Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley http://www.alexander-technique.com Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:25:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Falling back into old habits http://www.alexander-technique.com/falling-back-old-habits/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/falling-back-old-habits/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:02:45 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1112 A pupil yesterday commented after his month’s trip away travelling in Europe that his posture had ‘slipped back’ and he’d lost some of what we’d achieved in his earlier Alexander Technique lessons. He’d had a short course of lessons during the few months period before his trip but … Continue reading »

The post Falling back into old habits appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
poor flight seatA pupil yesterday commented after his month’s trip away travelling in Europe that his posture had ‘slipped back’ and he’d lost some of what we’d achieved in his earlier Alexander Technique lessons. He’d had a short course of lessons during the few months period before his trip but he had clearly got a little rounded and stiff in his back and neck during the time he’d been away.

I reminded her that doing a little semi-supine (lying on the floor) is a great aid to maintaining his poise.  It helps to release unnecessary tension, to allow our shoulders to open up and widen, and our back may become flatter on the floor…..all without making any physical effort.  Indeed it’s a good thing for all of us to do regularly.

However, by the end of yesterday’s lesson he felt quite radically altered; more upright, freer, better balanced, lighter and calmer. His shoulders had released, he had lengthened up to his full height and stature, and he felt much more comfortable in himself. There are some good reasons for such a quick response.   The lessons he’d had before his trip were sufficient for him to have integrated the new use of herself into his system to quite a degree; his old posture habits had been fading and the new poise and manner of movement was becoming established. So while the recent lengthy gap had caused him to get stiff and round shoulders again and his old habits to return somewhat, he was familiar enough with the process and better co-ordination, for it all to come rushing back with the correct hands-on guidance.  It was only a temporary lull and nothing to worry about.

The other thing is, that we all have a natural instinct for good poise that we have from birth. We have wonderful poise as young children without even being aware of it, and this instinct is with us until we die. We tap into this instinct with Alexander Technique; our body ‘knows’ what to do.  We just need to stop doing the wrong things and the right thing will take care of itself.  The instinct is there and it’s surprising how quickly we can regain healthier and more comfortable upright poise.

 

The post Falling back into old habits appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/falling-back-old-habits/feed/ 0
Semi-supine http://www.alexander-technique.com/semi-supine/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/semi-supine/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:59:28 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1229 The post Semi-supine appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
Semi-supine278

The post Semi-supine appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/semi-supine/feed/ 0
Doing less http://www.alexander-technique.com/less/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/less/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 09:28:10 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1116 In our work with the Alexander Technique I am constantly reminded of how in our society we are constantly striving to do better at things. There is a sort of underlying principle of ‘needing to get things done'; to complete … Continue reading »

The post Doing less appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
Noel Kingsley - teachingIn our work with the Alexander Technique I am constantly reminded of how in our society we are constantly striving to do better at things. There is a sort of underlying principle of ‘needing to get things done'; to complete incompletions; to achieve more; fit more things in the day and generally ‘try harder’.  Such philosophies and attitudes actually get in the way when we want to improve our posture.

During an Alexander Technique lesson earlier this morning I asked my client ‘not to do anything’.   He replied “What, now?”   He was asking me if I meant he should not do anything at that precise moment.  So I said “Yes, don’t do anything!”  So he immediately did something with his muscles to brace himself and hold some sort of ‘good posture’.  It’s a baffling thing, that when I ask some people to ‘not do anything’ they make a great deal of effort in the process. This is of course the exact opposite of what we want; I wanted him to release tension, not make more.

Inhibition is the keystone of the Alexander Technique. It is only by  inhibiting our responses to stimuli, withholding consent to a movement or action, that we actually have the opportunity to think and change ‘how’ we do it. Only when we pause for a moment do we have that split second to make a choice against the habits of a lifetime; but by so doing we can actually make enormous changes in how we feel, perform, function as a healthy human being.

In the Alexander Technique lesson, I may wish to move a new client from sitting to standing.  We do this in quite a controlled way so that we can overcome habitual tensions and retrain his musculature out of the bad postural habits; we wish to eliminate the harmful tensions that get in the way of our natural poise, the poise we had as young children.  So I want my pupil to ‘leave himself alone’, to not help, to not stand up in his usual manner so he gives me the chance of moving him in a different way, with less effort and better balance, to move while lengthening and widening in stature. He cannot possibly know ‘how to do this’ for himself as it is outside his normal experience despite having done so as a young child. We are simply refreshing his ability and eliminating the harmful posture habits that interfere. Get rid of those interfering bad habits and it will all work beautifully well. So he needs to learn to inhibit; to stop. Then we establish the Directions of release, lengthening and widening, then he allows me to move him by inhibiting his reactions or desire to help.

So I ask my pupil to not do anything as I move him from sitting to standing, and as a new pupil he may say “What, do you want me to stand up, now?”  And I explain that no, I do not want him to stand up in the way that he knows how. I am going to ‘stand him up’ in a way that he does not know. That is quite different. Only when he ‘leaves himself alone’ and does not try to do it, will he give me the chance of giving him this new experience. So I ask him to ‘Stop'; to do nothing. That does not mean stiffen. It means, do not do anything at all. “Leave yourself alone.”   But so often in the first lesson or two, some people have immediately jumped up out of the chair, using vast amounts of effort and stiffness; far more than necessary.  And if they ‘try hard’ to do it better, they’ll use even more effort, because we are indoctrinated to believing that ‘trying harder’ means making more effort and this could hardly be farther from the truth.

In Alexander Technique lessons, we need to find ‘neutral’. We want to discover more quietness and stillness in a free and un-held way. We want to find more freedom and to use less effort when we do move. Even sitting can involve half the effort most people make yet still remain sitting upright. We should approach it differently and ask ourselves “What happens if I do it differently? Let’s experiment.  Every time in the Alexander lesson we want to experiment with doing things differently; not as our old habits may determine. Let’s make choices against our habits; firstly inhibit, then invite the lengthening and widening, by thinking directions. It is only by using our conscious mind that we can change the habits of a lifetime and we’ll regain so much of what we had as young children it’s likely we’ll be surprised at how good it can be.  Yes, life can be that good.

The post Doing less appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/less/feed/ 0
Learning from my chair http://www.alexander-technique.com/learning-chair/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/learning-chair/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 09:00:48 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1110 It’s not so long since I bought a new chair for my Alexander Technique teaching room.  Well, it’s not actually a new chair being around 250 years old, but it was new to me and with a good clean, antique waxing and a … Continue reading »

The post Learning from my chair appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
L1000312It’s not so long since I bought a new chair for my Alexander Technique teaching room.  Well, it’s not actually a new chair being around 250 years old, but it was new to me and with a good clean, antique waxing and a new cover to it’s gently padded seat, it looks perfect in my teaching room.

However when I started using it during Alexander Technique lessons, I found that as I worked on my pupil while he sat in the chair, the chair back was high enough to slightly hinder my movement so it felt strange and awkward. And then I realised that it was only affecting the way I had ‘habitually’ worked and maybe the chair isn’t wrong at all. I just need to change ‘how’ I work, then it would be fine.

I remember Walter Carrington who trained me, saying to me, “Noël, there isn’t an ideal chair, you know. You will sit in thousands of chairs in your life so you have to make the most of the situation.” If we look after ourselves in terms of poise, balance and direction, we can sit in a great many ‘unsatisfactory’ chairs, but still they won’t harm us and we won’t suffer. It’s up to us to look after ourselves. And thanks to the Alexander Technique we can do just that!

Being adaptable means not being stuck in one’s way of doing things. It means being open to new opportunities, to not being stuck in habit, to adapting to the circumstances and situation that we find ourselves. It’s when we rigidly stick to ‘our way of doing things’ that we end up getting into trouble.

So my chair is a little high in the back, but perfect for my pupils. So, I adapt the way I work around what was the obstacle and I now find I’m teaching the Alexander Technique with hands-on guidance, in a slightly different way. It is now no longer a problems and indeed has helped me improve the way I work. How refreshing! It’s always good to be open to possibilities….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Learning from my chair appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/learning-chair/feed/ 0
Unexpected improvements http://www.alexander-technique.com/unexpected-improvements/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/unexpected-improvements/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 07:14:34 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1114 An early morning pupil was saying how the Alexander Technique was helping her game of tennis…. how she could get to the ball faster.  Her coach had commented on the speed of her reactions and she firmly puts it down to … Continue reading »

The post Unexpected improvements appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
SurpriseAn early morning pupil was saying how the Alexander Technique was helping her game of tennis…. how she could get to the ball faster.  Her coach had commented on the speed of her reactions and she firmly puts it down to the change of her ‘use'; how she uses her body to do things. She is freer, more supple and more agile.

As an Alexander Technique teacher it is always interesting and gratifying to hear how people’s lives have changed beyond the obvious ‘getting rid of backache’ or ‘reduction in headaches’ or the ‘knees that don’t ache any more’ or the ‘better confidence and improved speaking voice in meetings’. When Alexander pupils discover something else that was not the reason for taking lessons in the first place, then you know it’s getting into their system; it’s improving their life on fundamental levels. I think of the lady entrepreneur who came because of back and neck problems while writing her next book and found her acid reflux had disappeared and her digestion improved, and the chap who came with a bad back but who had broken his elbow 30 years previously and had been ‘permanently bent ever since, realised it was now starting to straighten again.

I’ve been playing the violin just for a few years (gosh I think it might be ten now!) and my recent endeavours have been much improved by a step back from trying to play the music to really working on my own poise, balance, ease of movement. I have turned more attention to such fundamentals as maintaining a free neck, paying attention to my balance so I don’t lean, going ‘up’ within myself so I lengthen and widen in stature as I play and not ‘pulling down’ or pressing on the chin rest. I had found one or two habits creeping in that I wasn’t too happy about. Hence the ‘step back’ to work on fundamentals. I told my teacher (who is wonderfully understanding) that I was going to do this and he let me go,… to go and work on it.  I returned just two weeks later for another lesson and he said that he’d never heard me play so well, that every aspect of my playing had improved. I was chuffed.  Thank you!

So, like my tennis playing pupil who has experienced changes beyond her expectations in another field, I am using the technique that I teach to others to help myself improve at my own chosen activity of playing the violin.  It’s helping so much…..  It does take time, but by giving it plenty of time it pays huge dividends. It can transform our performance and abilities more fundamentally than simply putting in more hours of normal practice. This applies to sport too or any other activity.

With Alexander Technique we improve our overall co-ordination and how we ‘use’ ourselves in our poise and movement, minimising effort, eliminating wasteful tensions and encouraging more synchronised use of muscle. (I know Yoga teachers and Pilates instructors who have had lessons in the Alexander Technique in order to increase the benefits of their own exercises.) Such improvements in poise also change how our body functions internally with breathing, digestion, circulation, reproductive organs and this can have knock on effects with personal confidence and sense of well being. By improving our co-ordination and poise we can positively help every aspect of our lives as this impacts on everything.

It can be truly surprising and gratifying when we discover unexpected improvements that were not  originally anticipated.

The post Unexpected improvements appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/unexpected-improvements/feed/ 0
Thinking not doing http://www.alexander-technique.com/thinking/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/thinking/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1121 When people first come for lessons in the Alexander Technique, it’s a frequently held idea that they are coming for treatment and the practitioner will ‘do it’ for them. However this is not the case. We will actually be in the role … Continue reading »

The post Thinking not doing appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
When people first come for lessons in the Alexander Technique, it’s a frequently held idea that they are coming for treatment and the practitioner will ‘do it’ for them. However this is not the case. We will actually be in the role of ‘pupil’ (not patient) and we will be participating in the process.  We will be learning how to apply the technique for ourselves so we become self-sufficient.

Lessons in the Alexander Technique does not involve learning how to ‘hold’ ourselves correctly as this only causes unhealthy stiffness and tension. It is about learning to bring about the correct muscular co-ordination within us that will allow us to move, bend walk or sit freely and effortlessly with minimum of strain or pressure on our joints or internal organs.    We tap into the instinct we’ve got for healthy poise that we were born with and which will be with us until we die; our body knows what to do if we ‘let it’.   We relearn the natural poise we had as young children, but the difference is that we do it consciously, rather than subconsciously.

With the Alexander Technique we bring about a quality of freedom in all the joints as well as expansiveness in the torso that helps us be tall and broad without any sense of effort.  There is no holding required.  Indeed, it is about preventing or ‘inhibiting’ the wrong tendencies such as stiffening, stooping or shortening in stature that throws us off balance. We learn to consciously think in such a way that allows us to lengthen and widen in stature as we move, bringing about the healthy co-ordination that results in ‘good posture’.

No effort is required. Indeed if we make effort to ‘pull ourselves up straight’ then we are interfering again with a co-ordination that is far more subtle, and we’ll complicate our problems further.  So, do not ‘pull yourself up straight’ and don’t ‘pull your shoulders back’. By giving the correct ‘directions’ to ourselves by thinking, the natural instinct within us will provide the co-ordination necessary for healthy poise and movement, without pain or strain.  It needs to come from our ‘intention’, rather than physically adjusting ourselves.

In Alexander Technique lessons the hands-on guidance from a qualified teacher gives us a new experience of supporting ourselves differently. We get a new sensation of using our musculature in a more co-ordinated way, so we lengthen and widen in stature as we move.  During the lesson we perform a variety of different activities while maintaining this free upright poise.  We do movements such as standing, walking, sitting, bending, writing at a desk or using a keyboard and this new experience gets into the nervous system and subconscious. It helps to change our ‘default’.  Importantly we also learn  to think correctly for ourselves so we can maintain this quality.  There is no such thing as a correct position but there is a correct ‘direction’ to be sought that enables fluid movement, poise and improved health.

It can feel a little unusual at first and it’s common to experience a very pleasant sensation of lightness, freedom in the joints and expansiveness of stature. If you haven’t experienced it, get a teacher of the Alexander Technique to show you.  It feels great. Come with the knowledge that you will be participating in helping yourself, and this sets you up to look after yourself, from a posture point of view, for the rest of your life.

 

The post Thinking not doing appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/thinking/feed/ 0
First impressions http://www.alexander-technique.com/first-impressions/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/first-impressions/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:19:53 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1133 Unless we are an actor, musician, dancer, acrobat or comedian we tend to think we are not a performer. But there are a great many situations in life where we need to bring the best from ourselves, and it’s horrifying to realise that we may … Continue reading »

The post First impressions appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
Unless we are an actor, musician, dancer, acrobat or comedian we tend to think we are not a performer. But there are a great many situations in life where we need to bring the best from ourselves, and it’s horrifying to realise that we may be undermining ourselves at the critical moment with our own postural habits.

Although we are not a performer as such, for every job we apply for, we’ve had to go through the interview process, no matter how informal that may be.  And having got the job, we need to improve and expand our capabilities to keep it, never mind when seeking promotion. To reach the highest level it’s important that we portray a high calibre demeanour all of the time and not just for the one critical hour of an interview.

Let’s look at a hypothetical new job interview situation. When we arrive, we are trying to not to appear too anxious, yet be not so laid back that we give an air of indifference.  We’ve done our homework, researched the company and got an idea about the role we’ll be expected to perform.  We’ve developed some alternative ideas so if asked, we’ll be able to put them across, showing how wizardly creative we are, up to speed on current methods and thinking and can take the job and the company forward.  The position carries a hefty salary, executive car, interest free company loan, and other executive perks.  We know that if we get the job, we’ll be able to enhance our standard of living considerably. “New home with an extra room or two, afford another baby and the baby sitter, comfortable holidays in the Caribbean…New lifestyle…..here we come!

So we’re a bit keyed up, and when the time comes to walk into the room we may be wiping the sweat from our hands. Who’s got to perform now?   The curtain goes up, the lights are on; we are there in front of the interviewers who want to see what we’re made of.  We have an impression to make, and it’s that impression that is going to have an influence on their decision about us.  We want to do our best, indeed we need to do our best so that we don’t feel that we’ve let ourselves down.

The first few moments of introduction and getting seated are a crucial stage where first impressions are made. Before we’ve even spoken to the person, the way we have walked in and stood is more than 80% of their first impression of us!

Being seated in front of the interviewers is also a slightly unnerving situation, and we don’t know where to put our hands.  We may be self conscious and feeling awkward.   The tensing in our neck and shoulders and our poor breathing will also weaken our voice.

It doesn’t matter how tall, short or broad we are, or even how elegantly we dress. But it does matter how we carry ourselves.  Body language counts for a huge amount, particularly during a first meeting and it cannot be faked as we’re constantly giving off subconscious signals.  Even on the surface, if we’re standing rigidly with a stiff neck, stooping and narrowing or hunching across the shoulders, we are likely to look timid, insecure and lacking confidence.  Do we give the impression of being up to the job?  Given half a chance, is this the impression that we would ideally like to make for ourselves?

I am often asked what are the benefits of having Alexander Technique lessons.  OK, it’s commonly known to help with back pain, stiffness and postural problems etc. But in my view it’s about improving how we function overall, and how we ‘use ourselves’ every moment of the day. It’s about improving our whole co-ordination so we can bring the best from ourselves, by eliminating the postural habits that undermine us.

I have known some pupils to even say their lessons in the Alexander Technique actually helped them earn more money.

By improving our poise and restoring our natural upright demeanour, we also feel calmer and more secure in ourselves.  We can develop a great speaking voice. We are promotable and worthy of the bigger job.

It’s all about making the most of ourselves and getting the most out of life.  Feeling good, doing well…..doing our best all the time.   Improving our poise is not just pulling ourselves up straight. We can’t fake it as it all comes from within.  Have an Alexander Technique Introductory Lesson to find out more….

The post First impressions appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/first-impressions/feed/ 0
Core Stability Myth http://www.alexander-technique.com/core-strength/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/core-strength/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:15:31 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1196 I have written about core strength and the believed need for core stability in my blog entry ‘Developing a strong back’.  But I thought it helpful to re-print this feature which has been re-circulated recently after it’s initial publication in The Times, 2010. … Continue reading »

The post Core Stability Myth appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
I have written about core strength and the believed need for core stability in my blog entry ‘Developing a strong back’.  But I thought it helpful to re-print this feature which has been re-circulated recently after it’s initial publication in The Times, 2010. It was written by the excellent journalist Peta Bee based on the technical work and writing of Professor Eyal Lederman.

. Even four years later it seems that we still have a lot to learn……

The Core Stability Myth

By Peta Bee

It’s taken ten years to discover that the founding principles of Pilates are flawed. If there is a Holy Grail of fitness to have emerged over the past decade, then it has to be the pursuit of core stability, the strengthening, toning and honing of the muscles that wrap around our midriffs like a corset. Celebrities including Kate Winslet, Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé have swarmed to classes such as Pilates, in which the central message is that the deeply embedded muscles in our trunk must be strong if we are to look good, stand up straight and have bodies that move freely and without pain. They hold the spine in place, we are told, and prevent back pain by allowing us to move as nature intended. Few gym workouts are conducted without the instruction to “engage” the core by pulling in the belly button and sucking in the stomach; we ignore the core at our peril.

But among exercise scientists there is growing dissent about whether the pursuit of a strong core is worthwhile or even safe. Pilates and other classes that concentrate on core strength had been favourites of dancers and gymnasts for years. But they were not to become a fitness phenomenon until the mid-1990s, when a study by Australian scientists researching the causes of back pain produced a ground-breaking discovery.

Professor Paul Hodges, head of human neurosciences at Queensland University, attached electrodes to two groups of subjects — one with healthy backs and another with persistent back pain — and got them to do a series of rapid arm raises. His results showed that the brains of the healthy subjects appeared to send signals to a deeply embedded muscle called the transversus abdominis, triggering it to contract and support the spine just before the arms moved. In those with back pain, no such reaction took place, leaving the spine unsupported and vulnerable. Hodges then showed that the same muscle could be strengthened by “sucking in” or “hollowing out” (pulling navel to spine) the stomach during exercises and that the effects seemed to provide some protection against sore backs.

It was neither a clear link, nor was the evidence conclusive, but the concept quickly spread beyond physiology laboratories into the gym world, spawning a rapid rise in classes based entirely on this principle. Before long a stable core was lauded as a prerequisite in the fight against back pain and postural problems, as well as a washboard stomach. Without a strong foundation, proponents of core strength argued, our limbs cannot move freely and efficiently, our breathing is hampered and, what’s more, we look awful. But experts now claim that personal trainers and gym instructors have based an entire industry of exercise classes on evidence that has been grossly misconstrued. “The fitness industry took a piece of information and ran with it,” says Thomas Nesser, assistant professor of physical education at Indiana State University who has been researching the effect of the boom in Pilates-style activities. “The assumption of ‘if a little is good, then more must be better’ was applied to core training and it was completely blown out of proportion.”

What is overwhelmingly accepted among critics is that too many workouts are entirely dedicated to strengthening the deeply embedded muscles of the core, an approach that can prove futile, particularly when it comes to preventing back pain. Two years ago, a controversial paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that the importance of core strength has been overplayed and that, even if there were some truth in the notion put forward by Hodges and his team that a strong transversus abdominis muscle eased a sore back, the likelihood is that attempts to strengthen trunk muscles in the otherwise fit and healthy would probably have little benefit and may even backfire with disastrous consequences.

Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, says: “Too much emphasis is placed on working the transversus abdominis and if people follow that advice they are misguided and will not achieve better movement or less pain.” McGill’s particular concern is the widespread instruction in Pilates, some types of yoga and other classes to “draw in” or “hollow out” the stomach during moves, something he has shown can destabilise the spine by upsetting its alignment. “In studies we have done, the amount of load the spine could bear was greatly reduced when subjects sucked in their belly buttons,” he says. “What happens is that the muscles are brought closer to the spine, which reduces the stability in the back. It becomes weak and wobbly as you try to move.”

Physiotherapists have reported seeing a growing number of people who have suffered back problems as a result of poor Pilates technique. They tighten their lower backs, stop breathing or drop the pelvic muscles when attempting to “engage the core”, all of which can potentially make back pain worse. Pete Gladwell, a specialist physiotherapist with the Bristol NHS pain management service, says many physiotherapists as well as personal trainers embraced the “core stability” theory and the concept of Pilates helping back pain, without considering it might be flawed. “The early research compared core stability intervention with GP-led care rather than assessing the best available approaches,” Gladwell says. “Almost any type of movement will compare well in that scenario.”

There is doubt, too, that Pilates leads to a more efficient body that moves freely and is less prone to the mechanical ravages of ageing. Professor Nesser recently tried to establish a positive link between good core stability and functional movement — the ability to perform ordinary daily tasks — but failed. He says that “despite the emphasis fitness professionals have placed on functional movement and core training for increased performance, our results suggest otherwise — they should not be the primary emphasis of an exercise programme.” Even in sport, the tide is turning against the view that core strength is essential for improvement. For several years, elite athletes — including David Beckham and Zara Phillips — have devoted huge chunks of their training to developing core stability. But some researchers investigating the benefits of a strong midsection to sports performance have drawn a blank. When Professor Nesser looked at the top footballers, he found that those with a strong core played no better than those without. “It appears there is no performance benefit in sport from having a stronger core,” he says.

What about those who devote hours to Pilates and improving core strength not to ease their backs or to correct postural imbalance, but to get the lean, toned limbs and torso of the A-listers? Will hours on the Reformer equipment or in mat-based classes provide the body they hanker after? Not unless you do it in addition to the fitness basics of resistance training and endurance activities such as running, cycling and swimming.

According to the American Council on Exercise, a consumer watchdog that commissioned research on the fitness effects of Pilates, a beginner’s class did not meet the recommended levels of exertion for improving even basic cardio- respiratory fitness, burning only 174 calories. Even advanced Pilates only entailed the same amount of effort required for a steady walk and used up fewer calories (254) than most aerobic activities of the same duration. “Do not give in to the temptation to dedicate entire workouts to the core,” urges Professor Nesser. If you enjoy doing core stability exercise, keep it up. “But don’t expect to become immune to injury and don’t expect to improve your fitness if that’s all you do,” says Professor Eyal Lederman, an osteopath and director of the Centre for Professional Development in Osteopathy and Manual Therapy in London and the author of a paper entitled The Myth of Core Stability.

Where does that leave a generation devoted to honing their midsections? Experts say we have spent too long focusing on a few select muscles. Core strength is important, but only if the rest of your body is in good shape, and it’s time for trainers to stand back and view the body as a whole. Professor Lederman says the fitness industry seized on the idea of core stability as a simple solution, a silver bullet to improved function and fitness. The past ten years, he says, have been “a lost decade” in that we have wasted time and effort on workouts that needlessly concentrate on the area surrounding our navels. “Someone once told me that it takes 75 years for a medical myth to be erased from public thinking,” he says. “We’ve had the core stability myth for ten years. There’s a long way to go.”

By Peta Bee, The Times – Body and Soul August 10 2010

 

 

 

The post Core Stability Myth appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/core-strength/feed/ 0
Improve your breathing http://www.alexander-technique.com/improve-breathing/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/improve-breathing/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:54:29 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1129 I’m often asked during Alexander Technique lessons, is there anything that can be done to improve breathing. This great little procedure is a wonderful and easy way of simply freeing up your whole breathing mechanism so it functions more as … Continue reading »

The post Improve your breathing appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
I’m often asked during Alexander Technique lessons, is there anything that can be done to improve breathing. This great little procedure is a wonderful and easy way of simply freeing up your whole breathing mechanism so it functions more as it should.

It’s so often the case that we tend to hold our breath during moments of stress and anxiety, but also we can be breathing very shallowly just by habit. Unnecessary postural tension automatically restricts our breathing by fixing the ribs so they do not move as they should while also freezing the diaphragm.  Our postural habits are so familiar we’re probably not even aware that we are holding our breath.

But in order to function well, our body not only needs adequate levels of oxygen but also to eliminate toxins with our out-breath. Indeed some toxins are not removed from the body by any other means than by breathing.  Our breathing is all automatically controlled by our respiratory centre in the brain to ensure we have the correct level of chemicals for any given activity, so it’s important that we do not interfere with this natural process.

Freeing up the breathing process so that it functions fully as it should can help give us more energy, calm us down, clear our head so we can think better.  It can also inmprove our skin complexion, shine our hair and whiten our eyes…so we’re glowing with life.  It’s a full beauty and health treatment… and it’s free.    We can help free up our breathing so it’s functioning better by doing a very simple exercise. I often do it myself.

This simple procedure will help you to breathe more freely. Please note, the following is only a procedure which should be done for a minute or two.  If you feel dizzy, you must stop immediately and return to normal breathing.

Preparation: Stand or sit upright in as free and well balanced way as you can.  Free your neck by allowing your head to roll forward on the top of your spine at a point between your ears….i.e. allow your nose to drop a little and ‘think’ your head to balance freely.  If you are already familiar with the Alexander Technique inhibit ‘doing’ and give your directions before commencing. The better you are standing ‘freely and expansively’ the better the procedure will help.

1. Don’t take a special breath for this procedure. Use the air you have in your lungs.

2. Count out loud slowly up to five using only one breath. One, two, three etc….  Speak slowly. The words should flow one after the other without a break.  If you run out of air, don’t force it. Just go up to three or four.

3. When you’ve finished allow the air to come into your lungs without sucking or gasping.

4. With the new air you have, count slowly up to the next higher number i.e. six, out loud at the same speed as before.  This should be done all in one breath.

5. When you’ve finished, again allow the air to come in without sucking. Let it come in quietly and naturally.

6. Count up to seven this time. Again use only one breath.

7. Continue this procedure up to twelve or twenty or as high as is comfortable.

After you have completed this procedure, return to normal breathing. You may find that reached a higher numbers than you might first have expected…It can be really surprising. After performing this little exercise it is quite likely that you will be breathing much more deeply and freely than before, without any sense of effort. Don’t try and control your breathing……just let it happen.  Our interest has to be, to reduce any interference with our breathing such as stiffening or holding our breath.  This little exercise helps us ‘get out of the way of ourselves’, so it can happen naturally without the interference of our habits.

See how you feel afterwards.   You may feel calmer and clearer headed.   Do this little exercise regularly to help yourself be at your best.

 

The post Improve your breathing appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/improve-breathing/feed/ 0
Forward and up http://www.alexander-technique.com/forward/ http://www.alexander-technique.com/forward/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:02:56 +0000 http://www.alexander-technique.com/?p=1166 When we have lessons in the Alexander Technique we learn about FM Alexander’s unique method of eliminating harmful postural habits and how to revive the natural poise we enjoyed as young children. We discover it is a method of thinking, … Continue reading »

The post Forward and up appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
When we have lessons in the Alexander Technique we learn about FM Alexander’s unique method of eliminating harmful postural habits and how to revive the natural poise we enjoyed as young children. We discover it is a method of thinking, not doing to change our muscular co-ordination, the foundation of all our movements.  We learn to ‘inhibit’ our habitual reactions and impulsive actions by ‘stopping’ and saying “No”, so we have the time and opportunity to choose whether to proceed with the movement or not, and if so to choose how we proceed.  We effectively change our muscular co-ordination by conscious control. We learn the step-by-step thinking process that taps into our innate instinct for healthy poise and co-ordination that we have from birth.  As FM Alexander said, “The right thing does itself”.

We learn to give Alexander Directions (thoughts) in order to send electrical impulses through our nervous system to bring about a new muscular co-ordination. These directions are “Neck to be free, head to go forward and up, back to lengthen, back to widen and knees forward and away.” These directions are thought (not done as a physical adjustment) and are given with a clear intent and meaning. They are given one after the other and they combine together to bring about an overall quality of freedom and expansion, so enabling the body to function according to it’s design…or how we’ve evolved over millions of years.

If there is one part of the sequence of Directions that causes misunderstanding and uncertainty it is the phrase “head to go forward and up”. I want to look at this in a little more detail.

Forward and up 1 250When illustrated, the direction “Head to go forward and up” is often indicated by a diagonal arrow pointing a few degrees forward of the vertical, almost in line with the slightly sloping nape of the neck. But this is actually a shorthand for a sequence of smaller, combined thoughts or directions. There are great benefits in thinking this through in more detail.

Firstly we wish the “Neck to be free”. Neck tension is mostly in the large muscles behind the skull which pull the head backwards and downwards. These unwanted tensions pull the head off balance, compress the spine and upset our whole co-ordination. We function at our best when we are lengthening in stature, not shortening.  These tensions upset what Alexander called the Primary Control. Freeing the neck involves thinking it free, not doing something. However it can be helped by allowing the head to naturally pivot forwards on the top vertebrae of our spine (the Atlas) which is located roughly between our ears. It is important to remember that the neck is a continuation of our back and we should not drop the neck downwards from the 7th vertebrae (widow’s hump) but think of the spine being roughly vertical in overall alignment (allowing for natural gentle curves).  By ‘dropping our nose’ we allow the head to pivot on the Atlas at the top by telling the big muscles to release at the back of the skull. This takes some of the head weight off the spine so it can lengthen.

Now to the main point….

“Head to go forward and up”, means that the skull should be instructed (by thought) to go forward from the top of the skull then upwards.  So if we consider the earlier instruction that is similar to an arrow going diagonally upward at an angle, think of that as the hypotenuse of a right-angle triangle and this fuller two-part instruction being the horizontal side followed by the vertical side of the triangle.

Incidentally the jaw should be allowed to hang freely from the TMJ with the mouth closed and the tongue should be relaxed at the floor of the mouth. Think of the jaw to go forwards within the face to release it further.

Directing your head forward needs more explanation.  After the pivot forward on the Atlas to release the neck a little, intend by your thoughts for your head to travel horizontally across the Atlas vertebrae. Anatomists may say this is not possible, but remember we are dealing with thoughtful directions, not physical adjustments.

Forward and up in two phases 1  252The head should be ‘sent’ forward across tipping point of the top of the spine (ensuring that we do not jut our neck forward in the process). Think the head to shift forward across its balancing point on the Atlas so more of its weight is in front of the balancing point.  If allowed the head’s own weight will bring about this shift as it is not centrally balanced anyway, 60% in front and 40% behind. It is worth giving considerable time to this part of the directions…. more than a few seconds or several minutes.  But we must be careful not to ‘come down’ in front and lose stature, so we must now add the second phase of this direction “upwards” completing the combined sequence of ‘Forward and Up’. The skilled hands of a qualified Alexander Technique teacher will be able to bring about this change in a pupil to give them the experience.

By separating the direction “head to go forward and up” into two phases, we can gain far greater enhancement to our Primary Control, bringing about better overall co-ordination, release of lower back tension, changes in walking and making us more dynamic and agile.  We complete the series of directions in sequence, including “Back to lengthen, back to widen, knees forward and away’.

There are wonderful benefits in giving this a great, great deal of thought…..

 

The post Forward and up appeared first on Alexander Technique – London - Noel Kingsley.

]]>
http://www.alexander-technique.com/forward/feed/ 0