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Blog

Creatures of Habit

Claire Coveney

We are creatures of habit. We want to know how things are going to be and how we relate to them. A great idea as it can make us feel safe, helps us know where we are, to feel supported. 

When I get up in the morning I have a pretty regular pattern of things I tend to do, open the curtains, unload the dishwasher, feed the cat, put the kettle on, get the kids breakfast... I like this order it means I can ensure things happen and everything goes smoothly so that we all get out of the house to get to school and to work on time. There's a lot to do and it's busy.

But what if things go wrong? What happens if something changes? The dishwasher hasn't been put on, the cat has brought in a mouse (an unfortunately regular event in our house!), we've run out of milk ... ahh!! 

It's so easy in these situations to get stressed, angry, tense, agitated. We worry that we will be late, we rush, racing ahead to the next moment...

That's where the power to pause comes in so that we can look at what is happening now, rationally and reasonably. Accept what is happening in our situation both externally and within us. It then gives a choice about how we react. Maybe I have to wash a few dishes, perhaps try my tea black for a change; and the mouse!! Well I have time to work that one out!
 
In The Alexander Technique we practice this pause in everyday movements and activities, we practice being in this moment so that in the more difficult situations that life presents us we can hopefully make a better choice and find a new way.

Run Well Mama

Claire Coveney

I am a Mum so I am of course drawn to the many websites, Facebook groups and resources out there about Mums running.

And what an amazing thing they are, so supportive and a great way to connect with other women, other Mums who want to get out there and run. Whether to shed some baby weight, escape from the kids, have some "Me" time or generally get fitter and healthier. Wow running is amazing for so many things...

But there are also in these groups so many comments about little, niggles, aches, pains or something just not feeling quite right.

Most runners in this instance will look at new shoes, gait analysis (which usually looks at how the foot lands in order to recommend a certain type of shoe), try to fix the problem in isolation (thinking its just my knee instead of looking at the whole coordination of running), or even just plug in some music and push on through.

But who has ever thought about the balance of their head on their body? Your head weighs around 5kg or more, so it's relationship to the rest of you is pretty important. FM Alexander the founder of The Alexander Technique found this relationship to be vital in how we carry out our daily activities. For many of us however we interfere with this relationship, squashing out heads down on our bodies and interfering with our coordination. We may not even know that we are doing this. But imagine the freedom, ease and lightness you could achieve from letting go of this to find a better coordination. It really is like taking off the brakes in your run.

So even if you are just starting out running with a couch to 5k or are running longer distances then why not learn to run well and find ease and coordination in your run.

So don't just run, run well Mama.

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What is perfect posture?

Claire Coveney

We all want it it seems. Not to slump or have round shoulders. To be able to stand up "straight". Interestingly people used to say to me in my pre-Alexander days 'you have great posture'. From the outside I looked pretty straight I guess but I was held and stiff. My breathing was shallow and I was uncomfortable sitting or standing for longer than 5 mins.

This is me sitting now, right at this moment. I am using The Alexander Technique to allow my head to be easily balanced on my spine. allowing myself to be supported by the chair and thinking of not interfering with my natural coordination. Its not perfect. There will be more and more of me that can let go of old habits. But its way better than my old rigid self. I can breathe more freely, move more freely and sit or stand for long periods easily and it feels so much better. I feel so much better.

So forget perfect posture, it usually involves way too much efforting. Instead learn how to find ease, balance and poise in whatever you do. Learn posture using The Alexander Technique.

Perfect Day for a Rainy Blog

Claire Coveney

It's pretty rainy out there today. A proper wet, puddly, soggy kind of a day.

What happens to people when it rains though?

It looks like they want to pull their head so far down inside their jacket like a tortoise retreating into its shell. This seems to be the case even with a hood up or under an umbrella. As if being lower to the ground somehow avoids getting wet.

Sometimes a makeshift cover will appear from a piece of clothing or a bag in which the person will scrunch themselves down to get under (even though they could choose to lift it higher to fit themselves under).

Then there’s the running as if to dodge the raindrops. 

I like this quote from Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure: A code to the way of the samurai

“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

 

 

Running with Peaches

Claire Coveney

I am always interested to watch the quality of a runners arms. I find it can give so much away about a persons running but arms are so rarely considered an important part of running.

Two of the most common things I see are thumbs sticking up as if thumbing a ride.  This to me is an indication of tension right through the arms, shoulders and chest.

The other thing I see is abandoned arms that are just not really involved in the running and a bit too floppy. Try running with your arms by your sides and you will see how tricky this can be.

Arms need to be part of the whole movement of running. Not overly tense or held but freely moving as part of the whole coordinated movement of running.

So whats with the peaches?

Well next time you are running begin by just noticing whats happening in your arms. Are they tense and held tight to your torso? Are they not really part of your running, just floppy and not really involved.

Then just imagine you have 4 soft juicy peaches, one under each armpit and one in each hand. You are going to need to allow some space between your torso and upper arm so that you have room for the peaches, maybe this allows you some more freedom at that upper arm joint.

And you don't want to squash them in your hands. So you need just enough tone so that you don't drop them but not so much they will squash. Don't worry too much about the position if you prefer your hands to be be more open that's fine, it's more about the idea.

And that's it that's all the tone you need.

No Pushing Required

Claire Coveney

My recent runs have not come without discomfort. My ankles have been a little achy and my calf muscles a little tight. I'm running further and more regularly than I have ever run before so is it too much? Should I build up more strength? Get different shoes? Do some more stretching?...

But really I know that none of these things are the answer. I want to run and I know that I can run. I don't have a problem with my ankles or calves the rest of the time, so something that I am doing while I am running must be interfering with the best way I can run. So how can use this amazing tool, The Alexander Technique to work it all out.

So today my run was one of specific exploration. What am I doing?

I started off with no intention apart from to observe. I ran for 10 minutes or so not really noticing a lot apart from the familiar ache.

Then I changed my thinking to releasing my knees forward and allowing my feet to follow. Now there was a difference... but what was it? At first I wasn't quite sure but the ache was not there, interesting?? Then I worked it out, I wasn't pushing the ground. I was just allowing my feet to leave the floor and seemingly I wasn't getting slower. So it was both easier, no ache and not slower. Great I though lets play with this a little more.

So now my feet weren't pushing off the ground I was aware that I could allow my back foot to peel off the ground allowing all the lovely joints in my foot and ankle to move freely. Now this was interesting as I was using less effort but I seemed to be speeding up.

I never cease to be amazed by this technique, The Alexander Technique. Just the simple awareness and change in thinking could allow me to get rid of the aches but also an unexpected effect of an increase in speed. Surely what every runner wants.

 

 

The Gym – Getting exercise and insight at the same time.

Claire Coveney

I have recently joined a gym. I used to think I didn’t really like going to a gym and it’s true I would rather be at a dance class but that’s not always possible and I enjoy getting some exercise. Well now I really enjoy it, I am getting exercise and learning a lot at the same time. 

Today I was using the chest press. I had this funny little twinge in my left elbow. Not a familiar twinge and nothing so uncomfortable that I thought I should stop, so I continued but came back to allowing my neck to be free so that my head could move gently upwards and allowed my jaw to release... and the twinge stopped… as if by magic.

So how come?

Well everything is so interconnected.  What I am doing with the coordination of my head and neck is so inextricably linked to my whole way of using myself. So of course that little bit of extra effort I used in my neck and jaw to lift the weight caused something to twinge in my elbow.

Lucky I have the amazing knowledge of The Alexander Technique.