Bringing Balance to Your Life

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Reasoned Considerations


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A Ponder: a way to grow

By November 30th 2022

Quote by Stinissen
Quote by Stinissen: There is a time for each step (...).

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Tongue in cheek usages of the tongue

By November 20th 2022

drawing of a tongue and various movement activities
Illustration: Tongue in cheek usages of the tongue

Have you ever considered how we use our tongue? And how idiosyncratic our usage can be?

What is a tongue? A very brief introduction

The tongue is a strong fairly long muscle situated in the mouth. We use it for masticating, swallowing, talking, breathing, tasting for example. Its length varies on average between 7.9 and 8.5 centimetres. This muscle is anchored into the hyoid bone (or tongue bone) located in the front of the neck.

How we anecdotally use our tongue

Apart from masticating, swallowing, talking, breathing, tasting, we find other anecdotal usages for the tongue such as:

Dancing and the tongue

One day I heard one Wellbeing Improver reminiscing with a few friends about some childhood activities. She was saying that she used to go to dance classes and that she enjoyed them. What matters to us about her is that her mother always stated with a smile that, while this Wellbeing Improver was dancing, she would stick her tongue on the side of her mouth.

So, our first question is: how can the tongue be of any help to move our feet or our arms?

Rolling of the eyes and rolling the tongue

During a class, Wellbeing Improvers were asked to roll their eyes clockwise and anticlockwise. One of them was rather surprised by what she was doing and commented that she was accompanying the rolling of her eyes with circular movements of her tongue: she was going clockwise or anticlockwise with her eyes AND her tongue! To start with she was unable to disassociate the movements of the eyes from the movements of the tongue. Later on, unless she would give herself the time to think before rolling her eyes, the tongue would accompany the rolling of the eyes…

So, our second question is: how can turning our tongue clockwise or anticlockwise help with the rolling of our eyes clockwise or anticlockwise?

Writing and the tongue

We have all witnessed our own children or children in classrooms hold a pen in their hands and write. Have you ever paid attention to how many of them actually stick their tongue out while holding a pen and writing?

So, our question is: how can our tongue help hold a pen and write?

The reality of the anecdotal use

The short answer to the three previous questions is that the tongue does not help and cannot help. Simplistically put, the tongue as a muscle, cannot ‘help’ with voluntary movements such as moving the fingers, moving the feet or rolling the eyes.

Actually, we move just as well and very likely more easily, more simply provided we do not include a movement of our tongue in the activities we call dancing, rolling our eyes or writing.

Adding the movement of the tongue is one of our eccentricities and we manage to move our feet, to move our eyes, to move our finger NOT because of them but IN SPITE OF them.

This led F.M. to observe that

In short, energies are being projected to parts of the bodily mechanism which have little or no influence on the performance of the desired act of [dancing/rolling the eyes/writing]. (Man’s Supreme Inheritance, p. 80)

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Disassociation even though everything moves


An Everyday Activity: sitting and “pressure”

By November 10th 2022

Illustration: People sitting
Illustration: People sitting

Have you ever noticed that we might sit ok, even comfortably, at the beginning of our day or working day and that, if and when pressure, related to work or not, raises its ugly head, we no longer are?

Let’s have a look at the experiences three Wellbeing Improvers have brought to our movement sessions. Each one of them wanted to explore the activity of sitting. As we will see, they wanted to explore sitting AND something else: sitting and talking; sitting and writing; sitting and breathing.

Sitting and talking about personal stuff

For Wellbeing Improver A, sitting becomes rather uncomfortable after a while: she notices pain in her lower back as she is talking about ‘personal stuff’.

Talking is a physical activity as well as an intellectual one as far as ideas are concerned.

As you have noticed, Wellbeing Improver A does not find the physical and mechanical aspect of talking a problem. What is challenging is the emotional charge – IDEAS, BELIEFS, REACTIONS – attached to ‘talking about personal stuff’.

The latter is what she acts upon: she has translated an emotional reaction into a physical act and, at present, there is an association between ‘talking about personal stuff’ and ‘compressing my lower back’ and experiencing pain.

Sitting and writing for an exam

Wellbeing Improver B is 13 and has to sit and write for exams. This is her experience: on the one hand, while writing for creative writing, she does not experience any cramps as she enjoys this subject. On the other hand, when she writes an essay for religious studies, she experiences cramps in her right hand after a couple of sentences: she does not enjoy writing for this subject so much and feels stressed. She has to write four essays and is concerned about time, so she needs to work harder and to concentrate more.

Wellbeing Improver B’s concept of ‘working hard’ while writing an exam is personal and specific. This is what it translates into in terms of movement behaviours: she is closed in and hunched over, she puts a lot of pressure on the pen and on the hand holding the pad, she is on the tip of her feet and is holding her legs.

Sitting and breathing

Wellbeing Improver C is a salesperson and finds herself out of breath whenever she sits down at work; this is not the case when she sits down at home. She finds this difficult as she must not appear out of breath neither to her clients nor to her supervisor as they are ‘watching’.

Her reaction to ‘Being watched’ translates into a tightening of her chest, shallow breathing, and ‘difficult to breathe’. She makes the following comment: 'I am linking it [difficulty to breathe coming from ‘being watched’] to the fact I am under pressure'.


In the above three examples, a reaction to the concept of ‘pressure’ and the idea, the belief of what it means to them translated into personal movement behaviours. All the Wellbeing Improvers commented they did not need those personal movement behaviours. As soon as they diminished or stopped those movement behaviours, their activity was much easier. They all had a light bulb moment during their sessions:

For Wellbeing Improver A, her experience brought to the fore that she ‘does not talk with her back”.

Wellbeing Improver B realized she could think of writing an exam without it affecting her hand and could not help laughing.

Wellbeing Improver C came to the conclusion 'it [our interaction] is not only about breathing'.


This is really good news. We parted with two more questions: who puts the pressure on them? Should movement behaviour attached to the ‘pressure’ disappear, does the ‘personal stuff’, the ‘clients and supervisors’ and the ‘exams’ go away?


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A Ponder: Behaviour is a reaction to a context

By October 30th 2022

Quote by Hunt
Quote by Hunt: (...) behavior is oftentimes more because of a reaction to a context (...).

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Open to revision

By October 20th 2022

Open sign
Illustration: Open to revision

I often wonder, if as individuals, we are humble enough to be open to revision not only in the different aspects of our society but also more specifically within ourselves.

What does revising entail?

When revising an idea, a model, a belief, etc., one reconsiders and amends something in the light of further evidence or to reflect a changed situation.

Being open to revision does not mean one has to accept every new idea, new report or new model at face value.

Being open to revision does not indeed guarantee an amendment or a change.

What being open to revision allows is to consider, to weigh new evidence, to look at new facts and to reason out whether this new evidence or these new facts are strong enough to warrant changing an idea, a model, a belief for a progression / new outlook for society or ourselves.

Shortly put, it simply means not being ‘married to’ an idea, a model, or a belief. As Sharkey explains:

If biotensegrity * can be shown to be the wrong model, I will be the first to denounce it. I am not married to biotensegrity or any other model for all that matter (…) (Sharkey 2018)

F.M. Alexander puts forward the same idea in one of his books:

(…) but I should not be true to my own principles if I were not willing to accept amendments, even perhaps to alter one or other of my premises, should new facts tend to show that I have made a false assumption in any particular. (Man's Supreme Inheritance, p. 31)

Being open to revision provides an opportunity to stop and reflect and to see if a change would be of benefit. Let’s consider a few examples concerning health.

Open to revision and help for our health

A few years back I heard several friends say: I have a stomach ulcer because I am so stressed at work. At the time, this was held to be true:

It used to be thought that stomach ulcers may be caused by certain lifestyle factors, such as spicy foods, stress and alcohol. ( NHS )

Then the infection theory came along and identified H. pylori, a bacteria, as a cause of stomach ulcer. The evidence put forward was compelling enough to warrant a change in treating stomach ulcers, which brought about a better outcome.

Many years ago the cause of back pain was thought to be strictly mechanical factors. We now know that back pain is much more than a mechanical dysfunction and that psychosocial factors are very important as well. This understanding changed the way help is provided: although the mechanical factors might be the same, psychosocial factors affects the way treatment is delivered and received.

Open to revision within ourselves?

The above examples are just two where revision brought about new perspectives in how medical professionals are able to better help their anyone who comes to them for help. Revising does not only happen in the health field; it happens in every aspect of our life. We just need to remain alert to the possibilities.

Revising can also happen within our own self. This can prove more challenging as it concerns US PERSONALLY.

So, what could we review within ourselves, i.e., what can we reconsider, reason out and maybe amend, even change in the way we think about things and hence do things?

Revising within ourselves

Every living organism possesses some traits if they want to be classified as “living”. One of those traits that is of interest to us here is movement, as movement enables a living organism to express life.

Much more than we realize, we do influence the way we move. This is not a new idea and here is what some authors have to say:

If we think we are sticks with levers, we will move as though we are sticks with levers. If we think that we are a system of soft tissues (some softer than others) all interconnected via a web of tension, then we will move thusily. (Berkowitz 2020)

The human being has the capacity to influence deeply embedded unconscious habits by means of conscious idea. It matters what you think. (Boggs 2020)

What you think is what you get. (Don Weed 2004)

What we think as individuals is greatly personal and only WE can go through the process of considering, weighing, amending or not, changing our point of view or not. That influence will come from within and not from without.

Such a change can prove difficult as, according to F.M. Alexander, it seems that we are more inclined to change things outside of ourselves than within ourselves:

The stubborn but unpleasant fact must be faced that civilized man has never progressed personally – that is, in himself – as he has advanced in matters outside himself. Although he has reasoned out the means whereby he can control and turn to his own uses the different forces he has discovered in the outside world, he has not applied this reasoning principle where his own organism is concerned. (Alexander, CCCI, p. 43)

Are we up to the challenge? Are we willing to question ourselves and to put to the test our limiting patterns of thought? Are we willing to see how amendments within will lead to improvement in our life? To get us started, let’s consider the following statement:

It’s because I am ready to change my viewpoint that it becomes mobile and not because it becomes mobile that I change my viewpoint. (Danis Bois in Le Huche 2017)

* Biotensegrity is a structural design principle used in biology and in which anatomy is a network of structures that are under tension and others are compressed.


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The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By October 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 14 of seeing things differently

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A Ponder: We make our habits

By September 30th 2022

Quote by Dryden
Quote by Dryden: We first make our habits, then our habits make us.

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My Personalised Gift to ME

By September 20th 2022

Illustration: jigsaw pieces with individual heads
Illustration: My personalised gift to me

We care for our unique person

From looking for a personalised gift I found out that, as individuals, we like personalisation and we like others to acknowledge that we are a ‘unique us’

We like a personalised service or product that accommodates and fulfils our needs as customers;

We like a personalised care approach that gives us some say. “Personalised care is based on ‘what matters’ to people and their individual strengths and needs” according to nhs England;

We like a personalised gift: it is something special and unique, it speaks to our soul, it has taken a lot of thought on the part of the giver, it is one of a kind and not generic.

Are we similar and unique?

As we know, as organisms of the human race, we do share similarities.

However, more than one characteristic – and even peculiarities - shape an individual as a unique person. Among other things, our history, our family, our schooling, our ideas, our beliefs, our personal events, etc. have had an influence on who we have become, and we are now, and have an influence on how we appear publicly to others, i.e. on how we behave and move.

A lot of us have personalised movement behaviours, behaviours that we created at some point in our life and that have become familiar and that have become what we define as us, as a way that we express something.

Is anger universal and unique?

Anger is a well spread, common and universal emotion we have all experienced at times in our life.

Although a universal emotion, people express anger behaviourally quite differently; they put their spin on it, they personalise anger according to their own ideas and beliefs on how to express such an emotion.

We just need to look around us to find out that someone is going to explode, another one is going to slam doors, another one is going to shout, another one is going to kick, another one will be red in the face, another one will strain their neck, etc.

When we know someone, it usually is possible for us to know the tell-tale signs and we know them because they identify a person as being, in such an instance, angry. The person has made some tailoring of their own regarding the emotion anger so that they do whatever they think they have to do to look angry and we recognise the movement behaviour as ‘X being angry’.

Walking, an everyday unique activity

Walking is an everyday natural pedestrian activity; we hardly think about it. Very generally put, it consists of putting one foot in front of the other to move forward.

Look around you, observe how many different ways people do what for them is walking: some are going to sway on one side or the other; if you wear sandals, you might notice that you walk with your toes flexed continually; some people are going to march; others will make some round movements with their legs; some will also have their torso in front of their feet; others will march, some will still throw their head back before they think they can walk, etc.

Any of these different ways of walking is what we might call ‘walking’. It is however our idea and our way of walking, our personalised idea of what needs to happen for us to walk.

So, personalisation seems to be important in our life: we do like a personalised product, service, or care. We also give ourselves personal gifts in terms of movement behaviours as exemplified here with anger and walking. At the end of the day,

‘We all think and act in accordance with the peculiarities of our particular psycho-physical make-up’ (FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 96)

and we

“(…) will act like the sort of person [we] conceive [ourselves] to be.” (Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life)
.

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An Everyday Activity: Are you sitting or building up tension?

By September 10th 2022

Illustration: People sitting
Illustration: People sitting

An everyday activity: Are you sitting or building up tension?

Do you believe we are well-made?

We are in possession of a built-in movement organisation and responses. We are the owner of a natural and dynamic balance.

This well-madeness makes it possible for us to move lightly and with ease. Indeed when “the mechanical principle employed is a correct one, every movement will be made with a minimum effort.” (FM Alexander, MSI. p. 58)

Very succinctly, as we are well-made, we don’t have much to ‘do’ to perform an activity, such as sitting, easily.

What’s in sitting?

When going from standing to sitting, we fold our legs, transporting the head, trunk and pelvis to meet with our seat in a never-ending process.

Such a continuous process ensures we control our activity and that we are using our bodies efficiently and appropriately to the task at hand.

When we are seated, should we…?

Should we….? I am afraid not

I hear many of us say that while sitting they should not slump, their shoulders should be back, their back should be straight, and so on.

Here are a few questions:

Who says the above things?

What do WE mean by slump?


Make an experiment, ask a few people to not slump, to put their shoulders back and to have a straight back. Is their slump, shoulders back or straight back the same as yours?

Mmm…

So, if you ask me, should we... whatever? I am afraid not! The reason for that is that our ‘shoulds’ are interferences we impose ourselves upon a well-made organism. With our ‘shoulds”, we create a lot of tension.

What is tension?

Tension can have a positive and a negative meaning.

On the positive side, tension is the state of being pulled; our body needs a little bit of tension to operate optimally as long as it is in a balancing act with some push.

On the negative side, tension and stiffness go very often hand in hand. We often make it a condition. Who amongst us has not said: I am tensed, I have tension here or here? In that instance, tension is a combination of ‘movements’ that [we] carry out continuously against [ourselves] (D Weed 2004, p. 56).

Who actively directs tension?

The above definition does not deny that people experience tension. It underlines the fact that we are directly directing our tension.

So, if we go from standing to sitting and if after a while we experience more and more tension, we are the ones piling up a bit of tension + a bit of tension + a bit of tension until we recognise that we are tense. We are actively directing our body to move in such a way – usually two opposite directions – that we experience what we label as ‘tension’ when sitting.

It goes like this: we experience tension which stems from muscle contractions. We contract our muscles through our nervous system. Our nervous system responds to some stimulus, such as a thought.

By letting ‘sitting’ be and not imposing tension on our body, we are very likely to alleviate our mental stress.

So, let’s simply sit and let’s not build up tension that actually does not come to be, unless we put it there.


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A Ponder: Pain is not classical, medieval, or contemporary

By August 30th 2022

Quote by Capistrant, Harrer
Quote by Capistrant and Harrer: Pain is not classical, medieval, or contemporary; European or Chinese.

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The power of Frames of Reference

By August 20th 2022

Illustration: frames, professional fields and glasses
Illustration: Frames of reference

Thinking about it, health issues have been around for a very very long time. Considering the matter of health issues a bit more, as individuals, we complain about our backs when or after doing some movement or when lifting some object; we complain about our knees when climbing up the stairs, after gardening or when walking; we complain about our stomach after eating some food; we complain about our fingers when we do this or that, and so on it goes.

A frame of reference for our discomfort or pain

All of the above are real and true complaints, and there is discomfort to pain involved. That pain or discomfort alerts us that something is not quite right within ourselves. Discomfort to pain is the alarm of our body.

We, more often than not, bear that pain or discomfort up to a threshold that is personal to us. Once that threshold is reached, we tend to go to a professional or an expert. Their skills and expertise will apply to and will be congruent with a certain frame of reference, which is something we sometimes forget.

Competent and skilled within a particular frame of reference

Working within a frame of reference means that some criteria will be included, and others will be excluded. A movement practitioner will have a different outlook on motion than a general practitioner; “new” conditions are also listed and labelled. For example, ‘burn out’ was not medically recognized before 2015 which does not mean it was not around before then; it just was not labelled so. As such, the label does not really matter, the complaint – the health issue – does.

As a result of such inclusions or exclusions, the “take” of experts or professionals is likely and expected to be different. Although different, the conclusions reached will be 100% valid in their frame of reference and those conclusions do not make a practioner wrong or incompetent.

It is reasonable to expect the doctor to recognize that science may not have all the answers to problems of health and healing”. (Norman Cousins)

A health issue is a sort of argument

Considering different frames of reference can prove useful. A health issue is a bit like an argument: there is almost always different sides to it that are worth considering.

What this means, as far as health is concerned, is that general or allopathic medicine can work with what is called complementary therapies and also complementary educations. It is worth bearing in mind, that complementary therapies and educations do not claim to replace general medicine: they provide a different outlook to an issue within their own frame of reference.

It is true that many complementary therapies have not yet been able to scientifically prove their benefits as we can read on the NHS website for the Alexander Technique, for example. However, there is enough of what is called “anecdotal evidence” around for anyone who would like to consider and try them.

Is there any value in considering different frames of reference?

The phrase “One size does not fit all” applies to many of us as we are individuals with our own histories, particularities and peculiarities. So, it is no wonder that such a phrase applies to health issues as well.

Giving ourselves choices

It is always important to consult our GP for any health concern. Considering and getting information from other experts and professionals allows the sufferer to gain a different outlook on his/her health issue. S/he then has a CHOICE to go ahead or not.

Deciding what is for us

Then s/he will find out whether a particular frame of reference is for them or not.

I once had a Wellbeing Improver coming for reflexology sessions because she was suffering from neuropathy. We worked together for a couple of sessions and were having some results. One day she came and said she went to an acupuncturist and, on his advice, will stop reflexology and will go and see him. True, I would have been very pleased to continue our work together. I was also pleased that, even though she decided not to work with me any longer, coming for reflexology was a stepping board for her to find something that was a better fit for her at that time in her life.

The payoff can reach beyond our expectations

Sometimes, Wellbeing Improvers decide to combine several frames of reference with outcomes that go beyond their expectations.

Wellbeing Improver A has had neck and shoulder issues for a while now. She has been having physiotherapy sessions and reflexology sessions and found out that both were doing her good. One day, it just happened that she had both sessions on the same day. She was quite amazed at how powerful having both sessions on the same day was.

Wellbeing Improver B has been doing personal development work as well as having Alexander Technique sessions. Working from different angles has allowed her to move forward in leaps and bounds and shed trauma she had been carrying throughout her life.

Wellbeing Improver C has been having reflexology sessions and therapeutic massages on her neck and shoulders. She was surprised at how both complemented each other for her

You were quite right in saying that I was so close to the end of my journey and that has proved to be the case. I continued 'pondering' on Tuesday and then slept for a straight 13 hours - unheard of ever before. I have been very tired and continued to sleep a lot but have woken today feeling completely different and ready to get on with MY life without interruption from my family. So a huge thank you for your hard work and patience and contributing to my wellbeing!

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The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By August 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 13 of seeing things differently

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A Ponder: It is not the movement that is false

By June 30th 2022

Quote by Andreani
Quote by Andreani: It is not the movement that is false, it is our capacity to carry out the movement.

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Disassociation even though everything moves

By June 20th 2022

Illustration: association vs disassociation
Illustration: Representation of disassociation

Disassociation even though everything moves

As human beings, we possess some characteristics of interest to us. We are 3 dimensional; we are living organisms and we are made to be constantly in movement. Our “envelope”, our skin, makes us self-contained. Although we are clearly delineated, we still have numerous movement possibilities and different configurations and reconfigurations available to us.

When there is movement – actually, when WE move - in one place, this movement - we -create(s) movement everywhere: everything moves because of an intricate network of pushes and pulls. This grants us great adaptability.

Being constantly in movement gives us stability and not fixity. When standing still we ARE IN MOVEMENT. Being constantly in movement, we reconfigure our body which does not mean we move everything together as a lump. We have the ability to disassociate.

What does associating/bundling movements mean?

When we bundle or associate movements together, we think that at least two movements have to be performed together in order to carry out an activity.

This way of thinking and of carrying out an activity is similar to creating a shortcut key on a computer keyboard that meets our requirements. It is not necessarily a combination everyone would use and, as individuals, we are likely to use different personalized combinations.

Such personalized combinations are not necessary, which led FM Alexander to say, (…) energies [are] projected to parts of the bodily mechanism which have little or no influence on the performance of the desired act (…) (Man’s Supreme Inheritance, p. 80).

Those personalized combinations can actually get in the way of performing an activity.

Let’s consider a few examples to figure out what associating/bundling movements is.

Associating/bundling moving at the hips and moving at the “shoulders” (gleno-humeral joints)

One day a Wellbeing Improver was experimenting with raising a hand in the air. As soon as Wellbeing Improver reached a certain height, she was also moving forward at the hip joint as if the two were going hand in hand: the movement from the hip joint had to happen before and together with the movement of the arm so that “raising the arm” could continue.

Associating/bundling fixing the head to be able to lift the shoulders

In another instance, I came across the following scenario in the way a wellbeing improver would move: She would think about the poise of her head in relation with her body in movement and would comment that she would feel very light and would always be surprised at how her neck could move without effort.

As soon as she would think of lifting her shoulders though, the first thing that would happen would be fixing her head, which would “allow” her then to lift her shoulders. Is, however, fixing her head a requirement for lifting her shoulders up?

The Freedom of disassociating

Let’s go back to our two wellbeing Improvers and what happened to them when they stopped associating movements/bundling movements together.

In the first example, Wellbeing Improver did not know she was moving from her hips; she thought she was only moving her arm. Once she came to the understanding that moving her arm did not require, in the present circumstances, to move from the hips, moving her arm was neater and required less energy.

In the second example, once she allowed movement in her neck while lifting her shoulders up, the movement was better and more fluid.

In both cases, there were less and more, and there was an improvement in the quality of the movement.

Breaking the thoughtless shortcut

This improvement in quality only happened once the chain reaction (shortcut) occurring after thinking about a movement was altered or broken.

This required a different understanding as well as putting into place a thinking process with several steps. In time, this thinking process will become familiar, will require less time and less energy. However, it is not as automated in the sense of a thoughtless shortcut.

He understood that the brain knits together actions and turns them into complex “automated” sequences, so that one no longer has to use a lot of mental energy to put multiple movements together. (Doidge)

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An Everyday Activity: MY sitting

By June 10th 2022

Illustration: People sitting
Illustration: People sitting

An everyday activity: sitting or MY sitting?

Sitting down is an everyday activity. For some of us, it has become uncomfortable, even painful to remain seated for long periods of times. Desk work and bad posture are some of the culprits often put forward.

Before finger pointing, what do we mean by sitting’?

MY sitting

First thing first: if we look around us and we will notice that, although we can all sit, we do not necessarily all sit the same way.

There is however no doubt: all these different ways of sitting are what different persons understand, recognize, and identify as sitting for themselves.

There is a connection between sitting and familiarity. We have an habitual way of performing the activity of sitting: it is in fact OUR familiar way of sitting to the length that we, sometimes, call it a habit. We can even be recognized by our habitual way of doing some movement:

We first make our habits, then our habits make us. (Dryden)

If we have created an habitual way of sitting different from somebody else’s way of sitting, we are likely to be able to change that habitual way of sitting and prevent discomfort - should we experience any.

So, what are the kind of questions we can ask ourselves?

What are the joints involved in ‘sitting’?

What actually happens in the activity we recognize as sitting?

The activity of sitting is in fact a folding action of the legs where the head, trunk and pelvis (which constitute the axial skeleton) are transported from a higher level to a lower level.

For the change of level to happen, the angle at the hip joints – the space between the femur and the pelvis – gets smaller.

This bending action or flexion, in this instance a forward flexion, leads to the knee joints and the ankle joints to follow and fold as well.

Do you meet your seat?

Another question is, do you slam into your seat? It usually looks like you are landing onto a seat potato-style, together with a possible grunt. In such a case, you land where you land and, true, you find yourself seated. You are, however, not sitting in a controlled way. Should you want to avoid wet paint on a bench, you are unlikely to be able to.

How about considering the following?

Now that the joints of your legs are folding, you are folding in such a way that your seat is ‘rising up’ to meet you. Indeed, according to the third law of Newton, when we sit on a chair – or anything – the chair pushes up on us.

This ‘meeting’ between us and the seat does not stop, i.e. when we are on a chair we are still in movement and still in the process of sitting.

With this in mind your sitting is very likely to look different and to sound different.

Do you support your seat?

Let’s imagine now that you find yourself seated and it is still uncomfortable. Let’s just have a look at a possible reason why it might be the case.

Consider answering the question: are you supporting the seat or is the seat supporting you?

It might sound like an outlandish question. Still consider it with care. How much tension do you notice as you ‘act on the chair’? How much of the tension you notice is of any help for you to sit?

Should you consider the above questions and provide answers to them, you are very likely to have a different perspective on what sitting involves. You might even notice that you are sitting down in a more controlled way. Should you find yourself in the situation where you have to not finish sitting down because you have just noticed the sign ‘wet paint’ on a bench, you might find out that you are not going to ruin your clothes in the end!


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A Ponder: When we know...

By May 30th 2022

Quote by Lowell de 
				Solorzano
Quote by Lowell de Solorzano: It is when we think we know something that the doors of the mind...

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I 'know’ or the full stop that stops growth

By

Illustration: I know and boredom
Illustration: 'I know' leads to boredom and stops our growth

Do we know?

One student of F.M. Alexander described Alexander's work as reasoning from the known to the unknown (The Use of the Self, p. 85).

I sometimes hear, during my interactions with Wellbeing Improvers: I know how to do that, I know how to get out of a chair, I know how to bend forward, I know how to sit down, etc.

Do we really know how to perform an activity?

What do we think we know?

Does knowing something make it less interesting and attractive?

Does knowing something box that something in so there is no flexibility?

We know of the past

As individuals there is no doubt that we like knowing. As we personally know and as FM Alexander points out several times in his books, the unknown or the unfamiliar can be scary and can contribute to stress and anxiety. His solution is to have in place a thinking process taking into consideration the conditions PRESENT. This would ensure that we are able to come into contact with the unfamiliar and unknown without fear or anxiety (The Universal Constant in Living, p. 79).

When we say, I know, the I know has, in fact, taken place in the past. What we do is IMPOSE past circumstances on the present ones. It is true that past and present circumstances might be similar. However, similarity is not sameness. That discrepancy, even though small, might be enough to colour the outcome in a way that is not helpful. Alexander goes as far as saying that past experiences or the known impede people (The Universal Constant in Living, p. 147).

Is there any interest, curiosity and challenge in the known?

Knowing something makes that something less interesting and attractive. It can be likened to wanting an item. More often than not, the thrill lies in the wait. Once we’ve acquired an item we wanted, we sometimes do not even look at it: the challenge has gone; our curiosity vanishes, we lose interest as if there is nothing in it any longer for us.

We know how to perform the act of sitting down as we do it very often. In any case, we know how to perform it our way, i.e. according to our conceptions. Most of the time, we feel our way through such an activity instead of reasoning things out. When doing so, a person ends a psycho-physical process which, in reality, should never be finished (Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 197).

According to Alexander, the issue lies in the fact that we have been taught that all the ordinary, most necessary, and therefore most oft-repeated acts of life should be automatic and unconscious; for this reason they have become indifferent (Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 198).

What is the relationship between change and the unknown?

Alexander underlines a relationship between change and the unknown. Unless we come into contact with the unfamiliar or the unknown, we cannot change and, more fundamentally, we cannot grow or develop (The Universal Constant in Living, p. 91) and find a way out of the predicament we find ourselves in.

A quote by Einstein comes to mind: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them A new element is required which requires flexibility and adaptability.

Only, the discarding of cherished beliefs, the giving up of familiar ways, and the learning of unfamiliar ways of doing thing” can enable us to put into practice new beliefs in new ways of doing things (The Universal Constant in Living, p. 150).

What does embracing the unknown mean?

Embracing the unknown may have unsuspected outcomes such as:

A different kind of control: a wellbeing improver said: I am in charge of my own movement, of my own journey, I have another way to go.

A letting go: “I do not have to get it right, to concentrate another Improver sighed and let go of tension in her body.

An expansion of the mind.

A question to ask ourselves

Now, could we consider that the unknown (and uncertainty) is not as bad as we might think it is.

Are we willing to embrace the idea that when we have a process in place, we are going to end up in the unknown?

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd says Voltaire. Doubting leads us to question; when we doubt, we seek. Hence, our curiosity keeps us interested and prevents us getting bored.

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The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By May 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 12 of seeing things differently

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A Ponder: there is a way out

By April 30th 2022

Quote by Kurz and Prestera
Quote by Kurz and Prestera: There is a way out if only [we] take it.

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Feeling anxious and dizzy

By April 20th 2022

Illustration: Anxiety
Illustration: Anxious and not yourself

Today our Wellbeing Improver is a woman of over 70 living on her own. She consulted me for an movement lesson regarding her anxiety levels and her dizziness.

Medical situation

She does not suffer suffer from any injury and is not taking any medication. She is active and generally fit.

Personal situation

Wellbeing Improver does a lot of regular personal development work and I worked with her a couple of years ago. Living on her own, the lockdowns meant that she had been isolated for a very long time and, because of her age group, though all restrictions have been lifted, she is still very cautious. She had just lost a long-time friend when I met with her again. Furthermore, her brother suffers from dementia which is upsetting and makes it difficult to have a conversation with him.

All in all, she feels very anxious, which she does not like. She is also feeling dizzy, which is a worry as she lives on her own.

General observations

During our talk, when Wellbeing Improver was explaining the situation to me, I observed that she was moving in a particular way when she was relating something painful.

Some thoughts

The question is, are those particular movements she makes helping her or are they getting in her way? Is Wellbeing Improver imposing her ideas of how she thinks she ought to move when there are painful events in her life and when she is relating them? Does there need to be a direct movement correlation to thoughts related to a particular state of mind?

We are all well-made and, unless we have a disease or an injury, we all move beautifully with ease. A lot of us have imposed ideas and thoughts on how to move and, in the long run, those ideas and thoughts trip us up and get in the way of us moving with ease.

Throughout our interaction, Wellbeing Improver gradually changed, considered and experimented with ideas we had been discussing.

A successful outcome

At the end of our session Wellbeing Improver had changed physically and mentally. She looked more serene, more composed; there was a softness around the eyes. Although she was not moving so much from the shoulders upwards, she was more mobile in that area.

Despite the fact she had stopped some of her movements, she was more herself. She was definitely more poised and there was more fluidity in her body. Wellbeing Improver had stopped some additional unnecessary movement behaviours that were getting in her way and had unwanted side effects.

Wellbeing Improver commented that she had almost shed skin during that session and that she was no longer dizzy. She also noticed that her anxiety had gone.

A successful session down the line

This session was also successful for Wellbeing Improver in the following weeks for several reasons:

She had found herself again.

Her anxiety had gone, which meant her perspective on life had shifted and that she is able to cope better.

Because she is no longer dizzy, this does not feed into her anxiety and it also is a huge relief to be able to be and keep her independence and stay at home.

She is in the process of learning how to do something without using her past behaviour.


You might also be interested in:

High anxiety levels


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An Everyday Activity: Moving our Head

By April 10th 2022

Illustration: People moving their head
Illustration: People moving their head

So why have an Alexander Technique session?

Moving our head is part and parcel of our movement behaviours.

According to FM Alexander, how we move our head - or not, as can be the case - has a direct influence on the quality of our movements. Here is what he says on the matter:

a particular relativity of the head to the neck and the head and neck to the other parts of the organism tended to improve general use and functioning of the organism as a whole, and […] the motivation for this use was from the head downwards (Universal Constant in Living, p. 8)

What Alexanders says is what we are doing with our head either helps or gets in the way of how we move.

Simple and helpful facts about our head

Our skull connects to the top of our cervical spine (the neck) at the craniovertebral junction. The occipital bone, the atlas (the first cervical vertebrae) and the axis (the second cervical vertebrae) give the head its mobility.

The head is front heavy which means that some muscular action is required at the back of the head to prevent a forward tip.

When we manage this balancing act between the front and the back while being in movement, we have poise which is the key to freedom and ease of motion (D. Weed 2012).

Do these physiological facts, presented rather simply, correspond to what we think about our head?

Facts about the head according to a Wellbeing Improver

During an interaction I had with a Wellbeing Improver, we exchanged ideas about how we conceive of the head on top of our spine and how it does not fall off the spine.

This is what she had to say:

The head needs muscles on the side and rests on a muscle mass. They act like tent ropes. This prevents the skull from dropping down, and the end of the spine going into the brain; it sets a distance from the brain.

This might not be how you think about it but it is the way she does.

I suggested a different representation which I drew:



She looked at me rather puzzled: there was no rope.

A clash of ideas

So, here we have a clash of ideas and utter disbelief at my drawing.

Looking at a drawing of a skull on top of the spine and at the neck muscles in an anatomy book was, as well, quite a revelation for this Wellbeing Improver.

Here is why.

But she said, the head is attached to something. I need to feel it, I am holding on to it to keep it in position; it has a place.

She thought that, if her head would not rest on a mass of muscles, there would not be any distance between the spine and the brain, which would mean that the end of the spine would go into the brain. This is indeed a scary thought.

With this view on the matter, a protective muscular behaviour coupled with the fact that she needs to feel her neck, one can understand why there is little movement in the head / neck relationship.

According to FM Alexander this movement behaviour would impede Wellbeing Improver’s movements. Did it?

New idea(s), new outcome(s)

As we can see Wellbeing Improver’s conceptions about her head/neck relationship did not match factual reality. She accepted to consider a view different than hers and here are some of the outcomes:

She had a different head/neck relationship

She realised that her head could pivot

She connected some dots, turned her head to the right and was very surprised at how easy it was (this is important when driving)

An unexpected outcome was that her tinnitus was not so loud

Her neck looked different: she looked softer in the neck – in a way as if her head was not resting on a mass of muscles


Wellbeing Improver went from thinking of her head resting on a mass of muscles and held in place with ropes towards a conception allowing space between her head and her body. This had a positive outcome for her. We need to remember that what we think matters and that WE MOVE ACCORDING TO HOW WE THINK:

The human being has the capacity to influence deeply embedded unconscious habits by means of conscious idea. It matters what you think. (Boggs in Lowell de Solorzano 2020: 18-19)

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A Ponder: placebo cures and change in the brain structure

By March 30th 2022

Quote by Doidge
Quote by Doidge: Placebo cures are not 'less real' than cures by medication.

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Are everyday movements interesting?

By March 20th 2022

Illustration: process brings fascination
Illustration: A thinking process to allow fascination

Are everyday movements interesting?

A Wellbeing Improver brought the following to her session. She is experiencing pain when she opens a carton of milk with her right hand. She described her elbow as being overactive and said that it was doing too much. She linked the doing too much to pain in her shoulder and in her wrist. Following this explanation and the demonstration of the activity of opening a carton of milk, several interesting points came up. I will only expand on three of them.

When does the thinking process begin?

One of the first questions I asked Wellbeing Improver was where does your thinking process begin when you want to perform an activity?

When I want to unscrew the top of the milk carton

What about before that?

When I bend down to get the carton out of the fridge

What about before that?

I don’t know!

What about the relationship of your head/neck and your body in movement? As D. Weed says the poise of the head in relation with the body in movement is the key to freedom and ease of motion.

In a lesson, I start by observing that relationship and the ideas that drive that relationship.

How do you open a milk carton before you open it?

During our interaction I observed Wellbeing Improver and had a sense that she was opening the milk carton before she had ever done so.

Indeed, as soon as she wants to, as soon as she has the desire to unscrew the top, up goes the elbow and everything goes wrong!. It’s like she has her head in the clouds and she embarks on some ring road, some shortcut, which bypasses her thinking process and leads to some movement automatism she does not even consider.

The question is, is such a shortcut helping her or is it getting in her way? She will have to answer that question for herself.

Can opening a milk carton be an interesting everyday activity?

Wellbeing improver explained why she is going off in her mind somewhere: opening a milk carton is not very interesting and I do it the way I always do.

It sounds like the activity opening a milk carton is boring and does not register any longer. This is, because according to F.M. Alexander, we have become indifferent:

Unfortunately, we have been taught that all the ordinary, most necessary, and therefore most oft-repeated acts of life should be automatic and unconscious; for this reason they have become indifferent. (Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 198)

Now let’s say we perform any activity, such as opening a milk carton, every time AS IF IT WAS THE FIRST TIME? This would require staying in the present and reasoning things out. It would also mean that automatism does not really have its place when we move and that each movement would be an experiment. We would not know the results beforehand and would allow ourselves to consider several choices. This would make carrying out an activity interesting – even fascinating - and certainly not the way I always do and the performance of an activity would depend on the present circumstances.

What happened when she performed her activity again?

Wellbeing Improver carried out her activity one more time and her movement was different, and she looked different: there was more space between the neck and the shoulders, her upper body was more open, her shoulders not so up, her face was more relaxed.

She felt more in control of her movement and that she had given herself space. She also noticed that she moved her arm differently. Her movement was easy and fluid. As a bonus, she noticed that she did not experience any pain: it had gone away.

She acknowledged:

This moves me forward. My sessions have made such a difference in the way I move.

You might also be interested in:

Everyday life: screwing or unscrewing the top of a milk bottle or a carton of juice

The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By Sylvie Samuels, March 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 11 of seeing things differently

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A Ponder: doing away with the reasons for illness brings about good health

By February 28th 2022

Quote by Hippocrates
Quote Hippocrates: Doing away with the reasons for our illness...

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Superhero of my body!

By February 20th 2022

Illustration: superhero
Illustration: superhero and everyday movement activities

I am the superhero of my body

I am the superhero of my body announced a Wellbeing Improver when she came in after a previous session with a grin on her face. She had more to say:

I have superpowers!
Since last time, when I notice the pain in my right lower back, I think about the relationship of my head/neck with my body, and about the poise of my head. When I think about that, there is more flexibility in my neck and there is something that flows all down along my back. I still have niggly pains; however, I move better.
I am delighted and I feel like I have superpowers! I like this a lot and I like the fact this thinking helps me with movements I do every day. There is nothing out of the ordinary.

The Alexander Technique does not teach you anything new

Wellbeing Improver’s conclusion ties in with what Frank Pierce Jones says about the Alexander Technique

(…) the Alexander Technique doesn’t teach you something new to do. It teaches you how to bring more practical intelligence in what you are already doing; how to eliminate stereotyped responses; how to deal with habit and change.

To start with, a lot of difficulties

This Wellbeing Improver in her late 40s has had a few movement lessons (Alexander Technique) over a couple of years. As a surgeon, she works crazy hours and does not always find and take the time to look after herself, except when it all comes to a head.

When stressed, she experiences severe pain in the top of her back and in her lower back. She feels then that she has no other choice but to seek help when it is difficult to lie down, difficult to sit, difficult to turn over in bed, difficult to get in the car and very difficult to get out of the car. Jobwise, it is very uncomfortable to wear a lead apron.

As she said: All these difficulties get in the way of my wellbeing.

After her first lesson

After her first session, she experienced more flexibility and more fluidity in the relationship between her head/neck and body. The increased movement in this relationship helped with the discomfort at the top of her back and in the lower back.

She went away with more movement in her whole trunk and reported that she had noticed an immediate transformation : she could sit, lie in bed, turn over in bed, get in and out of her car more easily. There was improvement in her everyday life even though getting out of her car is still an issue.

According to F.M. Alexander in Man's Supreme Inheritence, this is how any movement is:

If the mechanical principle employed is a correct one, every movement will be made with a minimum effort.

Some more work (discussion and manipulation) at her shoulder (gleno-humeral joint) led her to realize a few things:

Her movements at the gleno-humeral joints were less easy than the movement in her neck

She had a tendency to fix her neck while moving her “shoulders”

Little by little, throughout her session, her movements got easier

She mentioned she could perceive different movements

Step by step by step by step

It is important to notice that Wellbeing Improver improved gradually. Although we move as a whole, she is also starting to disassociate the different parts of her body.


You might also be interested in:

Disassociation even though everything moves

The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By February 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 10 of seeing things differently

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A Ponder: pain: emotions, sensations and thinking mind's beliefs

By January 30th 2022

Quote by Furness-Smith
Quote by Levine and Phillips: To solve a problem, you must first acknowledge it...

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An everyday life movement: Raising your arm

By January 20th 2022

Illustration: People raising their arms
Illustration: pictures of people raising their arms/hands

A Wellbeing Improver’s experiment

What’s on your mind today? I would like to raise my arm, past my shoulder.

Why are you interested in this? I find this movement painful and I am experiencing a pulling in my shoulder (gleno-humeral joint).

Wellbeing Improver does not currently have any injury. She, however, mentioned that a few years back she had a ski injury and did something to her tendons; she also had a mastectomy on the left side, which meant that for a while she was doing more with her right arm.

A performance baseline

We started the session with Wellbeing Improver showing me her activity.

When she raised her left hand, she could not raise it very high without some discomfort.

There was also some movement at the hip joint together with the raising of the arm.

Our interaction together

We started with the head/neck relationship which brought about more mobility in the head/neck relationship.

We then did some work with the arm.

We also talked about a few ideas: we talked about the different joints in the arms, we talked about where the arms connect to the body, we talked about the fact that the hips are not the gleno-humeral joints and that they do not have a lot to do with the activity of raising one’s arm.

What does this mean in terms of movement?

Here is the outcome of our work together.

Wellbeing Improver noticed, after our work and verbal interactions, that, when raising her arm, the movement was neater and required less energy. The movement felt different, and she did not need to accompany it with this big movement from the hips.

She came to discover that she was bringing tension into her right shoulder at the thought of raising her arm and reaching upwards. She acknowledged she did not need to do that, even though in the past she thought there had been a use for bringing this muscular contraction and tension in her right shoulder. As she put it, this tensioning of the shoulder was an archaic movement behaviour that did not really have its place in the current and present circumstances.

Such a realisation and acknowledgment brought about a different relationship of the arm with the body (trunk). When she performed the activity of raising her arm once more, Wellbeing Improver liked the way [she] moved, liked the fact that she can change how she moves . It does not have to be painful and a lot of effort .

A positive experience

Wellbeing Improver went through the process of raising her arm. She found out that she could perform the activity of raising her arm more easily without pain. She furthermore realised that her elbow and wrist had moved : the movement felt easy and very smooth, with the different parts of the arms just following one bit after another.

Wellbeing Improver finds her movement sessions (Alexander Technique) life changing as she is able to move differently. She is gradually improving which is a better outlook to “oh, I’m getting older, it is difficult to move” .

She stopped doing what she thought she had to do in the past and was still doing in the present. As a result, the interference stopped, and she is now able to raise her arm easily.

Transferability

These new ideas are not bound to this specific session. They can be used in many everyday activities such as reaching up into a cupboard, raising our hands, fitness exercises, etc.

This may be of interest to you

Where do our arms attach on our body?

Bringing your arm forward at shoulder level


The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

By January 10th 2022

seeing things differently
Illustration 9 of seeing things differently

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References:
Man's Supreme Inheritance, Alexander, FM [1910] 1996, Sixth edition reprinted with minor corrections December 2002, Mouritz.
This page was last modified on Nov 30 2022 5:32am