Blackberries, observation and change


Walking the dog, and eating blackberries from the hedgerow, I realise that I know intuitively which fruits are ready to eat, and which not. I don’t have to think about it, I just know. How? Experience and observation – the ripe ones are shiny and plump as though they have absorbed the sun. The blackberries that are not quite ready, or never will be, are dull and compact.

And it strikes me that this level of observation has a parallel in the skills you can learn through the Alexander Technique: observing yourself in a mirror for example and seeing the way in which you hold yourself – can you see something radiant and free, or lacking in energy and tense? Noticing is the first step towards change, towards letting go of the tension that can cause pain and discomfort, towards a freedom of movement and being.


I can’t teach anything that I haven’t done myself. I may not always do it, you know we don’t always do what we should (life would be very dull if we did). But I know when I want to have more freedom, I know what I can do and what I must do, then I make the choice of whether or not to do it.
– Marjorie Barstow Alexander Technique Teacher

What a wonderful way of putting it – discovered on

International Alexander Awareness Week

Text neck, or tech neck

is the term used to describe the pain and damage caused to the neck, back and spine from looking down at electronic devices over a prolonged period of time. It is one of the most common causes of back pain and headaches and is an alarming epidemic affecting even young children.

STAT spokesperson said: “Back pain is already one of the biggest causes of absenteeism in the workplace. This is now being compounded with the additional symptoms associated with people looking down at devices for too long – for some people, a good majority of their day.”

In the short term, users tend to suffer with stiff necks and shoulders but long term, the unseen damage can become more serious, resulting in disc degeneration and prolonged pain.

“Your head weighs about 10 lbs, and by dropping your neck to look at a mobile device all that weight pulls on the muscles in your neck and shoulders, causing strain and harmful tension.  It is the equivalent of dangling a heavy shopping bag off the end of your neck,” STAT spokesperson.

To prevent the impact of text neck, STAT recommends dropping your eyes to the device first and then gently tipping your head on top of your neck, instead of habitually dropping your head and neck forward and collapsing down through the torso.

STAT also recommends spending one day during that week becoming aware of how you hold your body when using a mobile device.

“We want people to spend a day being conscious of how they use their bodies when holding electronic devices. If you catch yourself dropping your neck down and slumping , be active in trying to change that habit, think tall, drop your eyes and tip your head to see the screen. Even if you only manage for a few minutes, it’s a huge step forward in being aware of what could be causing your evening headaches,” STAT spokesperson said.

“And how about having a text-neck awareness buddy? Challenge each other to test your awareness of body use for one day between 10-16 October 2016.”


5 Things you can do to prevent text neck

    Think tall before you begin.

    Take time to drop your eyes then tip your head and avoid dropping your neck

    Remember to breathe.

    Lie in semi-supine for 10 minutes each day to, knees bent, soles on the ground, resting your head on books 5-8 cm high.


Book an Alexander Technique lesson to directly experience the benefits. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2015, demonstrated that participants with chronic neck pain who attended one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons had nearly a third less pain and incapacity than those who received usual GP-led care alone.

I will be offering 1/2 price introductory lessons (£20 instead of £40) during the month of October – Try it – It could change your life!



‘Think up’

My favourite dog walk at present is in the Alice Holt Arboretum, Farnham. There is a dip where there are more than 60 Redwoods, and through their feathery leaves, the sun shines a spotlight on the forest floor. Sitting there today, I found myself looking up – to the treetops, the sky, to birdsong.

A key element of the Alexander Technique is the ‘directions’ to self: thinking ‘Let your neck be free in order to allow your head to go forward and up, and your back to lengthen and widen’, or in shorthand, ‘think up’. When I think ‘up’, magically, I feel more open, I seem to have more room to breathe. and I see more. Try it maybe?


How to change

How to change?

F M Alexander discovered his technique because he had a problem. He was working as an actor in Australia, but kept losing his voice. There appeared to be no medical explantion, so he set to work to find out what he was doing that might be causing this recurrent laryngitis. He found by observing himself in mirrors that when he spoke there was an associated habitual pattern of tension that affected his voice. This was a very significant discovery, and the beginning of a process of change, of resolving not only his vocal difficulties, but also a chronic respiratory problem.

How to change? It’s all there in his story –

acknowledgement of a problem or the state of things, and
acceptance of personal responsibility for one’s wellbeing;
careful observation of self;
willingness to work at something, and determination.

Why learn the Alexander Technique?

Why learn the Alexander Technique?

A walk yesterday up ‘The Cat’s Back’ in The Black Mountains led me to think about the way a cat responds to touch: a stroke down its back seems to make it expand outwards from that touch – not shrink away from it.

I didn’t know I had a choice in how I responded to life before I had Alexander lessons.

In the beginning I continued with lessons because I felt energised, positive, buoyant. Then the Technique really helped with lower back pain. Finally, I realised that I wanted to change. I wanted to feel more confident so that I could enjoy life more. I wanted to be able to sing and not feel exhausted after a concert because of the habitual nervous tension I experienced.

And it worked! Or rather, it’s work in progress. Learning the Technique gave me the confidence of knowing that I had a choice in the way I responded to life, that I could manage the tension and nerves that had affected me since I was a child.

That’s why you should learn the Alexander Technique – because you want to change.WP_20160509_004.jpg cat's back


I have just come back from a 10 day course on the Island of Islay – glorious weather and no TV/radio/email or phone! The course was a fascinating exploration of movement, and the questions that arise from in depth study. One of the themes for me was indeed about the asking of questions – both of a concrete and philosophical nature. An image popped into my head today – a memory of watching a small child kneeling on a seat, looking out of a train window, asking question after question; sometimes the same question over and over! It’s how they learn, how we learn, develop, grow, change.

Alexander Technique can help you ask questions, help you learn, develop, grow, change – if you want to.

WP_20160423_001.jpg Islay

Islay Dawn



‘Is there too much stress on STRESS?’*

I was very interested to read an article – ‘Is there too much stress on STRESS?’ in one of the Sunday papers*. Coined by Hans Seyle in the 1940s, the term ‘stress’ must be one of the most used words in our language. It has been a dirty word, but increasingly there is recognition of the benefit of appropriate amounts of stress.
I was particularly interested to read about a study that demonstrates the way in which ‘the effects of stress can be mitigated by a certain cast of mind’ (p 11) – a project from the University of California, published in ‘Biological Science’, has found that certain people can build resilience so that when they are subjected to stress, they are able to modify the fight/flight reaction, and maintain a degree of calm, rather than panic and subsequent exhaustion. An exciting possibility!
It made me think about the way in which the Alexander Technique can help: by developing the ability to recognise habitual responses to stressful situations, and learning how to choose a more appropriate response.
Definitely food for thought.

*The Observer 14.02.2016 THE NEW REVIEW pp 8-11

Learning in the lambing shed!

January 5th 2016: a beautiful sunny spring-like day. We have started giving our sheep a supplementary feed because it is only 8 weeks until lambing! Thinking about new lambs reminded me of a morning spent with the ‘small shepherds’ club’ I belong to, a few years ago. We were gathered in the lambing shed of a large commercial farm in Surrey: The shepherd was demonstrating how to tube feed a premature lamb, when his ears literally pricked up. He handed the little lamb to someone else, stepped over the hurdles, and made his way through the hundreds of expectant mums to a ewe struggling to give birth. He delivered the lamb, got it breathing and settled, and then resumed his talk without any fuss. He was absolutely ‘in the moment’ – relaxed, and yet acutely aware, ready to respond to any situation.

This state of being is probably one to which we would all aspire, and the Alexander Technique can help you – learning how to recognize when stress is making you tense, and teaching you how to use thinking to bring about a more desirable state, of both relaxation and awareness, like the shepherd, well-oiled and ready to spring!

Tip of the week: sat at your desk, or dining table, notice the effect of your thinking: say to yourself: eyes relax; notice what is within your visual field, and at the limit of where you can see, let your ears take over hearing sounds, so that you have a 360 degree sense of being. How do you feel?


Less Stress at Christmas – free taster Alexander Technique taster sessions

Leading up to Christmas, I will be offering a series of free taster sessions, introducing you to the Technique, and the way in which it can help you:

  • Let go of stress
  • Release tension in your shoulders, neck and back
  • Improve your posture,
  • Recharge your batteries
  • Find a moment of peace

Dates: Thursdays 10th and 17th December 19.30-20.30 and also 10.30-12 noon on the 17th

Venue: St. James’ Church, Rowledge, GU10 4EN

To find out more, and to book, contact me by phone or through my contact page