I am a twenty-six-year-old massage therapist and pole-dance teacher, and I enjoy kick boxing, pole dancing and cycling as hobbies. I train a lot. I was doing kick boxing four times a week as well as pole dancing four times a week. I think I was even doing trampolining at the point when I started Alexander lessons, I was running, and I’m a massage therapist as well. And I cycle everywhere.
The Alexander Technique teacher at the clinic where I work asked me if I would like to have some free lessons. I thought the lessons were absolutely amazing. I think I regained control of my body. I had always thought that my body carried me around, not that I carried my body around or that I could control it.
I got a lot out of my lessons. I realised how much easier stuff could be if I lengthened myself and how much freer, how much stronger I could be. I was able to allow the energy to pass through me instead of cutting it off. Training became much easier. I became more confident in my body and what it could do when I just relaxed about it and let it do its job. If I let it go, then I got so much more output than when I tried just to control power without actually letting power go through me. I found that I used the Alexander Technique before I would fight or compete, and that was really good. It relaxed my nerves.
It’s been absolutely amazing in pole dancing because it has given me the ability to perform certain moves which I had written off as impossible because I was not flexible enough, like back bends, certain movements on the pole, a fish roll, even just doing the splits on the pole. Using the Alexander Technique and being able to do these movements, I have virtually opened up a whole new world for myself knowing that, ‘Yes, I am capable of these moves because I have been able to improve my flexibility’. I have the confidence to say, ‘Yes, you know what? My body can do these things’, and it’s really exciting.
I use it in cycling and that’s been really good too. One thing that always stays with me is that the teacher told me to free my eyes; so now when I need to look up, I just lift my eyes and don’t stiffen my neck to pull my head back. The Alexander Technique improved the speed and ease of cycling.
Everything I apply the Alexander Technique to is easier. In kick-boxing class we were doing ‘floor to ceiling’, where you touch the floor and then jump up to the touch the ceiling. We were told to do fifty. I have never been able to do fifty in one go; I would have to break and rest, and it was the first time ever that I was able to do fifty (which nobody else could do), and I did it using the Alexander Technique.
My teacher took me down to the park and showed me how to run when I was preparing for my first half marathon. Again, it just made my body lighter. I didn’t seem to be carrying so much weight. Being able to have something to come back to or giving your directions kind of takes your mind away from the ‘gruel’ of it, and before you know it, you’ve been directing for twenty to forty minutes and you’re like, ‘Oh no way, I’ve done all this distance!’, because it kind of takes you away. It makes time go; it makes running easier. You kind of go off somewhere. It’s really, really good!
So there was my stretching as well. Now I really, really use it with my stretching. I would stretch after a session, I stretched for an hour the other day and it didn’t feel like an hour at all but, because I was really taking my time and using the Alexander Technique, I could not believe it when I looked at the clock. Normally I would stretch for ten minutes, and at an hour I was like ‘Wow’.
I did lie down in semi-supine before my pole-dance competitions. I found it a lot easier to use the Alexander Technique during a performance. Because I was not so rushed, I knew what I was doing and I could take my time, and I know where I was lengthening. I can practise that during the actual move. A fight isn’t choreographed, so it seems much more rushed. I think that’s my ultimate challenge, to be able to use Alexander within something that is so sporadic and panicky and rushed, because I think it will buy me that time, or get me into
that time-free zone: that’s really what I need to be able to do, take my time and pace it.
The physical benefit has been absolutely amazing and has given me confidence in my body. I felt like I was limited before; I don’t feel limited physically at all now. Also, mentally it has given me so much more confidence, to be able to regain control, not just over my body, but also over my emotions. Because I know that, if I feel panicky, I can do the ‘Whispered Ah’.
That also helped me not to restart smoking. It made me a lot calmer. I feel a lot calmer within my normal everyday life, emotionally, because I can combat stress in a much better way, and I have started using my lying down even more now. I feel that it is not just the physical aspect at all; my mental wellbeing, my emotional wellbeing. I used to have counselling. Since I started learning the Alexander Technique, I haven’t felt the need. Though my counselling sessions are finished, I have felt quite content and know that, if I ever feel disturbance, I can always go back to the Alexander Technique, and it’s something that I can do by myself, which is really, really nice.
The only bad thing I would say is that is has taken me so long (thirty lessons). I think I ’m only starting to realise now that I am in control of the Alexander Technique. Whereas I did rely heavily on my teacher. I think she was a magician, in being able to allow my body to react and have these responses, and I associated that with having the lessons. But now I feel, ‘No, it is something that I can do by myself and it works just as well’. It is empowering: I’m a magician too! It is very, very nice, but I still feel like I need the teacher, because the further I get with it the more questions I have. If I’d had five and stopped, I wouldn’t have continued with it, but the more I’ve continued with lessons the more I’ve continued to use it, and the more I apply it to everything. I want to be able to apply it to literally everything that I do.
I know that it works, I know it does, because it does! If you apply it, if you use it. But you have to use it.