David Orman qualified as an Alexander Technique teacher in March 2017 from the school where I am training. He told me his story.
“I was 17 or 18 and I could feel myself changing for the worse. I had pain and many unpleasant sensations in my whole body. I also had some emotional changes and I was irritable a lot of the time. Pain was an everyday experience, it was very severe “. Eventually he received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, though he had none of the fatigue usually associated with the condition. He rejected pain medication, not wanting a life on painkillers, and sought out other options – chiropractic, osteopathy and pain specialists. “They all described me as ‘mysterious’, especially for someone of my age. There was no way they could help” he said.
One chiropractor recommended the Alexander Technique, and after a couple of lessons he felt he was on the right track so continued for a couple of years. “I had a sense of lightness in myself, and a reduction in pain”. By now, aged 21, he had quit university and was unable to work because of the pain, though he could feel some things improving, such as sitting. “For years I had been very reluctant to sit down, I was in so much pain. This was a very isolated time – I had no job, no social contact except with my family. I’d left school and university, I was in pain and isolated”. He read The Use of the Self by FM Alexander, and began to realise that by training to be a teacher he could apply the principles Alexander had discovered to himself and his own body use, and it could benefit him as well as his pupils.
He committed to the course, and to three years commuting from Kent to London. “I enjoyed the social aspect, it was a positive experience and it felt like a little family. In the first term I felt quite light-hearted. I was being trained by skilled teachers, I had social contact four days a week, and I was sure the exposure would help me. But as the year went on, my thinking changed. I began to see it as a mission that had to benefit me. I had to get the pain to go in order to justify my training. I had to use that emotional drive and motivation to look at the Alexander Technique in a wide way so it would benefit me”.
Closer to graduating, he recognised the responsibility of being a teacher, and part of a profession, and realised he had to find a way of making it work. This was despite pain that continued when he put hands on people in teaching. “I expect that to go on for a few years. I don’t feel it’s plain sailing, and I will have to factor that into my teaching”. Looking back, he sees his training as a time of self-exploration. “You get a lot of help from the teachers, but if you want to maximise the experience you have to be prepared to look at yourself”.
He wants to work with people involved with sport, and anyone with chronic pain, in Kent or in London. “I’m clear in my thinking about my own pain, I understand emotional responses to chronic pain, I can provide a practical way to carry on living and get round the pain.” He recommends people try an Alexander lesson and see what happens. “The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t appeal. You won’t come to harm from it, so it’s worth seeing if it’s for you”.