I am a musician and composer in my early forties. By the time I reached my early thirties, I had had three serious whiplash injuries in the previous twenty years, resulting in pain all over my back and constant headaches. I had been doing Tai Chi for something like eight or nine years and was considered to be a senior student who knew what he was doing. But Tai Chi was aggravating the problem in my back, so, reluctantly, I had to let go of that and find something else. I started yoga and the Alexander Technique at the same time.
The Tai Chi teacher had told me about me about the Alexander Technique in the past and I had read The Use of the Self, but then I met someone who had some kind of congenital problem with her spine and lots of back problems. She had gone down the medical route and said that the Alexander Technique had helped her enormously, and that was what made me think I'd go and have a lesson.
The effects have been that I rarely have headaches, and I'd say I get twenty percent of the back problems that I had then. I did yoga classes for about a year, and I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it because I could do it, but after a year of that I realised that my back hurt as much as it did in the beginning.
After about a year or so, I heard of a friend who had been for yoga therapy in London after pregnancy and did one-to-one sessions, so then I pursued that route. I had also Desikachars's Heart of Yoga. It seemed to be very intelligent, and a very balanced view, but there were also some things that attracted me. For instance, he was talking about how to measure one's progress in yoga, saying that it's not about how you can stand on your head or how far you can stretch. It is in one's relationships with other people that you measure your progress. Reflecting on that and the attitude of the teacher, I started to think that there was something missing. Anyway, I went for one-to-one lessons with the teacher who gave me a really simple practice, nothing fancy whatsoever, for ten to fifteen minutes, and I would always use the Alexander Technique to do the yoga. It is difficult to separate the benefits of the Alexander Technique and yoga if you do both at the same time.
After I'd had maybe ten or twenty Alexander Technique lessons I could say there was an improvement in my back. Finally, I was able to do something to get some improvement. Then, I guess it was probably four or five years after going to see the second yoga teacher, she invited me on a course with her teacher. He basically works in such a similar way to the Alexander Technique, but one of his strong teaching points is how to focus on the mind while practicing the posture, and there was an enormous similarity between his concepts and the Alexander Technique. I would say I probably get equal benefit from each. He is a remarkable man. He can bring you to the same place, if you want to call it that, the same experience in a similar way (without having to touch you) as a really good Alexander teacher.
I still go and see a chiropractor regularly, I still get aches in my back, my neck still gets locked up.
Through the Technique, I've realised that there are things I do that aggravate those whiplash injuries. But the other side to it is my attitude to life. I find that I'm calmer, have a clearer head. I'm able to concentrate in a less restrictive way. I find that I enjoy things more, I enjoy my life much more. I have more pleasure. Everything in life is much richer, which means that the difficult things in life are much more vivid. I experience the negative emotions much more fully than I did, but I am able to just let them pass quicker than they did; so the difficult things in life are just a little bit less difficult. The pleasurable things in life are a little bit more pleasurable. This is after something like one hundred lessons over a period of ten years; so it's no magic bullet. I had fifty-five lessons with my local teacher. I must have had twenty-five to thirty days in Alexander teacher-training schools; so I'm a bit of an Alexander groupie!