This is a guest post from Alexander teacher David Orman, who writes about a recent experience in hospital as he used the technique to help him deal with pain and difficulty. I interviewed David about his path to the Alexander Technique and his fibromyalgia in an earlier post.
My story begins almost twenty years ago, when as an eight-year old in the school playground, I made one cheeky insult too many to an older boy, which resulted in him punching me twice square on the nose. The nose had not been broken, but became increasingly misaligned, though I ignored it thinking the damage merely cosmetic.
Skipping forward fifteen years, as I began my Alexander Technique training the teachers pointed out how restricted my nasal breathing was. Eventually I saw a specialist, who recommended an operation to enable me to breathe properly through my nose. The deciding factor was that poor breathing affected my fibromyalgia, the severe chronic pain condition that led me to train as an Alexander Technique teacher in the first place.
I knew a lengthy stay in hospital for a nose operation, and the inactivity that came with it, would be difficult for me in creatively managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Complications meant I needed two operations and had to stay on a cramped ward for four days, bleeding and forbidden to leave in case of infection. I realised I had to use the Alexander Technique to cope with the torment that the combination of fibromyalgia and inactivity produces.
I found a full-length mirror in the ward toilet and used the room for some serious self-observation. I practised Alexander procedures, and used the idea of ‘non-doing’ to get comfortable in either the chair or the bed. A bed is not good for the Alexander ‘semi supine’ position, so I worked on getting release by lying down on my side. When my upper back and shoulders released, my fingers would let go too and I was often rewarded with some much needed sleep. Although this helped me manage better, my pain levels escalated – inevitable with fibromyalgia and enforced inactivity.
By the day of my second operation, the pain had become so severe that I was in great distress with a high pulse rate. I was now in a larger ward and used the extra space to lie in semi supine on the floor. The physical and emotional support this gave me was incredible. I reassured the unhappy nurses that I was a qualified Alexander Technique teacher and knew only positives could accrue from lying down like this; proof came as my pulse moved rapidly down.
Sadly, in that ward I had little control over the sufferings of my fellow patients, particularly a roofer who needed several procedures on the ward during the night after a workplace accident. I found it difficult to cope with this, and realised I must overcome my fibromyalgia and teach the technique, so that I can develop an increasing command of myself and my own reactions. The Alexander Technique was enormously helpful in preparing for the operation, and in improvising “in the moment” when the unknown developed. To end on a happy note, when my nose fully heals I can’t wait to know what my breathing and an Alexander ‘whispered ah’ will be like!
David Orman offers lessons in both London and in Kent