Tag Archives: Alexander Technique N1

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!