British Soldier, Australian Alexander Technique Teacher

Mike McGurgan


I was serving as a warrant officer in the elite corps on peace-keeping duties in Northern Ireland during the 1970's when one of my men began behaving oddly. When he was transferred out, having being diagnosed with what is now called PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), I began researching. I started reading up o the subject. One book had a reference to the Alexander Technique, and that began the quest. But it was eleven years before I was able to experience a lesson, when an advert appeared in the local newspaper on the Isle of Man. By this time I had completed my pensionable engagement and retired from military life. the advert said 'Alexander Technique' and gave a telephone number. They were the only words I saw on the page! The teacher was on the Island for only ten days so I booked five lessons on the spur of the moment - it just felt right!


Following the directions I was given, I parked and walked towards the main road, not realising that I had parked on the wrong side of it. Not finding the cottage, I asked a passing young lady, 'Could you tell me the way to Rose Cottage, please?' She replied, 'you must be Mike!'


Seeing the look of incredulity on my face, she replied 'I teach the Alexander Technique. I'm staying at Rose Cottage and my next client - in ten minutes time - is Mike!'


'Bloody Hell!' I said, 'what a technique!'


So as we walked toward the cottage we just kept bursting out laughing and by the time we reached it, it was as if we'd known each other all our lives.


I don't remember much about the first lesson, except that there was some chair work and a table turn, and a cup of tea. But when I walked back to my car it was as if all the 'treacle' had dissolved, (that's the only way I can describe it). It was as if, previous to the lesson, my movements had been restricted like I was wading through treacle. 


Also, having suffered from constipation since childhood, it was wonderful, that evening to have a 'normal' bowel movement.


The next four lessons passed all too quickly, and then there was a three-month wait until the teacher returned to the Island. This had occurred four more times, when one day she said, 'Have you thought about training to teach the Technique?'


I said, 'I couldn't do what you do.' And she said, 'oh yes, you could, think about it'.


Three months later, when she returned and put her hands o my shoulders, I was sitting in a chair, she exclaimed 'Good God! What have you been doing to yourself?' I said that I'd been thinking about what had been said previously and that there were too many problems in the way.


Her reply was, 'Well, who is making the problems? Why don't you take a step at a time and just see what happens!'


So the next morning, early, before breakfast, I looked through the information that I had, and four training schools leapt out at me. After writing letters, I received invitations from them to call. So I worked out an itinerary.


After visiting the schools and being almost overwhelmed with friendliness and the attention I received, and the concerns for my welfare, I reluctantly returned to the Isle of Man. Within five months I had sold my business, separated from my then-wife of twenty years and relocated to Exeter, within easy commuting distance of the Alexander Technique school that I had chosen to attend.


The three-year training course I found amazing, with students aged from twenty-five to sixty-eight years, and occupations ranging from a physiotherapist with a practice near Harley Street, to a plasterer, an actor, a document translator, a Danish girl (whose training and expenses were paid for by the Danish government!) and a German theatre manager, actor and acrobat, who was living and working in Sweden. Then there was me with my military posture that took eighteen months to even begin to free up, so that I could breathe with ease, and in the process release twenty-two years or more of emotional holding, and so come to terms with my own PTSD. The course was a roller coaster, with periods of intense calm and beauty, and extreme emotion, which passed all too quickly.


On graduating in July 1996, I returned to the Isle of Man, and with the help of friends, was accommodated and set up in practice, firstly in a 'front room' in a private house, and eventually in purpose-built premises co-located with a doctor in private practice., with a receptionist and a 'brass plate' on the door!


In 2000, I met Amanda, when she brought her fifteen year-old daughter for a lesson. She was a single mother with three teenagers. Ever up for a challenge, I courted her for a year before we married in September 2001. Grace was born December 2002. One year later we moved off the Island, as it had become a 'tax haven', and tried living in Plymouth, England; then moved to Kerala, South India for a year, teaching in a school (attached to an ashram) and giving private lessons. It was during this year that we found Australia. To avoid 'the Wet' in India and to visit Amanda's relations, we holidayed in Australia and fell in love with the people, the country and the culture.


Back in India, we visited a neighbour who had originally come from Melbourne. She was married to an Ayurvedic doctor and had been recently appointed as an Australian immigration agent. We accepted her offer to begin the process of applying for a visa. We were her first clients. Three years later, we arrived in Tamworth, New South Wales! Amanda applied to an agency in Helsinki for an RN post the same day that Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital applied for an RN! The happy coincidences continued. Three days after arriving, Amanda was trying out a second-hand car when I noticed the number plate had her initials on it! It was meant to be.


The same day, we were called in to the estate agent's office to discuss a house that we had put an offer on, and found there was an option to rent the property while we were waiting for 'foreign investment approval', which took about eight weeks. We were in our own little home within three weeks of setting foot in Australia!


I  am not only a member of AUSTAT, but have been appointed to the Training Course Standing Committee as well as running a growing private practice. Amanda, visa requirements fulfilled, now works part-time. Grace has represented her school in swimming and athletics, and is growing into a 'typical Aussie'. Life is good!