“Please give patient Alexander Technique handout.”
This is a frequent direction to my staff for my patients as they leave our office on Main Road in Westport.
I have benefitted firsthand from my lessons with Mary Derbyshire in Little Compton, so I am eager to introduce my patients to it.
In fact, it was a patient who introduced me to it a few years ago. Her story is remarkable. At an advanced age, she suffered a fall and fractured her neck, resulting in what the neurosurgeon deemed an unstable situation. He offered a surgical fixation so that slippage would not cause quadriplegia, but the patient declined.
She did not want to be impaired by the side effects of narcotics, so she called her friend Mary, who through the Alexander Technique gave her the tools to control her pain.
She was also regaining range of motion, and it was healing slowly by itself. With no drug side effects, she was mindful not to trip or fall again.
I thought, “I need to meet this person!”
I was eager to learn more, and also curious to see if I could experience relief of some chronic shoulder pain, so began my lessons with her approximately 18 months ago.
I recall her assurance early on, as she gently moved my arm, “Oh, you will be pain-free,” as I recounted how long my shoulder had been hurting.
Our lessons are a wonderful mix of bits of information, experiencing passively and actively what release of tension and effortlessness in one’s own body feel like, and collegial sharing.
Changing habit patterns of held tension, creating new patterns that serve me better, attending to breath and body, letting my skeleton support myself with less efforting on the part of my muscles and connective tissue are all part of the technique.
I am getting lessons in residing in my human body so that there is still freshness and energy at the end of the day, for the spontaneity that my role demands, so that my true character is expressed.
What is truly remarkable and reassuring about all of this is the way that it dovetails so perfectly with the other practices I am studying for my own health and that of my patients.
Alexander Technique is also very much about head and neck structures, tongue, vocal cords and temporomandibular joint, so about “finding your voice.” It also makes it possible to reject the inevitability of aging with pain and loss of mobility.
If you are one of my patients, you probably already know why I ask “Where is your tongue?” I still marvel at how simple a tool that is, and how profound the consequences of practicing what Mary calls “good use” actually are.