Alexander Technique Education UK




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on the Alexander Technique


Please note that views expressed in these blogs are attributable to the authors and not the corporate body ATEUK.

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  • 27 Jun 2022 12:11 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier this month ATEUK held its second summer session, after the success of last year’s “Back in Touch”. This is an opportunity for ATEUK members to get together for sharing, friendship and updating of AT skills. Although primarily aimed at trained AT teachers plus students currently studying at EACAT, the ATEUK-affiliated teacher training school,  we were also very pleased to welcome some of our pupils who wished to spend a day or two deepening their AT understanding.

    This year’s theme was “Refresh, Rejoice, Remember” and over each of the four days around a dozen of us assembled with some there every day and others doing the one or two days they could fit in. Every day started with Alexander work on each other, sharing ideas and discoveries. Most days also ended with a spell in semi-supine, the AT ‘lying-down work’, to send us home revitalised.

    In between we had a range of activities in the morning, guided by different teachers, then a longer session after lunch on particular topics. Monday brought the chance to experience a session from Kirstie Richardson’s AT and movement workshop.  On Tuesday Sarah Witkin demonstrated saddle-work and we got chance to try working on each other in the saddle.

    Wednesday was a slightly different day as we remembered our colleague Paul Burge, who sadly died in February. Paul had taught many of us over the years at the Essex Alexander school which preceded EACAT, as well as working with EACAT students. His speciality was in voice work, but his presence, skill and stillness as a teacher made any work with him memorable and we miss him. Despite this it was in a spirit of joy and celebration that we had some songs in tribute from Jane Gregory before Thomas Pope, a friend of Paul’s and fellow AT teacher, led us in remembering Paul and in some work in his memory.  We were honoured to have Paul’s niece Rebecca with us as well as Ken and Angela Thompson who ran the Essex school and knew Paul for many years.   

    Thursday also had a slightly different timetable as we also had the ATEUK house-band in residence with some much appreciated music and a demonstration of good use in performance. After lunch we held our AGM followed by tea and cake. As a co-operative body this is one of two meetings open to all members we hold each year at which any issues can be discussed and decisions made. The minutes of this have been circulated to members. We closed with thanks to Sandra Waller for her love and leadership of both the event and ATEUK.

  • 14 Feb 2022 12:08 PM | Anonymous

     This podcast interview with Kirstie, on her AT and Movement practice, was recorded by the Yoga Centre in Leigh-on-Sea


    Season 2 - Episode 4 - Kirstie Richardson - Anahata Yoga Centre
  • 19 Jun 2020 11:40 AM | Anonymous

  • 12 Oct 2018 2:48 PM | Anonymous

    The Alexander Congress: Chicago August 2018

    Just a Thought.

    I arrived in Chicago late evening in a taxi from the airport full of trepidation and nervousness but tinged with excitement. This was my first visit to Chicago and my first Alexander Congress. Having two terms of my training left to complete I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right decision as to whether I was ready for a full week with a high number of qualified Alexander teachers. How wrong was I:

    Loyola Halls.

    The Loyola campus perched on the edge of Lake Michigan was wonderfully placed for this congress. The lecture and training rooms were excellent as was the hospitality and food. As a swimmer I was aching to swim in the Lake at some point but that would come.

    My Highlights:

    The first workshop that I attended on the Monday morning delivered by Tommy Thompson settled all my nerves within about half an hour. His opening discussion was to ask us about our narrative, how we were feeling at that moment and if there was any anxiousness within us.

    He didn’t ask us about the anxiousness he just asked us to pair up and for one person to hold the other person’s hand and to give them unconditional support regarding their current emotional state for a couple of minutes. He said the fact that we didn’t know what they are anxious about did not matter, it was just to give them unconditional support, as an Alexander teacher would give any of their students. This simple initial work set the scene for two wonderful training workshops with Tommy and also for the week.

    Another comment that will stay with me from Tommy was that as an Alexander teacher we can give people an experience of their ‘potential’. The emphasis was on ‘their’ potential not the teachers. He added “we can give them no more and we should give them no less”.

    Another workshop was ‘Say Yes’ not ‘No’. Inhibition is ‘just a thought’ why not be a ‘yes’ thought. To stop, have the ‘thought’ and then say yes but in a positive uplifting light.

    Great speakers; from an actor talking about his own Alexander Technique lessons that we could all relate with, to a Buddhist priest talking about ‘Edge States’ regarding compassion.

    Chicago City Centre was great, I went up the Sears Tower; second tallest building in the world over 400m high. I went on a boat trip to see Chicago’s architecture and the skyline from Lake Michigan with over 100 other Congress attendees, a fantastic experience. Having lunch in the City with colleagues and getting lost whist trying to find a restaurant!!! I was the guide!!!

    Meeting authors of books I have read. Having a training session from Missy Vineyard on emotional feelings and wordage. Work exchange with teachers and receiving their guidance and support. Meeting people and making new friends from across the world. And yes swimming in Lake Michigan practising the Shaw method with a new friend from Finland. Having a beer in the college bar with another new friend from Washington. 

    Meeting a fellow construction specialist from Chicago and discussing the differences between US and UK work culture debating on how the Technique could be a benefit. Work exchange on a lady from Chicago realising that this is for real.

    Dancing with a mob of Alexander Technique infused people on the last night, dance floor packed from virtually the initial song to the last. Listening to wonderful music from very special talented people.

    So what did the congress do for me? It was an uplifting week, full of generous and positive people and in the madness of current affairs it was ‘time out’ full of positive and upward thinking people. It has given me a new confidence in not only the Technique but how I fit within it. A wonderful week, if I could book for Berlin tomorrow I would. Just a thought.

    Paul Cano-Lopez Aug 2018

  • 09 Aug 2018 2:02 PM | Anonymous

    Thursday, 14th. June 2018, saw the EACAT, students, teachers and Director of training, make a summer pilgrimage to Reepham, Norfolk. The trip was organised to visit the resident teachers, Ken and Angie Thompson, at their home, to immerse in a day of teaching, instruction, dialogue, and of course tea and cake. 

    The day began with Angie giving a warm welcome and providing an inter

    esting potted history of the village and their house, which is one of the original buildings within Reepham. Over tea, we discussed the outline of the day which was to include Ken and Angie giving 'turns' to the students and teachers, with opportunity to deepen our understanding of the technique. 

    Angie worked with, half of the group, giving each student instruction, using both chair activity and table work. An important aspect of the work with her was a detailed discussion of the use and value of the position of mechanical advantage, 'monkey'. For students of the technique, this is a hugely important aspect of use, and can be very physically demanding for new trainees. 

    Simultaneously, Ken worked with the remainder of the group, working primarily in chair activity. Of course whilst not working with either Ken or Angie, teachers and students

     had a great opportunity to observe, ask questions, or discuss aspects of the work as each of us had our 'turn'. 

    The teachers in the group, also had an opportunity to give additional hands on work in the intervals between. Lunch saw copious quantities of tea, cake and more tea and more cake, being distributed between further discussion anecdotes and laughter. 

    With the groups swapped, the afternoon session began Ken's group working with Angie, and vice versa. The chair work is of course, the opportunity to experience ones own habits in an activity, and to observe our reaction to stimulus. In that activity we have the opportunity to 'inhibit' and to subtly undo our usual, habitual, way of 'doing', getting out of a chair. This teaching was very ably demonstrated by Ken's 'non doing' hands. 

    The afternoon session continued with a viewing of a video created in 2008 of Chris Stevens discussing the primary control to students of EAS. This dialogue raised many questions and has since been a subject of debate at the East Anglia school. The key concepts that Chris was elucidating, were with reference to Alexander's 'Use of the Self' and conversations with Walter Carrington, where it became clear that one cannot actually 'free the neck', because we do not know what a free neck is, but rather:

    • 'What he was doing with his feet and legs, was causing him to pull his head back' 'You've got to track down what is causing you to pull the head back' 'The neck is the primary control' But ,'the primary control is not a lever you pull, it is an indicator of what is happening'. Just as passport control, inspects and makes sure everything is OK, so 'Primary Control', indicates if all is OK.

    The day concluded by fond farewells. The dialogue continued into the next weeks at school and provided teachers and students alike with an ever greater understanding of this extraordinary work. 

    Many Thanks to Ken and Angie for their kind hospitality and skilful hands.

  • 25 Jan 2017 8:58 AM | Anonymous

    As a second term trainee seeing a different teacher is always a mix of excitement and trepidation. In my opinion teachers tell us things, sometimes the knowledge goes in and at times it washes over you but when the mind is ready to rece

    At ATE we receive training from many experienced teachers and today I met Wolfgang and learnt how to walk!!!

    My take on ‘Primary Control’ is trying to reboot the computer so we can start from neutral thus clearing out all existing data. 

    Under Wolfgang’s direction after my attempt at Primary Control “Where is your weight” he inquired? Somewhat confused I didn’t know what to say, he then said “Your weight is in your thighs!!!

    A bean-bag on each shoulder as a stimulus; Wolfgang stated “Think through your heels and relax your jaw. Soften the chest and think about your weight through to your heels then back up to the crown of your head like a piece of elastic” This I had heard before but put more thought into my feet and felt grounded and lengthened whilst arms were suspended from my shoulders.

    Feeling balanced I asked Wolfgang about the spine lengthening whist walking. I explained I understood forward and up and let the neck be free and shoulders to widen and as a swimmer I could lengthen the back in the pool but could not see the direction whilst walking that would lengthen the spine.

    I was then lifted from behind onto my toes whist being suspended off balance forward to the point of falling. I was told “This is your first step and as you place your foot think bounce/spring forward and up with the length of elastic running though you to the crown of your head giving you spring towards the ceiling” With my neck free and head forward and up I could feel my spine lengthening as in the pool with the thought going through my feet then up to the space above my head. Whilst up on my toes it clicked in my mind that if I think up at the moment as my heel leaves the ground I could feel the spine lengthen. This bounce thought from the ground gave me an upward lift on each step. I could lengthen my spine on each step!!!

    At times I believe we need different input to gain understanding and the ‘physical lifting’ actually gave me the direction. Different teachers have their own methods and a combination of these have helped me gain an understanding.

    Thanks to all my teachers and fellow students at ATE I was ready to have that light-bulb moment with Wolfgang. I now work on myself whist walking every day.

    Paul Cano-Lopez Student at ECAT      16th November 2016

  • 05 Dec 2016 2:27 PM | Anonymous

    A number of students and teachers at EACAT wanted to attend Anne Batty’s “Working On Yourself” workshop in London in June but were unable to so imagine our delight when Anne agreed to come to our Chelmsford school to give the workshop here.

    Being in my final term of the AT teacher training course this workshop felt particularly pertinent. Soon I’ll be working largely on my own and awareness of my own use will be essential.

    On arrival, after brief introductions, Anne wasted no time in discussing the importance she places on working on herself as being a key feature of her working day. Closely studying her reflection each morning is the start to this work as soon as she wakes. With 50 years of Alexander Technique teaching experience the workshop was full of gems of interpretation of Alexanders findings. She explained that her work was continually evolving throughout her career and this being what keeps it so interesting. I loved her down to earth approach, an example of which is her dislike of the term semi supine or constructive rest as too pompous. ‘Lying down work’ being her preferred term. We spent the morning experimenting with chair work, table work and everyone was keen to see how Anne worked with people on the floor.  I think Anne’s approach to wall work will be invaluable for me.

    We all felt we’d been put through our paces by the end of the workshop and had much to take away with us. Anne’s energy and vitality was as impressive as her work. She was disappointed we wanted to stop for coffee as she didn't want to waste time! 

    Kathy Ponter Student at EACAT

  • 11 Nov 2015 6:19 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier that morning my neck – which had been on the verge of collapse for some days  - finally popped. The nape of my neck and all of my right shoulder had gone into spasm. I couldn't turn fully to the right. Looking left was difficult as well. So it was just as well that later that day I was seeing Elaine.

    To the people of Leigh-on-Sea, Elaine is somewhat of an enigma, she pops up all over the place and can often be found taking a dip in the sea or having a nap along the breakers on the beach. Or at least that is where I most often will find her. Either that or wandering around London art galleries and theatres.   At the bottom of her garden is a beautiful old schoolhouse – here she often holds small get-togethers during the summer months where musicians, writers and actors share their work. But by profession Elaine teaches the 'Alexander Technique'.

    When I first met her, she had the presence of someone I had know my whole life, as though she were just a part of my family as my own grandparents. I was studying at the time, whilst working in a local coffee shop. After one particularly stressful deadline she came up to me whilst on my shift at the shop and said,“Do you mind if I put my hands on you?”

    To anyone overhearing this conversation it may have seemed strange. But I was desperate to be fixed of all the aches and pains so willingly accepted her offer. I didn't anticipate her coming up behind the counter whilst I was serving and placing her hands on my back then and there. However as soon as she did, making small corrections to my posture I instantly felt uplifted and calmer. That was when I knew I had to find more out about the Alexander Technique.

    A few days later I went to Elaine's house for my first lesson. The first thing she made me do was lie down on a large table with my hands resting on my hips, my knees bent with my head resting on a small pile of books. I soon realised that this would be how I would spend most of the sessions and was promptly told to think about sending my hips back and my knees forward. With emphasis being placed on the thinking not the doing! Although this seemed to defy the laws of biology I tried my hardest to do so. Elaine then moved around the table and made small adjustments to my posture, movement and breathing. The aim was and is to allow yourself to release the tension that is stopping you from achieving. In all honesty I hadn't a clue what she was saying or doing to me because Elaine invariably talks in riddles but whatever she was doing was working.

    Back to the present now. When I arrived at her house last week Elaine was deciding whether to go and 'dunk' herself in the sea. She took out a coin – heads she would, tails she wouldn't – tossed it in the air all the while saying “I want it to be tails, I want it to be tails” which it was. Whilst I don't believe there could be some divine interception at work, it is these little foibles that make me love Elaine all the more.

    “I suffer terribly from stiff necks” she said as she gently held mine in her hands. “I screw myself in knots about it. I'm an Alexander Technique teacher and have been for thirty years. I have no need to and certainly shouldn't have stiff necks when my head is supposed to float! Now you're distressed aren't you? I can tell, well I don't mean to sound miserable my darling but life really is just one steady stream of distresses...Now have you seen the wedding dress exhibition at the V&A?”

    This is often the shape of conversational patter with Elaine. In the same exchanges you are faced with jaw-slapping one liners then instantly the topic changes to discuss her latest expedition into London's cultural scene, only just as quickly to go back to talk about how she can feel your body move. The flickering of each muscle that to oneself is invisible but to her speaks volumes.

    “Your body is to-ing and fro-ing. The rigidity is constantly moving so we need to make that settle down. Perhaps you should consider why your neck is in constant flux and moving from side to side. Rather than going left to right you should consider moving forwards.”

    Elaine certainly has a knack for connecting the physical and emotional during her sessions. It's not something that I believe has developed over our becoming close. She is extremely intuitive and from day one knew me without me uttering even a syllable. She seemed to know the essence of what was on my mind. Though perhaps that is because I am perpetually easy to read.

    That being said she is not one to pander to for sympathy. Elaine is one of the most loving, caring and intelligent people you could meet but if you partake in 'eating worms' (her phrase) as often as I do, then do not be surprised if a few stern words are flung your way.  Just as when you attempt to help Elaine with any part of your lesson, particularly when it comes to her manoeuvring your body. As I attempt to support my own leg briefly by tensing my thigh muscle I received a slap to my ankles and a quip:

    “Give me your leg! You must stop trying to be so helpful all the time. I think I can sum you up as very good but a little bit naughty. Now you say that and repeat it until I tell you to stop!”

    Fearful of what she might do if I didn't oblige I took my punishment and repeated the phrase until we were both in fits of giggles when Elaine remarked, “You're so embarrassed your toes have curled back!”

    After this brief episode of hysteria passed Elaine covered me in a blanket for warmth and left the room to prepare some soup for her husband, John. Once fifteen minutes had gone by she came back.

    “Really what you need is to be more carefree but that won't happen until you're old or you've had children, at which point you'll be mad anyway so don't do it, but do because having children and being old is quite wonderful.”

    No matter what she does she knows how to make people laugh, me included. But this time she looked at me, walked to the table to help me up with the customary hug that comes at the end of each lesson. Despite my laughter and my smile, as she moved me from laying to standing she said something that hit my core, “I can tell that you're still rather sad though aren't you? I won't ask what it is but whatever it is, don't worry. It will pass.”And with that my neck clicked free.

    Footnote: Sadly Elaine passed away in October 2014. She loved, laughed and lived 'til the very end. We'll miss her but will continue to celebrate her life whenever we think of her!

    Elisa Adams is writer and jazz singer from Leigh-on-Sea. Since Elaine passed away Elisa ran the London Marathon as part of Team Fair Havens to raise money for the hospice where Elaine spent her final days. This article was originally published in Trawler magazine in June 2015. 

  • 09 Sep 2015 11:33 AM | Anonymous

    Limerick Alexander Technique Congress

    Summer is now drawing to a close and holidays are over but before it’s back to ‘business as usual’ I would like to share an account of the 10th International Alexander Congress which took place in the beautiful town of Limerick on what must be one of the most striking university campuses in the world.

    Set on the banks of the river Shannon, the two University villages are linked by the Living bridge, named for its architectural design which creates movement as people cross it.  The two villages of student accommodation are surrounded by magnificent halls of learning and impressive architecture.  With numerous restaurants and cafés to choose from. The student life here must be very conducive to study and social activities.

    What a fantastic venue then for our Alexander Congress.  This was the best attendance ever with 700 delegates from 40 countries.  The opening ceremony was hosted by the organisers Richard Brennan, Niall Kelly and Glenna Batson and we were hugely entertained by Michael Gelb’s witty and informative session on Leonardo DaVinci, a genius visionary whom Michael compared to our own FM.

    This set the bar high for the whole week and we were not disappointed!  From the plenary sessions to the talks, from workshops to work exchange there was infinite choice to satisfy every interest.  Swimming, running, singing, movement, music, anatomy, eyesight, to mention just a few. 

    We were also treated to Irish music, Irish dancing with such talented children enchanting us with lightning footwork and straight backs, a Limerick competition with a huge range of subject matter and totally crazy judging.  There was a chance to learn some dancing, to meet many authors of AT books and to view new film footage.  Heads of Training had a special lunch with over 30 in attendance and the week was rounded off with a magnificent Gala dinner in a local hotel with a three course meal and music provided by a local band.  The band members were overwhelmed to see so many people up on the dance floor, they were taking pictures of the dancers !!  That’s the Alexander world for you, people moving freely and having such fun.

    Our organisation was very well represented with our brochures on display in the main building. Our participating members wore the ATE UK badges from day one which we think inspired ATI to wear theirs too.  It was also a very great pleasure to meet up with our colleagues from Australia (ATE inc) and to exchange news and views.  There is now a newly formed ATE Espania.  Ken Thompson, our most senior member was at the heart of the event very busy with helping to film the whole Congress.

    The closing ceremony was very inspiring, again Michael Gelb did a splendid job, Michael Frederick, the founder of the International Congresses was delighted to announce that in 2018 the next Congress will be held in the USA in Chicago.  The whole event was rounded off with some beautiful singing and a trio of Alexander teacher/musicians playing a selection of classical music.

    The above account cannot fully capture what a marvellous experience it was to be in Limerick and to be part of such a large representation of our worldwide Alexander community, the spirit of sharing, the kindness, the fun and laughter and, of course, the opportunity to pool so much knowledge of our work for the future development of FM Alexander’s Technique.  I am certain that he would be highly delighted with the shape of things to come.

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