The Alexander Technique has been present in my life since I had a serious problem with my wrist. As an accordion player, when I was seventeen years old I developed tendonitis of my left wrist. Among other therapies, and after asking for a solution ‘everywhere’, a physiotherapist tried to help me by treating the inflammation with cortisone, so I could continue playing. Time passed, and my playing depended on how my wrist responded each time, for each repertoire and each different stimulus, connected to an unknown response. My wrist has been very vulnerable and my worry was always about it. I continued asking for information. In the meantime, a physiotherapist told me that my tendonitis had become chronic.
Some years later, I lived in Rome, where I played concerts, but my wrist was still hurting. For a musician having such a constant negative isn’t comfortable. One day I found an Alexander Technique advertisement and I decided to try it, while being very sceptical.
From the beginning of my AT work with my first teacher, I realised that the problem wasn’t my wrist! It was what I was doing with myself AT lessons showed me clearly that I wanted to be involved in Alexander training.
I trained in Amsterdam between 1997 and 2001. After, I returned to Spain where my teaching started privately. Later, I initiated a teaching programme for AT in a conservatory (Musikene, Basque Country) in parallel with teaching AT and the accordion privately, in order to develop AT work for musicians in my country. I still give Alexander Technique lessons there, along with teaching the accordion.
But in October 2003, I suffered a terrible car accident (in a taxi, going to teach lessons in the music school). The taxi driver died and I suffered trauma to my head and face broken socket of my right eye, a broken
nose, broken upper jaw bones (both the right and left sides) as well as a broken pelvic bone, and a broken ankle.
I slept in the intensive care unit for some days in an induced coma until it became possible to operate on my swollen face. Thanks to a tracheotomy, I could breathe through my trachea, and Dr Llop in Cruces Hospital in Bilbao was in charge of surgery that many specialists afterwards considered to be a great success. No doubt, in my opinion, the surgical aspect of the medicine has developed in such a way that human beings have to appreciate it.
My recovery has been a real journey, but I have to admit that from the moment I awoke in the hospital room after the operation, my body was so damaged that I realised that psychological power took over. Somehow I opened my eyes and saw who was there: I felt the happiest person in the world.
My conclusion is that when the physical side is so damaged, the psychological helps and gives you power to smile. Those moments were the happiest ones in my life, even if it sounds incredible.
The recovery was long, and at first the hardest was the tracheotomy and the problems associated with it when I couldn’t breathe freely, nor could I talk. The feeling of having a ‘hole’ through which you breath, sometimes not freely because it is blocked by blood and other problems, causes huge interference in the whole system: the fear reflex is present and the shortening of the whole structure is immediate.
When the tracheotomy started to be less vulnerable, I felt stronger (even if I couldn’t stand up). I remember one day I tried to stand when I found myself alone for a moment in my hospital bedroom. Mentally, I was sure I could stand up, but my proprioception didn’t function properly, and I fell. I realised that I couldn’t yet stand up. My mental orders were clear, but my body was not able and wasn’t ready yet: I didn’t have any support from my musculature. When many parts in our bodies are broken somehow the wholeness gets disconnected.
During my recovery after leaving the hospital, I had to lie down for some months to allow the broken bones of my pelvis to reattach themselves to their natural location. Not moving or standing was the only way to allow the bones to find their place again. In the meantime, my ankle had been immobile for too long, causing a limitation in the range of movement. After long months practising, I learnt to walk again and while the physiotherapists were insistent about the position of my feet, I remember thinking, ‘my head leading’ in my little first steps. Many months exercising in tepid water was a good training as well, to develop my musculature and connect my parts into a ‘whole’.
My eye socket and face bones were pinned in the right place with titanium plates, but the connection of the trigeminal nerve to my upper lip was damaged, which caused partial paralysis and a loss of feeling in the upper lip. Even today, this remains, and I have limited movement in my maxillary, temporal and frontal face bones because of mucus. Osteopathy helps.
The broken eye socket resulted in diplopia. But the diplopia, even though it remains today, was not such a problem after I realised that the best solution was to articulate the head from the atlanto-occipital joint and, going down the stairs (where I see double), just moving my head to avoid that angle.
The ophthalmologist told me once that the ease with which I could move my head in every direction was great(!); this was the result of just thinking of releasing my neck and my head going forward and up.
I remember, even in the hospital bed, that I was thinking about my neck being free, and somehow my system was alert to my thinking. I didn’t decide to think about it at any point, it just came.
I visited a physiotherapist and osteopath: her opinion was that it is incredible that I don’t have migraines, cervical problems and there are no problems with the sacrum at all. She thought that the medical team treating me had done a fantastic job. Then I told her that I’m an Alexander Technique teacher, and it is clear to me that my sensitivity to proprioception helped me a lot in my journey, a journey that hasn’t finished, of course. During the autumn of 2013, I had another Operation to take a piece of titanium and five screws from my facial bones (twenty-five screws still remain in place...) that were causing problems with my teeth. It was hard to go back to my surgeon, and to consciously choose to enter the operating theatre. But it was, shall we say, the ‘last chapter’.
I would like to say a special thanks to my AT training teachers, and to my first Alexander teacher. Thanks to whole my family and my love, of course! And to the important persons in my life.
For the first time after seven years, I drove a car. I drove my baby to her music lesson. It took me a long time to get to the point where, realising that the fear was there, suddenly I felt I could drive again.
Dr Chouza, my psychiatrist, helped me to free my mind to try and control the fear. I was convinced that I would never drive again. Today, I know that I am able to drive, but I have to use my consciousness to control, not my own fear of driving, but the worry of being hurt by another driver. For that reason, I prefer to drive only when necessary.
Our mental state is the most important element, no doubt about it.
Almost twelve years have passed. I am the mother of a girl and a boy, and am pregnant again (the baby due in the autumn of 2015). I never would have imagined having three babies; it was a very clear decision for me, because now I know that life happens just once, and you’ve got to go for whatever you feel is important we don’t know where we’re going to be tomorrow.
My first baby (2008) was delivered in hospital because I was afraid, due to my broken pelvis. Even if everything seemed to be fine, I didn’t dare have her at home. My second baby (2012) was delivered at home, and even though he was in a posterior position, by crawling I delivered him quite easily, and the dilatation went perfectly in ‘monkey’. So, since 2003, the unity of my primary control has given me more power in all senses of the word.
I think now that the Alexander Technique development of oneself is full of small surprises which come when you don’t expect them, and our ‘leitmotiv’ is the key: STOP and THINK.
Slowly the episode of the accident has given me the consciousness to be in the present, and slowly I want to bring to the fore of my memory the hours that I have forgotten, and that are not part of myself. Nowadays I try (without end-gaining) to remember what happened before and after the accident; slowly images come. Don’t fear: stop and think, and it will come, because it is part of my life and my mind has it hidden somewhere...
I realised that our mind is our treasure: our conscious control comes from there. So, the more we stop, the more we react as we really are. And after a traumatic experience, our mind needs time, space and trust to be open again: somehow I experienced a ‘closing door’ in my mind (fear of the environment). Now, thanks to my babies as well as the experience of delivery at home, thanks to love around me and music, this ‘door’ in my mind is opening slowly, as if saying, ‘welcome to the world again’.