Sarah Warman, Alexander Technique teacher

Sarah Warman, Alexander Technique teacher
Sarah Warman MSTAT,  Alexander Technique teacher
Learning the Alexander Technique

Sarah Warman has been an occasional visitor to our training school, and we met to talk about her route to being an Alexander teacher.  As we sat outside in the sunshine, she told me her introduction had been through her father. He had avoided a back operation by having lessons, then persuaded her to have some too.   “It looked good, it felt good, I thought it was like deportment, I thought it was luxurious” she told me, describing her early experience of lessons.

Then, in her twenties, she tasted success in her career as a documentary film-maker and landed a dream job with the BBC.  Around that time she discovered a yoga meditation centre where she experienced a level of peacefulness she wanted to incorporate in her daily life.  This quickly came into conflict with the deadlines and stressed pace of her TV job.  “I felt creatively stunted while I was there.  I had an inability to be myself freely.”   This dissonance between the career trajectory that she thought she wanted and a quest for a different kind of personal quietness continued.  Before long she was in extreme pain with RSI.  “I ignored myself being unhappy, until my body told me to stop. I couldn’t use my left arm, and I couldn’t use it for a long time.  The pain went into my right arm, my neck, my hips and my knees.”

Training as an Alexander Technique teacher

Through a mixture of Alexander lessons, a spiritual alchemy group class and a decision to take a few months off work, she began to realise she couldn’t continue as she was:  “I was grieving the life I thought I was going to be losing.”  Initially intending to pursue it only for a few terms, she started training as an Alexander teacher, decided to continue, and graduated in 2013.  “It was very painful in my first year.  It wasn’t what I’d planned for myself. During the training I had a deepening conversation with myself, being able to hear, listen to and honour myself.  But success means something different to me now.  My focus is on health and wellbeing.”

Her RSI came back with a vengeance when she qualified and she has to remember to keep her life in balance to avoid a recurrence of pain, neither pushing herself on too much nor retreating away from the world:  “pain has always been my friend, telling me when to stop”.

Working as an Alexander Technique teacher

I asked her what she brings to the pupils she works with.  Her Alexander life has always been intertwined with a spiritual element from the dynamic alchemy teaching that is important to her.  “I find they complement each other” she continued. “You meet each person where they are.  I learn about myself by trusting my intuition, seeing where I am that day and where my students are. That’s where the magic can really happen. It’s about the playfulness of life, being inventive and creative with myself. ”

She continues to call herself a film-maker and still loves photography.  “I will always be a film-maker, I’m still passionate about it.” But she is more careful about what projects she takes on, aware that low budget contracts where she has to do all the jobs may put too much pressure on her.  “I had RSI very severely.  I don’t have it in my left arm any more.  I don’t see it in the same way.  Pain means I haven’t been looking after myself.  But when you put hands on someone else (in an Alexander lesson) you have to look after yourself. “

Sarah Warman’s website

Film by Sarah about making a community vegetable garden in Stamford Hill in North London

 

Stephen Dunn, Alexander Technique teacher

Stephen Dunn MSTAT, Alexander Technique teacher
Stephen Dunn MSTAT, Alexander Technique teacher

I’ve been to visit Stephen Dunn, the first Alexander Technique teacher to qualify, in 2016, from the school where I’m training.  He worked for 35 years in the art world as an exhibitions and collections registrar. Now he has the letters MSTAT after his name, meaning he’s a member of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Learning the Alexander Technique

We met in his sunny living room, and I asked what got him interested in the Technique.   He explained he’d had one lesson many years ago, couldn’t see the point and didn’t go back.  But some time later he became irritated by his round shoulders, decided to give the Technique another chance and came by recommendation in the mid-1990s to Lynn Neal (then Lynn Azerappa).

“My first lesson was like a road to Damascus moment.  She was realigning my head, neck and back relationship.  She had her hands on my head.  She was taking me up.  I felt my back melt away from my neck.  It was a divine experience.  I thought this was amazing.  I felt so light.  It made me think about how I used myself and how I could do things differently.”

He had lessons with Lynn for over a year, and subsequently with a number of other people, including Walter Carrington, one of the first generation Alexander teachers, who had worked for many years with FM Alexander and died in 2005.  “I had 5 or 6 lessons with him.  You felt completely inspired and safe and stimulated by what he said, his ideas, and his ways of thinking about things.  The energy from his hands felt very special.  I felt incredibly safe and energised by him.”

Training as an Alexander Technique teacher

He continued having lessons, but as he came close to retirement decided to change tack and train as a teacher himself.  “I’d run my course with the art world.  Over the years I’d often thought about training to be an Alexander teacher, as I’d got so much out of it.” I asked him about his experience of the training course, which lasted nine terms over three years. “I feel so much better.  I feel more enlivened and people remark how different I look.  There’s an encouraging physical reward.  The training in itself – the intensity of training – has been incredibly worthwhile for me as a person and has changed me.  I now have the ability to stand back from things before I react. One of the really liberating elements to it is understanding the joy of being open to learning something new about yourself.”

Getting into his stride, he went on: “I also enjoyed being exposed to a non-linear way of learning.  Learning as a jigsaw and fitting pieces of that jigsaw together.  It’s not what we’re conditioned to want.  That in itself was very stimulating and challenging, to have your conventional ways of learning challenged.  It completely breaks the mould.  You gradually come to understand more deeply things which you thought you fully understood before.  You think you’ve got it then you discover another layer of treasures.  It’s like having a box of chocolates and then you find you have another layer. ”

Teaching the Alexander Technique

I asked him how he explains his work to his pupils: “We explore the way we do things, and the comfortable habits we have. We demonstrate how it can be to do things differently, and transmit a different experience.  Because everything is interconnected, mind and the whole body, it’s fascinating to see how dealing with the primary control (the dynamic relationship between the head, neck and back) can work its way out to everything we do.”

Stephen Dunn’s website