Category Archives: moving with ease

Alexander Technique for Horses part 2

“Ok, then what happens? What do you do next?” Laura asked with growing curiosity.

“Well you don’t actually do anything as such. You continue to attend to your own all over balance as you place your hands on the horse. The hands are quietly attentive and enquiring. The more open and lengthened and widened your hands are the more sensitive they will be.”

“When you put hands on someone you can’t help affecting the recipient’s muscles. Muscles are attuned to the language of touch. The question is to get the touch happening in the right way so that the effect is positive rather than negative.”

Laura went on to place her hands on several different locations along the column of Martha ‘s neck. She took her time about doing this. Apart from being a mildly pleasant experience for all three of us there was nothing remarkable in what Laura felt with her hands or in Martha ‘s response.

Eventually Laura worked her way down to the base of Martha’s neck just above the shoulder blades. This is an area of profound constriction in many humans and Martha was proving to be no exception to this rule. Laura immediately picked this up.

“What do I do now?” she said excitedly.

“Exactly the same as before… Keep coming back to your own all over balance and to opening out your hands. It helped you to pick up the problem area perhaps it will also help you to release the tension this area.”

“Maybe you should take over now Alan” Laura said with a little concern.

“I don’t think so” I replied. A particularly peaceful atmosphere had descended over Laura, Martha and me. I didn’t think that Martha would appreciate me breaking the spell on account of my superior qualifications!

These Foots Were Made for Walkin’

I’ve just realised that most of my Alexander Technique blog musings have been done whilst walking. I absolutely love walking. I did a Google search for quotes about walking. There’s lots! And by some really smart folks too. I find myself in exalted company!

Here are a few quotes and links that I really liked:

 

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Take a two-mile walk every morning before breakfast. – Harry Truman (Advice on how to live to be 80.)

Above all do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday I walk myself into state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome hat one cannot walk away from it… if one keeps on walking everything will be alright. – Soren Kierkegaard

I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind works only with my legs.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau, Confessions

Meandering leads to perfection. Lao Tzu

I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me. – Fred Allen

He who limps is still walking. – Stanislaw J. Lec

My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing. – Aldous Huxley

Of all exercises walking is the best. – Thomas Jefferson

A fact bobbed up from my memory, that the ancient Egyptians prescribed walking through a garden as a cure for the mad. It was a mind-altering drug we took daily. – Paul Fleischman, Seedfolks

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility. – Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment… – Thich Nhat Hanh

Before supper take a little walk, after supper do the same. – Erasmus

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. – Paul Dudley White

The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose. – Charles Dickens

.It is solved by walking. – A Latin proverb


Our way is not soft grass, it’s a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upward, forward, toward the sun. – Ruth Westheimer


You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven today and we don’t know where the hell she is.” – Ellen Degeneres

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather as passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. – Raymond Inmon

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!