► BECKY : "I have had about 30 lessons in the Alexander Technique and it works. Friends can see such an improvement, but I dread them asking about it, as it's not easy to explain. The idea of spending a lesson getting in and out of a chair seems ludicrous to them, but to any sceptics I would say try it for yourself. It's something completely different, not a quick fix and it requires effort. It's a new way of thinking. A new awareness of how your body works, which to most, is something that is taken for granted until things go wrong. I had been diagnosed with cervical spondylosis causing tingling fingers, both sharp and dull nagging pains in my arm, and frequent headaches. I couldn't sleep as the pain and discomfort was constant. It was upsetting to be told by my doctor that it was difficult to treat, and the painkillers prescribed were of little use. Acupuncture and the Alexander Technique were mentioned and I was assessed by a physiotherapist who said it was a posture problem and I should stand up straight. My frustration was because at the age of 45 I wasn't really sure what 'straight' was. I tried to correct my posture for a couple of weeks and just added backache to the other symptoms. I don't like needle, so I checked the Internet for the Alexander Technique and was delighted to find a teacher, Christine, in my area. My initial assessment went well and I was impressed by Christine's experience and decided it was worth a try. Sessions are a unique experience. It can feel strange to begin with as it is 'hands on'. Trust is needed as you are literally in someone else's hands. It can be frustrating as you try to break years of bad habits, and it's not all black or white. The gentlest of corrections help you to move in a more efficient and effective way. A momentary pause before movement calms both the body and mind, so that you assess what it is you wish to do, but use your body the way it was designed to move. There is an awareness of how the body works as a whole, how joints and muscles work and the range of movements that are available. It takes time to change bad habits and is frustrating when the wrong way to do something feels normal and the better way feels odd. Over time, with the assessments and minute adjustments that Christine makes, you start to recognise the good and the bad. It's mind over matter to act on it. It makes sense in theory, the practice takes time.
We wouldn't use a car the way we use our bodies. It would break down eventually. Over the weeks, the pain has reduced to the odd twinge, the tingling gone and the headaches drastically reduced. I hadn't realised they were related to my neck. Just to prove the Technique covers the whole body, I have discovered a correction in my pronation. I suffered tremendous pain and a burning sensation due to the misalignment of my ankles and a flattening of the arches.
Before having Alexander lessons I had custom made orthotics that held my foot rigid, easing the pain but losing the flexibility of my feet. I no longer wear these and have no pain.
I look forward to the sessions and only wish I had started them years ago, rather than waiting until I had problems to correct. I have been more aware of how my body works and it's fascinating. I cannot praise Christine highly enough. She has a wealth of knowledge, so instructions come with so much information, be it a quote from Alexander or a reference to anatomy. Her obvious enthusiasm is infectious and she practices what she preaches."
► SUE, school teacher: "When I first started lessons in the Alexander Technique I thought of it in physical terms, that it would improve my posture and so give me more energy. After 18 months of weekly lessons it has done all that. I move more freely and have more energy because I am placing less strain on myself. However, the most important benefit for me has been a psychological one. As a teacher I am dealing with hundreds of 'noxious stimuli' (otherwise known as students!) during my working week. Gradually I began to realise how automatic my responses were. If a child misbehaved, I got stressed about it.Through Alexander lessons, I began to realise that I could stop this response and be more in control. I now deal with all situations more calmly. I am coping with my job much better than before and also with other areas of my life. I am looking forward to further improvements. The change so far, is unbelievable".
► EL, after 30 Lessons: "My experience of the Alexander Technique has been a recognition of movement and gradual change. I am becoming more able to bring about a 'pause', where I can then choose to react less habitually. I have also acquired an ability to have heightened concentration and focussing. Last week I walked uphill for 1 mile without stopping - with improved efficiency and with less effort to the delighted surprise of both my husband and myself. This was affirmed by a total stranger who said "You took that hill well". YES!"
► ELIZABETH, after 30 lessons "Having suffered with spondylosis and osteoarthritis for a number of years, I started to suffer with muscle problems. Over that period I tried various therapies - physiotherapy, Bowen Technique, Pilates and Chiropractic. Some work with the chiropractor helped temporarily, but without much lasting success. I was always looking for something I could use to help myself when I needed it most. I tried the Alexander Technique as a last resort, and eventually found what I was looking for. With the Technique, I found a steady awareness that things were improving and when I do have flare ups, joint problems - with careful thought I feel I am learning how to overcome the problems."
► JAMES 1 year of weekly lessons then regular lessons further apart: "I had experienced back pain for many years. A range of treatments failed to provide long term relief. I was advised to approach Christine, an Alexander Technique teacher. I did so without any expectations. I have now practiced the Technique for 3 years. I soon became pain free, a condition I continue to enjoy. It has meant breaking some unconscious habits of a lifetime, but well worth the financial cost and work required."
► JILL, after 42 lessons: "For over a year now I have been having lessons in the Alexander Technique. Having had back problems for many years and had no real relief from seeing the Doctor, physiotherapist and osteopath, I eventually saw a chiropractor who was able to help. Over time I resumed a normal active life and was able to enjoy hill walking again and Scottish country dancing. Two years ago things deteriorated. My visits to the chiropractor became more frequent, and I came to the conclusion I was doing wrong between visits. Somehow I was the cause of the problems.
I had heard of the Alexander Technique and thought I had nothing to lose by having some lessons. I was a bit sceptical that time spent sitting on a chair could change things but I had read of very good outcomes for musicians who often suffer from repetitive strain injuries. And a friend had given me a book which I found interesting and seemed to make sense, so I looked in Yellow Pages and booked a lesson with Chris Rapley.
My first lesson was an eye opener. I sat in a chair and Chris gently adjusted my position until I was in better balance. It felt really strange; if that was right then clearly the way I had been sitting and moving and which was totally habitual had been putting undue strain on my muscles and skeletal structure.
It is very difficult to 'unlearn' habitual use and to replace it with good practice. It is a slow process. Self help books are informative and useful but cannot replace the direction and feedback of a good teacher.
After 6 months of lessons I saw my chiropractor again. She was amazed at the improvement in my back - so much so that she immediately asked for leaflets from Chris about her work with the Alexander Technique to display in her clinic.
I strongly recommend anyone with aches and pains or who has a stressful life, which often leads to physical problems, to consider having Alexander lessons. I had had few back problems for many months now and I know this is due to my lessons with Chris".
► JACQUITA : "Chris lives for the Alexander Technique; It is very clearly a labour of love to her and her precise and disciplined manner of teaching leads the way for the changes needed in pupils to take place slowly and gradually over a course of lessons. Her energy and support and understanding in the needs of her pupils knows no bounds. If you have an "open" mind to learning a new way of using your body and mind in every activity you do in life, and have the time and dedication to explore this unique discovery, Chris will provide the means whereby the discerning pupil can thrive".
► CHRISTIAN : "I first heard about the Alexander Technique when applying to study at my local music college. There was a module offered on the course I was interested in so I decided to see what it was about. At this time I was suffering from a pain in my back, which was causing me to not be able to practice playing the guitar as I would have liked. I read that musicians with similar problems practiced the AT which helped them. I found Christine, an Alexander teacher close to where I live who said that she would be able to help with my problem.
I discovered that my pain was caused by my pulling down and by the way I was holding my guitar. This was worsened by my learned posture as a soldier. I was misusing myself by holding myself in the wrong way. Christine showed how my old habits were detrimental and that what felt right to me was actually doing harm. These habits are hard to break as they are so well practiced and are a consequence of subconscious thought.
Through using the Alexander Technique I have gained a higher level of awareness of myself and so have become more physically sensitive and able to correct my misuse. I am becoming consciously aware of the things that I do which stop me reverting to my old habits. With this new way of approaching things, I hope that my guitar playing will become freer and that the longevity of my musical career should be extended.
As well as having solved the pain I originally had, the physical benefits I have gained will help me in the long term too. The AT however, extends beyond the physical, into the psychological world. The principles can be applied to every situation. If automatic, reactions can be paused, you can give yourself time to think before acting, which helps better decision-making and reduces stress. Christine has shown me that benefits can be gained from the AT however far you decide to take it."
► TED: "I had read a little about the technique and was attracted by the philosophy of addressing the cause of a problem and not the symptoms. I have always been jokingly known as clumsy within my family, tripping and bumping into door frames for example. I had chosen to regard it as a "reflection of enthusiasm and get up and go" - a useful get out for my self esteem and a strategy to reduce embarassment. However if over 60 years of such behaviour was to continue it was only a matter of time before my 9 lives ran out and I damaged something other than crockery. The chiropractic clinic I use to keep my lower back in tune, recommended Christine when I asked. With her lessons I soon could understand why I moved and stood as I did. We have worked together to change how I think and use my body and to inhibit my habitual misuse which caused the clumsiness.
I now rarely trip, I have eliminated bruises on arms shoulder and thighs, my posture is much better, and I have a feeling that my whole body works so much more smoothly and easily.
I recommend Christine to anyone with an open mind, willing to embrace a new way, and I am convinced there are great benefits to be found through the Alexander Technique."