have these qualities. I myself am not zen and feel the negative emotions as well. However the more we can embody these more positive feelings the more likely we are able to live a life that way. Less stress, more joy
We are in effect bringing these qualities to the forefront.
I believe everyone has these qualities deep down.
Come and explore in a fun and safe way. This Workshop is half full so please do book up soon.
Well here I am after a month off Social Media and a couple of weeks yoga and meditation retreat in Bali which have left me feeling rejuvenated and ready to get back into teaching.
The reason I decided to give up Social Media
including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter was mainly that it was not bringing me joy. In fact the exact opposite. I even felt a bit of anxiety in my tummy about it. It started to get worse coming up to Christmas (not a personal favourite time of year for me – I have issues!) and all the talk of Brexit etc.
In Alexander Technique we talk about stimulus and response
and that we have a choice in how we react to things. In this case ‘Social Media’ is the stimulus and I didn’t realise I was reacting to it in such a way. Yes I do have a choice which is to turn it off and at least to ‘Not react’ in my habitual way.
What I learnt from my black out of Social Media:
1 – Once I had made the decision and made my final post I felt a huge relief, I immediately felt calmer in my body, especially my tummy. This was extraordinary. Now I was tempted to go back on a couple of times I must admit so going ‘cold turkey’ wasn’t easy. The absence of anxiety was worth it though.
2 – I started to interact with real humans! Yes, I started to have conversations that mattered, without worrying how many ‘Likes’ I was getting.
3 – Travelling around Bali (which is beautiful by the way), I wasn’t thinking ‘Oh that’ll make a good Instagram post’. I was just enjoying things in the moment for what they are.
4 – I felt I had more time to do the things that I really wanted to do without the need to ‘compare’ my life to others. Comparison after all never brings you joy.
I have returned to Social Media now as I know it is useful in business. I think I may only do Facebook for now. Already a little anxiety has crept back in but I think I will appreciate the positive sides to it. Spreading the love, as it were. Deciding not to include the Apps on my phone and iPad I think will also help.
What I learnt my my retreat:
I used to say ‘I’m not great in groups’ but I learned to just be myself and listen with compassion when others were talking. I chose 3 intentions for my trip, the 3 L’s.
1 – To ‘Listen’
2 – To practice ‘Loving Kindness’
3 – To be more ‘Laid back’
I fully admit I don’t always practice these but it really helped.
As it turns out I was pretty good in groups by practising a little of what I preach.
I faced a couple of my other fears too. Applying some Alexander Technique principles I was able to go white water rafting. The idea of this used to scare the bejesus out of me. I not only conquered that fear but thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to do it all over again. Here is myself under one of the massive waterfall on that trip.
I am very grateful that I had this experience and I learnt so much about myself and how I interact with others.
I come back to work rejuvenated and inspired. I hope to see some of you back in my Studio sometime soon.
I can help you with your external posture but have you considered your internal posture?
My body naturally came into uprightness during meditation…….
Recently I have been talking to my clients about this as it is something I discovered partly by meditating every day for the last 6 months. During meditation naturally my body would come into uprightness without any attempt to ‘try’ or even by giving myself my Alexander Technique directions.
So how did this happen?
My belief is that something had changed or was changing in my mind. I was coming to a place of ‘calm’ in my mind and my body was following. Note: Mediation is not really about calming the mind but noticing what our mind is actually doing, and partly just acknowledging that.
We are what we think………..
This is a concept that we are very familiar with in the Alexander Technique. For example instead of saying to ourselves ‘my neck feels tight’ we say ‘my neck is free’ and after a little while, it actually becomes freer.
Should we always try or attempt be upright?
Well to me this doesn’t make sense and it is not always what the body wants to do, depending on what is going on around us.
For example if someone got the tragic news that someone close to them suddenly died unexpectedly, does it make sense for the body to be upright? Naturally because we’ve experienced a shock, your world feels like it is crumbling around you, your body is more likely to want to crumble, head coming down, arms coming in, feeling it right in the pit of your stomach. We might not allow this happen if we got the news whilst giving a speech or around colleagues at work. However that is what the body really wants to do. (I experienced this when my mother died unexpectedly)
Ideally sit on a stool with no back and close your eyes. Listen to your body and let it do what it wants. Does your head really want to be upright? Sometimes people go into a slump but they can actually can find some comfort there. This posture might go more with how we are actually feeling right now but may change if you tried the experiment tomorrow. The new posture might be saying ‘I feel a bit down or low’ or ‘I want to protect myself’ etc etc.
After a while however staying in this posture may become uncomfortable. We wouldn’t want to stay in a ‘depressed’ posture for ever would we?
We could start to think differently and consider our head position and what it means.
We talk about the head often when we talk about states of our emotional self. This was F.M Alexander’s main discovery, the relationship of the head to the neck and the back and to the whole body.
Where is your head at? In brackets I have put a possible feeling or emotion that could go with the saying, you may have other thoughts. We could go in and out of these several times a day, I know I can myself. Some we may have no experience of, others may feel very familiar.
Are you? :
Burying your head in the sand? (Denial)
Thinking you are head and shoulders above……? (arrogance or trying to ‘do’ good posture)
Thinking someone is head and shoulders above us……? (Feeling not good enough) – Comparing ourselves to others never bring us joy.
Keeping your head down? (Avoidance)
Thinking stuff has gone over your head? (Not understanding)
Head over heels in love? (Love)
Not making head nor tail of……? (Confusion or frustration)
Hitting your head against a brick wall? (Frustration)
Feel like my head is about to explode? (Rage)
Snapping someone’s head off? (Anger)
Hanging your head in shame? (Not feeling good enough)
Laughing your head off? (Happy)
Trying to get your head around something? (Frustration)
Running around like a headless chicken? (Overwhelm, busy)
Sleepy head? (Tired)
Something is rearing its ugly head? (thoughts of the past)
Holding your head up high? (Confidence, not to be confused with arrogance)
Keeping your head when everyone around is losing their heads? (Calmness)
If faced which a problem and you can’t choose between Option A or Option B, ask yourself, “If I were the person i’d really like to be, with the qualities i’d really like to have, what would that person do?” Then go and do that………..
So if you were the person you’d really like to be, which qualities would you choose?
Any from the above list?
Personally i’d like to choose ‘Holding my head up high in confidence, and keeping calm when everyone else is loosing their heads. I also chose someone who feels content, laid back and flexible, a person who can speak up for himself and feel open and free in anyone’s company’ I can now work on allowing myself to embody those qualities. I also acknowledge I don’t always have these qualities.
Think about the qualities you’d like and then without trying, allow your body to embody that. It may take time but don’t force it . ALLOW.
I’ve done this with many of my pupils and it really works.
This can be a powerful way to work.
The problem is sometimes that we try to have good ‘External posture’ but on the inside we might have our own struggles due to past experiences (often from way back in childhood). We might have an inner anxiety, inner anger or fear, a sense of not ‘feeling good enough’ (This is very common). Also of not feeling we have a voice. (I now know I have many of these feelings going on inside of me).
This may mean that our External and Internal posture are fighting each other.
If you’d like to explore these issues more, do get in touch or book a no obligation introductory session online here
I also have a Workshop Saturday 27th October at Brighton Natural Health Centre find out more here