Esther Miltiadous BSc Hons, MSc, MSTAT Alexander Technique for Oakwood and Enfield

Blogs. crossfit

Mastering the Art of Working out (or how to avoid injuries with mindful exercising) -June 2019 Blog

I was always mindful of using my best technique while training and exercising, even before I became a personal trainer or Alexander Technique Teacher. I am, however, competitive by nature, with myself and others and often pushed myself to the limit resulting in injury. I was in my early to mid twenty’s when I was training at my hardest, youth was on my side and the idea of sustainable training didn’t seem an issue at that point. I always seemed to bounce back.

When I qualified as a personal trainer and taught exercise classes and 1-2-1 training sessions I was even more of a stickler for ‘good form’ or technique. Sometimes with weight training in particular, I saw people ‘cheating’ while performing exercises. ‘Cheating’ by performing for example, simple bicep curls (an exercise for the front upper arm muscles), with too heavy a weight for their present capability. This meant they swung the weight up to create speed and momentum, using and arching their lower backs, rather than only using their bicep, thus risking injury. They also failed to perform the exercise with a full range of movement which meant they wouldn’t benefit fully for the exercise. I tried to be a good example to clients, promoted good technique and explained the risks of poor technique. Unfortunately however, I still sustained injury for two main reasons;

-My biggest habit - and competitive nature, I always pushed myself and didn’t listen to my body.
-I misunderstood exactly what ‘good body use’ or good poise/posture were.

I had a classic ‘military style’ posture at the time, not slouchy, therefore good so I thought? Well no, I was wrong, It created undue stress and tension especially in my lower back and between my shoulder blades. As a result these were areas I regularly injured. Also, having spent my teens competing at discus and shot-put at school, with much enthusiasm but without great technique, I would regularly injure my ‘throwing’ shoulder. (My lack of technique meant I was using my arm from my shoulder and not supporting it with the rest of my body).

It wasn’t until I started having Alexander Technique lessons that I realised where I was habitually holding excess tension due to my faulty sense of ‘good posture’. I gradually understood what I was doing that made me prone to repeatedly injuring the same muscles and joints.

Now, through the skills learnt with Alexander Technique, when I do exercises, go for a walk or even sit at my laptop to write this, I have a more accurate sense of how I am using my body and tools and techniques to help me move well. This improved body use is built on a foundation of mindful awareness of my body. I am able to bring my attention into my body, while still being aware of my surroundings. I wish AT had been part of my physical education, I am sure it would have prevented many of my injuries.

Another thing that I feel contributes to injury within the gym environment, is that we are NOT encouraged to train mindfully. We are often distracted by watching television screens and work out more from a sense of duty rather than enjoyment. We rush around mindlessly, going through the process without much thought. When new to a gym, an instructor should demonstrate the exercises and machines to us, but it can be tricky to accurately replicate something demonstrated in this way. Many gyms, however, are not supervised by instructors and we are left to our own devises. These factors may make gyms more of a health hazzard than an aid to our health and wellbeing. There are also more controversial exercises, that are not appropriate for some people and getting advice is helpful. However, with all exercises it’s more about how we perform them and thinking mindfully about our bodies capability as we train. Training in a conscious and intelligent way, makes the most of the exercises we do and allows fitness to become something with long term benefits.

My Top Tips for Exercising

1. Be mindful of how you are using your body
, especially with relation to your head, neck and back. If we are over tensing and compressing our spines it can lead to all sorts of problems. Alexander technique teaches us how to move our spines, joints and limbs in a well co-ordinated and free way. It improves our proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of the body) and kinaesthetic awareness (The ability to be aware of one's own body parts (e.g., muscles, tendons, joints), posture, shifting of weight and movement of the body through space). For example, if you have ever seen a kids karate class, adult BodyPump class or similar, you may have noticed the different ways people ‘interpret’ the instructors demonstration, you can see how inaccurate our body awareness can be. N.B. If you are hypermobile, or have Hypermobility Syndrome, then your proprioception is sometimes less accurate. It’s best to improve this first before going to the gym, as your chances of injury are higher with poor proprioception. I shall write more about this next month, but feel free to contact me for more information.
2. Understand which muscles and joints the exercise is working and moving. We need to have an accurate body-map, a practical understanding of our own basic anatomy to train well without injury, Alexander Technique will teach you this.
3. Listen to your body, understand where you are now, from week to week things can change, respond to what your body is telling you.
4. Think about your breath. If you are holding your breath or modifying it too much you maybe creating problems. Alexander Technique helps!

To change unhelpful training habits, try some Alexander Technique lessons, learn how to master the art of working out and move well throughout the rest of your life. For more information or to book a lesson please contact me through the buttons at the top of the page.



Blogs. Tension Triangle

The Curse of the ‘Tension Triangle’ and How the Alexander Technique can help. May Blog 2019.

Do you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? Are you shouldering heavy responsibilities? Are your shoulders tense and tight and wound up towards your ears? I am sure we all recognise these sensations and feelings! I know I have felt either dragged down or wound up at various times, and our shoulders are only part of the story. We might be stuck in the ‘tension triangle’ - a band of tension that falls within the top part or our bodies, involving the head, neck, shoulders, jaw and facial muscles, including the brow.

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Blogs. microphone

Reading Aloud with Confidence and the Alexander Technique - April 2019

Last month I had the pleasure of taking a workshop for the wonderful charity ‘First Story’. Their mission is to change lives through writing. As it says on their website they ‘believe that writing can transform lives, and that there is dignity and power in every young person’s story. First Story brings talented, professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities to work with teachers and students to foster creativity and communication skills. By helping students find their voices through intensive, fun programmes, First Story raises aspirations and gives students the skills and confidence to achieve them’.

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Blogs. commuting

How the Alexander Technique helped me with my disastrous day commuting! March 2019

Every other Wednesday I go to Educare Small School, Kingston-upon-Thames. I love it, as I have probably mentioned before! It's a wonderful place and teaching AT to 3-11 year olds is one of my favourite things to do. It's just under a two hour commute, but worth every second of travelling. I have worked there for over 6 years and usually the commute is fine. I mentally break it down into sections and its a great opportunity to catch up on some reading. But last month I had a challenging commuter day, both ends of the day the journeys went not as planned and I ended up travelling for more time than I spent at Educare. It was tiring, there was not denying that, but I think my AT skills really saved me from being completely frazzled. I felt able to go straight from my 3 hour adventure to Kingston into teaching, without the need for a strong cup of camomile tea!

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Blogs. mural

Alexander Technique- Tension and Release, but what about Relaxation? February 2019.

Alexander Technique teaches us how to release excess tension so that we can be more balanced, coordinated and poised. But is it a relaxation technique? Well that’s not an easy yes or no answer. It depends what you mean by relaxation and even then it depends what your goals are in the moment (not forgetting the difference between goals and end-gaining, we can have a goal and allow for the process of reaching it to be mindful, whereas end-gaining in contrast is mindless)....

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Blogs. december blog

Alexander Technique and teaching young children -December 2018

I have always loved teaching young children. Before I qualified as an Alexander Teacher I worked as an education volunteer for the National Trust and as a Teaching Assistant in primary school. I love their energy, it’s so much fun, very creative and I get to be a bit silly!

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Alexander Technique in Sport and Fitness - November 2018

The society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique has just produced a short promotional film about Alexander Technique in Sport and it made me think about my experiences.



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Blogs. stressed at work

‘Try Hard’ Mindset or is that mind/body set? October 2018.

We are often told from a young age that we need to try hard and you’ll make it - or, you need to try harder - put some effort in to achieve what you want. Whether that’s being better at spelling, competing at sport, playing an instrument or later in life in our careers. But, is it really good for our mind/body wellbeing to be doing all this trying hard, striving, struggling?

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Blogs. Habitquote

Habits - the good, the bad and the ugly! September 2018

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” F M Alexander

“Chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are too heavy too be broken.” Warren Buffett (American Business man, investor, speaker and philanthropist.) (I disagree with the second part of this quote, but thats how it often feels!)

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Blogs. Julyblog

Alexander Technique helps improve your posture, does that matter? - 5th July 2018

Alexander Technique teachers often have a problem with the word posture! It might have something to do with the fact that often, when we are talking to someone and they find out what we teach, they straighten up and pull themselves into a military style posture all tight and uncomfortable. They have heard that we are something to do with teaching ‘good posture’ and we, the posture police, are ready to judge them for slouching!

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Blogs. knee xray

Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation and the Alexander Technique - 7th June 2018

Alexander Technique is becoming contagious in my family! Firstly my mother raised my interest in Alexander Technique after having lessons and this was the reason I gave it a go, now it’s my Dad’s turn. He has seen the changes Mum and I have made over the years, observed the benefits we have experienced (some of which are explained in my May blog listed below), but never quite understood what AT was. Dad thought it was a bit like physiotherapy and although he listened when I explained, somewhere along the way the full nature of the beast never really made a connection. Not feeling the needed to convert everyone I knew into AT lovers I left it that!

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Blogs. Back pain

Sciatica, a pain in the butt…and one of the reasons I came to the Alexander Technique - 9th May 2018

Sciatica can be a real pain in the butt, and down the leg or legs, and into the feet, its awful, I know from experience. In my late 20’s I was a personal fitness trainer. I had always been sporty a competitive swimmer, part of the school teams for athletics, netball and basketball, I trained with weights, was strong and flexible. Ever since my teens, however, I had also suffered with reoccurring bouts of lower back pain. Not too frequently, but when it arrived it was very uncomfortable, I took anti-inflammatories and had physiotherapy and it then seemed to subside again until the next time!

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Blogs. stress

Learn to Destress and Unwind with the Alexander Technique - 7th April 2018

We have probably all been slightly stressed from time to time. We can put ourselves under pressure or feel pressurised by external situations; jobs, household stuff, exam pressure or illness, to name just a few possibilities. This low to moderate level stress can leave us feeling tired, tight (especially our neck, shoulders and back), not quite our usual selves and reduces our emotional resilience. We may have even experienced deeper episodes of stress or a feeling of anxiety in particular situations. This is all normal and part of the human condition. (I have experienced both stress and anxiety at different times, in my mid twenties I had a period where I suffered with panic attacks and later in my early thirties the lose of someone close to me had a deeper impact.) Our bodies are well designed to cope with short periods of stress or anxiety, but problems tend to occur if we get stuck in a habitually stressed and anxious state. Something we often don’t recognise, it creeps up on us!

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Blogs. Monkeying around

Monkeying Around in the Garden - 2nd March 2018

Gardening is one of my favourite hobbies. I love being creative, seeing my garden change throughout the year, being physical and getting some time to myself in peace. From an Alexander Technique point of view, it’s also a great way of being mindful in activity, and think about my habits and pausing to think how to look after myself as I’m pottering around digging, pruning, racking and picking out the weeds!

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Blogs. Nervous/excited

Excited or Nervous? Maybe both - How the Alexander Technique helped me with an interview! - 29th January 2018

Last week I was given a very exciting opportunity, Robert Rickover, an American Alexander Technique teacher, invited me to take part in two interviews for his Alexander Technique podcasts called 'Body Learning'. I subscribe to these podcasts and there are some great interviews about all different aspects of the technique and how, where and with whom, it is taught. He invited me to talk about my work with the children at Educare Small School (3-11 years old), in Kingston and about my thoughts on teaching children AT in general.

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Blogs. Pause

The Wisdom of Pausing - 5th January 2018

Pausing is the second key that unlocks the door to change. (The first being awareness of habit, as mentioned in my first blog).

The Alexander Technique offers many unique skills and principles that enable change, but the concept of pausing in order to respond rather than react to a stimulus seems to be a universal wisdom.

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Blogs. Time for change

3 Important Qualities that Allow Change - 7th December 2017

(or how to get the most from your lessons)

The first step to being able to use the Alexander Technique is to become aware and mindful of our habits. The useful ones (that allow us to live in a poised and balanced way) and those habits that hinder our good co-ordination. This awareness plus the skills that Alexander Technique teaches allows us to change; so that we can use ourselves in the way we were designed to and make life easier.

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A Short Introduction to the Work I am Part of at Educare Small School, Kingston.

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