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. “