Alexander Technique Education UK




Providing a trusted resource of information 
on the Alexander Technique

“You're Neck Knew You Were Coming Here” By Elisa Adams

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. 

Company name change, by general meeting special resolution June 7, 2013, from UKATE LIMITED to ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE EDUCATION LTD

A Co-operative Company Limited by Guarantee Registered Office: Moulsham Mill, Parkway, Chelmsford, CM2 7PX

Registered in England, Company Registration Number 8474170

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software