Category Archives: health

Alexander Technique and Horses part 3

“Muscles are designed to tense and contract a lot more quickly than they are designed to release. This is a very useful mechanism for helping us to get out of trouble in a hurry. Scientists call it the fight/flight response. However both horses and humans often find that these fight/flight responses can get out of hand.”

“The openness of your hands Martha’s neck and shoulder muscles a standard of ease towards which they can move. In order to do this her muscles need a sense of time and space … a moment of stillness and pause. Think of your hands simply melting like warm butter onto Martha’s neck'”

Laura stuck with the process. Martha started to move her heed gently from side to side and up and down a few times and then took several deep, sighing breaths. I noted this with some interest – humans often take a few deep breaths when they are starting to release the constrictions of the day during the course of an Alexander lesson. “I think I feel some release in Martha’s neck” Laura said with a mixture surprise and disbelief in

her voice.

“Yes I think you probably do” I confirmed “Now gently take your hands off Martha ‘s neck” Laura, hooked as she was into the process, looked disappointed but followed my suggestions.

“Pause for a moment. Give yourself the time and space to project your Alexander directions… allowing your neck to be free … your head to balance freely on top of your spine… and your back to lengthen and widen,”

Like many horses Martha had tendency to slightly drop and hollow her back and to trail her back legs.

“How would we deal with this using the Alexander Technique?” Laura was now wondering.

“In much the same way as we would deal with the corresponding tendency in humans. I usually begin by helping a pupil to balance their head and neck more effectively and then start working on their lower back, buttocks and knees.”

By the time Laura had work her way down to Martha’s buttocks and legs Martha’s head and neck had dropped down, her lower lip was trembling and she looked very peaceful and somewhat drowsy.

We realised that it was darker outside and had, without us noticing, become quite dim in the stable. We took Martha for a short walk in the field outside. She was a little bit disorientated for the first few minutes and then seemed to find her feet again.

VIENNESE GRANNIES

This is a tale of how two Alexander Technique teachers’ were humiliated by a Viennese granny.
They do really do Christmas cheer well in Vienna. All the atmosphere and none of the stress of the UK. They even lay-on snow! Most years anyway…

My partner and I took a walk in Cobenzl, the Vienna woods, of a Sunday afternoon. A bit of a thaw had set in. The paths were perilously icey with only the edges still a little bit snowy. My partner had recently sustained a knee injury in Scottish country dancing ( that’s another story! ) and was doubly cautious. We crept stiffly along the side of the path staring fixedly at the ground two feet in front of us… when a Viennese granny powered past us at a high rate of knots, smiling broadly and drinking in the glorious surroundings with her eyes!

“How embarrassing” said my partner…“Yes, love, but you’ve got to consider that she’s got two specialised walkers’ sticks”And then a couple of runners, about our own age, overtook us, apparently oblivious to the danger underfoot!We crept on.
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Not to be defeated, I asserted “But these Viennese know how to select the right type of ice gripping footwear.” A family, with three kids, ranging from nine to thirteen years, all wearing standard, international brand, trainers swept past us, deep in happy conversation… I decided to keep my mouth shut.
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My partner, a Viennese resident, said “The Austrians just do snow so much better than we Brits. They all ice-skate and toboggan from infancy. They go on obligatory skiing courses in secondary school. And they all learn to waltz in sixth form. Here in the forest at least they are the Alexander experts.”
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We didn’t adapt to ice anything like as easily as we adapted to water in Venice. But we still applied the Alexander Technique. When we walked we just walked. And when wanted to look we stopped. “Inhibited” to use the Alexander jargon. And marveled at the snowy, Christmas card, forest around us.

Venetian Grannys, posture & Alexander Technique

I’ve tended to take a pretty negative view of how environment and daily activities affect our co-ordination. Think of how the computer buff (most of us nowadays) shapes their physical structure, day after day, as they peer intently into their laptop. I’m happy to say that I’ve recently had two very pleasant experiences to challenge this view – a holiday in Venice and another in Vienna. Lucky me!

If you’ve visited Venice you’ll know about the vaporetto, the water bus service. The vaporetto stops are floating platforms (pontoons) that rock on the, mostly, gentle waves. It’s pretty easy to distinguish between tourists and locals. From an Alexander point of view the locals are more “up” and “poised” than the tourists – at least when they are travelling by water.

Here is a YouTube of one of these floating platforms aken from a vaporetto as it approaches…

Why do I say this? As the pontoon or vaporetto rocks and rolls tourists tended to look for something to grasp onto. Despite the wonders of Venice around them, tourists sometimes looked a bit tight and pulled down. The locals by contrast seemed easy and poised – even the elderly and quite frail Venetians stood unsupported and simply rolled with the waves.

More interesting still is the Traghetto – a gondola that ferries you across the canal from bank to bank. It’s used mostly by locals. It seems to be a point of pride with the locals to stand in these relatively small and precarious wooden craft as they navigate across the line of heavy water traffic. The few tourists who ride them seem to, quite wisely, sit on the benches.

I’I also speculated on the surprising fitness and trimness of these poised Venetian senior citizens. Well if you live in Venice you are a walker by definition – no cars, no bicycles. Just shanks pony and the boat!

Well, I decided that I had a vocational duty to ride the Venetian currents like a local. Let go of the hand-holds Alan! Free your neck, send your head up, lengthen and widen your back, roll with the waves and feast your eyes!