As part of my own wellbeing I have been having Alexander Technique lessons! I started just before the Holidays and wrote this after my first session (It took me a little while to write it with being on holiday).

From my dance training we did bits of it within technique sessions but this time was the first time to have a complete Alexander Technique session. The reason I wanted to try it was because I hold tension in my body and with massage therapy being so physical I wanted some help, but alongside that I had heard it was a great way to help with my Marathon training!

I found Adrian Farrell  who is based locally and just a short drive from the North Finchley Clinic. I had met him a few times at various events and knew how passionate he was about the technique

Adrian explained what the technique was and described it as a form of embodied mindfulness, letting go of habitual tension and moving in ways that don’t encourage the old habits to return. Special attention is paid to the relationship between the head and the spine as an unbalanced head has a knock on effect to everything below it.  Ive always looked from the feet upwards so was interested to find out more.

One thing he did say to me was that he wasn’t the “posture police” and he doesn’t try and change people’s posture by telling them what they should do, but guides them to use their bodies in ways that works best for each person, and an improved posture is a by-product if that’s what’s available to them. From my background in knowing that everybody’s tissues and bodies are completely different, this made lots of sense.

Alexander Technqiue LondonWe started the lesson with letting him move my head without me doing the work, which, was actually really hard! I tried to close my eyes during this which made it even more difficult as he explained I had placed my focus inwards and overly focusing on the thing I was trying not to do, and getting in its way! Instead he encouraged me to keep my awareness wider and out to the space around and above me. It seems the Alexander Technique is more to do with what you don’t do as we’re always getting in our own way.

He chose a few movements to work with, which were sitting and standing (though he said it could be any movement) and rather than focusing the brain on telling the body to sit and stand as I would normally think of that movement, he changed the neural pathway by focussing on the movements at the joints, rather than any predetermined movement that our minds and body expect, such as my habitual way of sitting and standing.

I already felt taller and my head felt lighter! Next we headed to the therapy couch and the movements were about letting go rather than stretching, parts of my body found this easier than others (my right shoulder wasn’t too keen on letting go!)

One thing Adrian did say was to get some Constructive Rest in; lying down with your head rested on a book and knees up. I adopt meditation into my week but always sitting so this is my task to add this into my relaxation time.

Alexander Technique and RunningNext was the running bit which I was quite excited about. He looked at my trainers and we chatted about different styles of trainers and that thick soles at the heel aren’t always the best because they encourage you to think you’re supposed to land on your heel (you’re not!). That is not to say you should change to flat soled trainers immediately as that can have it’s own problems, it is about changing gradually. Coming from a Dance background I do know that you don’t get the same feedback in your feet when you wear shoes (Which Adrian discussed also).

When running he gave me these tips:

  • If you jump up and down on the spot, that’s similar to how you want your foot to strike the ground when running, but much less pronounced. You really don’t want to land on your heel or look like a prancing pony.
  • Let your foot strike the ground underneath your hips with the foot already travelling backwards. This conserves momentum compared to landing on your heal with your foot striking the ground forward of your hips.
  • Lean forward from the ankles. This is your accelerator, the more you lean the faster you’ll go. It’s effectively controlled falling. As you go faster open up your stride behind
  • Drive your knees forward rather than your feet.
  • Pull your elbows back as you run rather than driving the arms forwards.

 

One thing we did do was run outside barefoot… yes barefoot in November! Apart from my toes being a little chilly it was quite interesting, when I followed the tips above I ran a lot quicker (always a bonus to be able to aim to finish a marathon in less time!)

So after session one, I realised I needed more than just a one off to make a difference so I am having a course to really get to grips with letting go and letting go in my running!

If you want some help letting go and want to try Alexander Technique, then contact Adrian via his website here.