Saturday, 27 September 2014

On 20:57 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    No comments
A blog about why some anatomy basics are useful in coordination work.

Welcome to the blog. We’re starting right away, so get comfy to read.

Let’s breathe fully and deeply once together, just so we’re both on the same page.

Ok. Let’s start.

Today’s blog will try to explain why I believe it’s important to know some basic anatomy in any attempt at trying to correct postural issues. I’ll be happy if by the time you’ve finished reading you are able to recognize anatomical knowledge as something alive, in constant development, something that grows from evolving ideas and sensory information.

What attracts you to the study of anatomy?

To beging with, let’s recap the paradigm from which we’ll look at the issue.

Unity: we learn with our mind and with our bodies, and we consider the body as an integrated whole.

Use-Function-Structure: we look at anatomy (structure) in relation to what function it performs, remembering that our use affects both.

The Coherence in our Design: everything in our anatomical design has a reason for being there.

Interferences to Accurate Perception: our ideas about our bodies and the feelings and sensations we get from it don’t always coincide, and sometimes our ideas are way off-center.

How above What: It’s more importante to understand how it works, how the bits and pieces relate to each other and to the whole, than to fill ourselves up with anatomical data and trivia that we cannot comprehend nor make practical use of.

The force of Habit: Old ideas die hard, like weeds… they come back again and again every time we let our guard down.

Let’s now consider why it’s a good idea to study some basic anatomy.

But before moving on, yawn and stretch. If we hold one attitude of mind and body for too long, our bodies and brains go numb. Move your tissues a bit to allow oxygenated blood to return to them.

Great. Let’s continue.

Does knowing anatomy guarantee I’ll have good posture?

No. If knowing anatomy automatically made you an elegantly poised individual, then all doctors, anatomists, physiotherapists and P.E. teachers would be paragons of good posture and carriage. Sadly, this is not the case.

What’s the use of studying anatomy then?

1. Good posture is a matter of coordination. If you’re not one of those naturally (and unconsciously) well-coordinated people, then you’ll have to learn conscious coordination. In order to do this, you need to be able to feel where your different body parts are and what they’re doing in relation to each other. And for this you’ll need to know your most important bits and how they feel.

2. Knowing basic anatomy (name, shape and feel of the main bones and joints) gives you a common language to be able to follow instructions in an intelligent way.

Even if you rank among the naturally well-coordinated, it’s not a bad idea to know how you’re doing it, for the following 4 reasons:
a) In case you lose it and want to get it back.
b) In case you get stuck in your progress in any physical discipline you practice.
c) In case you want to explain or teach someone else how you do what you do.
d) To open yourself up to other possibilities and choices you may not imagine you have.

Our bodies are fascinating universes waiting to be explored.

This is all for now.

See you next time.


Victoria

Saturday, 20 September 2014

On 00:16 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    2 comments
A blog about the importance of stretching and mobilizing.



Hi! How are you today? Good to see you around! Today we have a special blog.

But first; let us take a moment to fully arrive. Get comfy and share with me a few seconds of quietude, let us close our eyes and breathe deeply three times.

I like to give myself every so often a respite of inner silence, just so that I can better acknowledge that a new action is about to begin. It’s a way of honoring every new beginning. It also allows me to connect with the purpose of this new encounter, which would be hard to do if the inertia and noise of what came before was still active in me.

The purpose of this blog is to clarify why it’s important to mobilize daily all our tissues and joints.
I’d feel satisfied if at the end of your reading you feel a little more inspired to move your joints daily… even if you don’t start doing so right away.
So, knowing what this blog is about, what is your purpose for being here?

I’ll begin by revising the fundamental principles that underlie what I’ll suggest as a daily practice.

Then I’ll tell you a little about:
- why it’s important to move your joints daily
- what joints you should be moving
- how you should move your joints

Whenever you actually do this mobilization work, I suggest you remember that:

1. You’re a Unity: All your tissues are connected, which is why when you move one part of your body it is inevitably having an effect in the whole. Try therefore to be aware of your whole body as you move a part of it.

2. Your Use, Your Functions and Your Structure are all interrelated: Remember that body and mind are also a unity, which is why the quality of your attention and your thoughts will be affecting the quality of your tissues and the degree of tension in them.

3. If you Remove Interferences Everything becomes Easier: When your tissues and joints are tight, contracted and lacking space for free movement and expression, all actions that you undertake will require a lot more effort and tension. As you start gaining space and mobility in your joints, your physical and mental output will increase with half the effort you are exerting today.

4. Interferences are spotted as Perception becomes more Precise: The more perceptive you become, the more you’ll discover about your own functioning, and hence the better able you’ll be to catch your habits as they come in to interfere.

5. The Key to raising your Sensory Appreciation is keeping your Curiosity Alive: Your habits will want to make you believe that you already know everything about a certain action. Do not allow them to misguide you so. There is always something new to learn, one new layer to peel, from even the simplest action.

Why is it important to move your joints daily?
Cats, dogs, horses, toddlers to it instinctively and regularly.
Even you do it occasionally. A good yawn and stretch after a long day’s work.
The body and mind do so to self-regulate, especially after they have been fixed in one same position or attitude for a long time.

Mobilizing your structures with conscious awareness will also help you to:
1) rediscover the movement possibilities of your body;
2) recognize the effect of having a limber, loose and flexible body on every level of your being;
3) calming your mind and teaching it to inhabit the body, improving your ability to hold and focus your attention.
.
What joints should be moved?
The ideal, of course, is to move all of them in all possible directions and ranges.

Observe how dogs and cats do it, how they stretch, yawn, roll-over and around, twist and shake all over, and go on with their day.

If you prefer a more detailed guide, you can use the following:

Legs and Feet:
- tense and stretch your toes and feet
- rotate your ankles
- bend and straighten your knees
- allow your leg to loosely rotate in the hip socket, making circles inwards and outwards.

Arms and Hands:
- tense and stretch your fingers and hands
- rotate your wrists
- bend and straighten your elbows
- - allow your arms to loosely rotate in your shoulder joints, making circles inwards and outwards.

Head and Neck:
- gently say “yes”, “no” and “maybe” with your head, as if you were drawing lines and arcs with your nose in the air.
- Remember that your head meets your neck at the midpoint between your ears, right in the center of your head. As you move your head be aware of that pivoting point.

Eyes and Mouth:
- Squeeze your eyes and your jaw and then open them wide.
- Yawn deep and wide and unabashedly.
- Think of something funny or sweetly pleasurable and allow that memory to bring a true smile to your face, one that shines in your mouth and eyes.

Trunk:
- Interlace the fingers of your hands, straighten your arms, and stretch forward, up, slightly back, sideways and twisting around side to side.

How should you move your joints?
This series of gently stretches and movements can be practiced by anyone. The important thing is to do it consciously aware of each movement.

Remember to breathe. When we concentrate sometimes we hold our breaths, and this generates unnecessary tension in our systems. Breathe freely and in rhythm with each movement.

If you do the full practice, remember to take frequent breaks to rest body and mind between one exercise and the next. If you are not used to taking your attention into your body, the practice can be at first quite tiring. So allow your body and mind to wander a bit between exercises, and then gently rein them back in for the next set.

Ok, that’s all for today.
Stretch. Yawn. Make it big, exaggerated and noisy.
Get rid of the cricks, cobwebs and lethargy.
Expand, contract and expand again, like an acordion.

See you next time.

Victoria

Saturday, 13 September 2014

On 13:11 by Victoria Stanham in ,    No comments
A blog about the basis of the work in the Alexander Technique
 

Hello. Welcome to the blog.
Before we begin, take a few seconds to get comfortable to read.

Ready?
Good. Now, close your eyes and allow a deep inhale to happen, filling you up with air, and exhale, long and sweetly, emptying your lungs of all residual waste. Repeat the cycle 2 more times.

Now we’re really ready. Let’s begin.

Today’s blog is about the 5 fundamental ideas (or beliefs) that explain the work we do with the Alexander Technique.
My objective is to share these ideas with you in the briefest and clearest way possible.

But before you go on reading, consider:
What do you want to get out of this blog? Is your objective aligned with what I am offering?

The Alexander Technique has its own fundamental principles (the full list appears at the very end of this blog). All these principles are in some way included in the 5 key ideas I will explain. Working with these ideas as a platform implied a particular “way of being and perceiving” in this world.

The 5 key ideas are:
1. The indivisible unity of the organism.
2. Use is a constant that affects the structure and its functioning.
3. The right thing does itself if you remove the interferences.
4. Use improves by improving the quality of perception.
5. Change happens when we understand the mechanism and force of habit.

Let’s explain the reach of eash idea.

1. The indivisible unity of the organism.
- Body and Mind are inseparable.
This implies that what happens in the body is a reflection of an idea, and vice-versa.
- You cannot change a part without altering the whole in the process.
This applies both to the interrelationship between body and mind, and to the interrelationship between parts of the body itself, or between ideas.

2. Use is a constant that affects the structure and its functioning.
- We use ourselves (body and mind) constantly.
Living means using our body and mind all the time. “Using” yourself implies “directing” the functioning of the structures in your body and mind, (in much the same way that “using” a pencil” implies “directing” its trajectory along a surface).
- The way we use ourselves changes us (for good or evil).
The way we use our bodies and minds affects their functioning and their structures.

3. The right thing does itself if you remove the interferences.
- The structural “design” of our body-mind system is “coherent” for the functions it has to perform.
That is, everything in your body-mind system has a reason for being there, an inherent logic. The most efficient thing to do is to use the structure according to its “design-logic”.
- Given the correct conditions, the design works efficiently and effectively.
When we give ourselves conditions that favour the logic of our design and we use ourselves respecting that logic, we do not waste energy in unnecessary actions that do not server our main purpose. We therefore have all our energy available to achieve that which we really want.

4. Use improves by improving the quality of perception.
- Perception is an act of consciousness which associates and idea to a sensation.
This means that a big part of our problems of functioning and of structure have their root in an incorrect interpretation of sensory data. We are ignorant of our own design. If we work on this coordination of ideas with sensations, we have a chance of improving our use.
- The way we perceive (interpret) quickly becomes a habit (automatic response), and stops requiring our conscious processing of sensations.
This  means that the basis of any work in chaning our use is to first make conscious that which has become unconscious. In this way we are able to uncover which ideas and sensations (interpretations) are at the foundation of our reactions.

5. Change happens when we understand the mechanism and force of habit.
- Habits are strong because they require no conscious thought-energy to be executed.
Habits are an automatic, a pre-set, ready-to-be-used response for specific stimuli. Habits of thought and action make up our lives and guide our daily actions.
- To overcome a habit, conscious thought-energy has to be applied every time we encounter the stimulus to action.

In order to do so, one has to first be aware of the habit, and then apply enough conscious thought-energy to undo the automatic response and guide the new response. One has to be ready to do this every time the stimulus presents itself; so patience, self-compassion and the ability to laugh at oneself are requisite. 

This is all for today.
Any questions, comments or doubts, you can write them down in the space for comments below, or send them to me in an email to vstanham@gmail.com

See you next time.

Victoria

--
List of the Principles of the Alexander Technique
  • Psychophysical Unity & Unity of the Organism
  • Use of the Self affects Functioning of the Self
  • Inhibition & Direction
  • The force of Habit & The Necessity of Saying ‘No’ to a Stimulus
  • The Primary Control
  • Unreliable Sensory Appreciation
  • The Means-Whereby Principle rather than End-Gaining & The Principle of Non-doing
  • Recognition of the need for Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual and of Use as The Universal Constant in Living to achieve Man’s Supreme Inheritance

Friday, 5 September 2014

On 15:27 by Victoria Stanham in    No comments

Hello! You’ve arrived at the blog.

Take a moment to fully arrive.

Allow your body to arrive: let go of the muscular effort you used to arrive here... no need to use that much effort and tension to read.

Allow your mind to arrive: is your attention here, on what you’re reading? Or are you still thinking about what you read a moment ago or of what you have to do after reading this blog?

Allow your emotional state to arrive: your emotions will tell you what your gut feeling this blog is, but only if you react to the present stimulus. If you’re still reacting to what happened before, or you’re anticipating a reaction to what will happen next, how will you know what your true reaction to the present situation really is?

Have you arrived? Good. Welcome to the blog.

This blog is about the sequence used in the Alexander Technique to foster a process of changing habits. The purpose of this blog is to clarify the sequence of overlapping steps involved in a process of conscious change.

As teacher and student of the Alexander Technique I see this sequence develop in my own process and in that of my students. However, since the sequence is not always self-evident, our change process may appear chaotic.

Learning to recognize the inherent direction within the chaos gives us a measure of peace… and a certain degree of control: we are able to then stop interfering with the natural order of things.

I’d like to show you one possible natural sequence in a process of change in the hopes that you’ll be able to recognize at what stage you are today and which is your next logical step to allow.

But first, you must choose your question about your process. You are going to receive a lot of information, both external (from this blog, from your surroundings) and internal (thoughts, emotions, muscular reactions). Having a clear question will help you organize this information, keeping what’s useful to you today, and letting the rest go.

Remember to check periodically your reactions (physical, mental, emotional) to what you’re reading. Your reaction provides you most of the data you need to process and organize. Also, take note of where your attention goes, since your reaction and the focus of your attention are intimately linked.

The structure of this blog follows the structure of an Alexander Technique lesson, and therefore of a process of change.
1)  We arrive. We arrive because we have a question to which we seek and answer. But in order to receive that answer, we need to honor the place where we came looking for it, we need to open up to listen to what is happening in the present moment.

2) We clarify our purpose. This implies coming into contact with our need, but also adjusting our request to what the context is able to provide. In other words, it’s no use asking for a vegan dish at the butcher’s.

3) We dive into the process. This part has two main components. One of them is provided by the seeker: his attention. The other is provided by the person in charge of the practice space: the practice proposal.

The nature of the proposal will depend on the stage of the process which the seeker is at.

First: We establish a common language. We need to familiarize ourselves with the tool before starting to use it.

Second: We apply the language to a simple action. Once we are familiar with the tool we can start using it for simple and controlled tasks.

Third: We apply the language to a more complex action. As we become more familiar and adept at using the tool, we start adding variables, experimenting with combinations that gradually look more and more like “real life” situations, where the stimuli are varied and unpredicatable.

Fourth: We apply the language in “real life”. Real life is where we find out how much we’ve advanced down the path of change; it will throw light on the areas where we’re still in the dark. It is therefore the best field in which to harvest our next question to feed our process.

And every so often, in between stages, or within each stage itself, we stop to rest, to allow the information to settle, to go “click!”. These resting stops are essential, do not skip them. Use them to: a) evaluate your progrees; and to b) decide your next step. But most of all, use them to: c) celebrate your victories, however small they may seem.

So, which stage are You at?

See you next time.


Victoria