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

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.

We often think of AT for helping us recover from back pain, or play our musical instrument with more fluency. But of course, being able to use our bodies in a free, balanced and better co-ordinated way can improve sports performance too. Whether you are an elite athlete or someone who wants to keep fit and healthy, it helps prevent injury and work to our full potential whatever that may be. When we have the experiential knowledge of how our body works best through AT, it’s easier to do whatever we do in a more considered, balanced way that enables us to have a long term healthy approach to our physical (and mental) wellbeing.

Before I trained to become an AT teacher I was fortunate to have lessons with a few Alexander teachers, including a couple of lessons with Elisabeth Walker, a first generation teacher*. She was in her 90’s at the time. I was so impressed with her vitality and ease of movement, she was inspirational. She was still able to squat down holding on to a door handle and able to lift and direct me from sitting on the floor to standing. I thought if I could be anything like that as I grew older it would be amazing. It was certainly one of the factors that made me think of training.

I was sporty as a child and young adult, competing in discus, basketball, netball and swimming. Then in my 20’s I turned my hobby into my job and worked as a personal trainer. Unfortunately I had no knowledge of AT when growing up. I was very committed and trained ‘hard’. At times this lead to injuries that looking back, may have been preventable with a better understanding of body mapping and AT skills. I do remember coaches emphasising the importance of technique over strength, but as I was young and strong I was more likely to rely on power and not take care of my body. Now-a-days with apps like Coaches Eye it’s far easier to film and analyse technique and body use. And with AT teachers and coaches working together sports people can get the best combination of advice. After all practice does not make perfect. If you practice badly you are more likely to get injured and less likely to improve. Intelligent embodied practice and training is what is required.

The techniques elite athletes use to achieve medals are not necessarily easy on the body long term. So it’s important for us to know the difference between techniques that may take athletes to peak performance and what will promote long lived healthy bodies for the rest of us. Take cycling, when you watch the Tour de France you can see cyclists whizz past in very aerodynamic postures - backs arched, necks looking compromised. This gives them the edge in the race. But, if we are not racing and just want to enjoy some healthy cycling is this the approach we would want to take? Probably not. Instead we might lengthen through the spine, take the pressure off our neck and maybe out of our shoulders and arms by sitting in a slightly more upright way. We may not win any races, but we are more likely to still be cycling into retirement. This is why AT teachers work with coaches and teach athletes ways to stay as easy and free as possible while they are training and competing, but when working with fitness enthusiasts may work in a different way. All people come to sport with their own ability, fitness, injuries and goals and we can be sensitive to these to achieve sustainable, well co-ordinated and efficient use of their bodies.

I recently had the opportunity to take an AT workshop during a Yoga and Pilates retreat day, it was well received and a lot of fun. AT can compliment and give practical skills that are useful to both yoga and Pilates (and vise-versa). AT offers body mapping, embodied awareness and improves co-ordination. It’s also helps with teaching us how to respond to stimuli, rather than reacting. In this case the stimulus is the particular pose or exercise being performed. We can pause, and be mindful of our bodies, using them with an accurate body map and understanding how to allow our bodies to perform and move well, without being pushy and having excessive tension which can lead to injury.

Alexander Technique is the ‘how to’ of anything - not just getting in and out of a chair 😊. So I really enjoy when pupils come to me with particular questions or problems that we can explore and trouble shoot together. I have had great fun working with pupils on their physiotherapy exercises, yoga and Pilates exercises and weight training exercises as well as skiing, fencing, badminton and running. I teach pupils the skills to make movement more mindful, considered, co-ordinated, safer and more effective. If you would like to find out more about how the Alexander Technique can help you please contact me using the details at the top of the page.

*Elisabeth was part of FM Alexander’s first teacher training in the 1930’s.

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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