Tag Archives: Asthma

What’s the difference


I’ve been thinking, I’ve been writing about the Alexander Technique or Alexander’s discoveries for some time, you may be getting confused in what the difference is, I certainly do sometimes and I’m still not sure what the differences are.

Here are my 2nd July 2017 definitions. Be warned I will change my view on these definitions at a later date.

Alexander’s discoveries are the;

  • head spine relationship,
    • if we are balanced and free to about this vertical axis we have greater opportunity to be balanced and free in our limbs.
  • to be balanced and free we naturally rid ourselves of debilerating habits that prevent us from being balanced and free.

The Alexander Technique is a developed collection of activities for a person to undertake so that they can learn and enact Alexander’s discoveries.

These discoveries are within everyone if they choose to discover them and other modalities explain them in their own particular way.

The power of these discoveries is combining the two together as a whole in psychophysical unity.

If you are intrigued, go find an Alexander Technique teacher.

 

 

Grumpy, miserable and sad


There’s plenty of words that describe people with mental health issues, I was going to write some but I’m not, as they are generally defamatory and demeaning. You also have your own list.

I’m really pleased that the Heads Together charity is the lead charity for this week’s London Marathon. It’s about time mental health is accepted and spoke about in public, I have a view that we all suffer from bouts of mental health issues, some are like a runny nose, some like flu and in some cases like pneumonia. My assumption is that we have all had the runny nose version and the runny nose can last for years and years. We just live with it because it feels normal.

I’ll let you into a secret, once upon a time I thought grumpy, miserable and sad was normal.

I was wrong, if you feel like that then you are also wrong.

My normal now is being happy (I do sometimes do get the runny nose but I have tools for me to return to happy).

Happy is a great place to be, I learnt this skill to be happy instead of learning the skill to being grumpy, miserable and sad.

Why is it so easy to be grumpy, miserable and sad? My answer is that where others want you to be because they don’t have the secret of not being grumpy, miserable and sad. The lowest common denominator is grumpy, miserable and sad.

I guess you want to know what tools I use to be happy, if you have read any of my blogs you probably know.

I’ve trained to teach the Alexander Technique, (a lot of hours over 4 years) you may already have heard about this, posture and reducing lower back pain may come to mind. It sort of is but the Alexander Technique is so much more, posture and reducing pain are just the sideshows that people can see, measure and brag about. What the technique is about is to change how you think during your everyday activities. If you are a stressed Eric as I was, full of anxiety, I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe without an inhaler, the inhaler ruled my life, ooh, I hated those years.

Learning to identify my anxious responses to everyday stimulus was the first step and then doing some different, even if the different thing was to do nothing, things started to change, I became less dependent in my inhaler. It took a long time, I’m inhaler free now.

The Alexander technique is many things to many people, it reduces physical pain, it reduces mental pain, I see anxiety as mental pain. It’s all this but what I understand the Alexander Technique to be is training on how to love yourself. If you love yourself from a safe authentic space then you can love others. Judgement of yourself dissipates as does judgement of others. Mindfulness is fine but mindfulness in activity is the key to this love and happiness; this is what the Alexander Technique is. My training as a teacher has taught me how to notice others and offer techniques and ideas to others, many of these ideas are indirect, this is an important aspect of the training as it helps you to notice your habits from a safe indirect perspective. Observing yourself, as I have written before it the first step.

If you are intrigued or want to get rid of your grumpiness give me a call.

 

The hand that changed my life


I’ve just watched an article on TV – part of a series for Red Nose Day #rednoseday, the biannual charity event run by Comic Relief, #comicrelief the article was about adult male suicide. Beautifully and carefully produced, they interviewed a widow about the suicide of her husband and how the suicide affected her children and herself. Comic relief had given money and support to set up a charity to help those left behind after a suicide.

My immediate thoughts were I could have been one of those men, if I’d lost hope during my difficult times. For me I’d always thought that I would survive those difficult times, and I did.

Did I seek help – I know I had the support of my loving wife and friends.   I was in a terrible state for some years, asthma was just one of the problems, also I didn’t like myself and could never understand why others should.

Luckily I found help.

I found help when I left a supermarket, a hand on my shoulder and the offer of a half price session. I’d never heard of what the session was but I’ve never forgotten her hand contact. This was my first introduction to the Alexander Technique, that was over ten years ago and now I’ve completed the hours to be an Alexander Technique Teacher.

That hand changed my life.

You may be asking what suicide and the Alexander Technique have to do with each other.

The Alexander Technique, you may think it is about posture, fixing back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and a whole lot more of aches and pains. You would be partially right, as this is what people seek as a last resort before surgery.

The Alexander Technique is about how you think, apply your thinking and with Alexanders discovery that your head, neck, back relationship is fundamental in all of your activities.

Suicide still doesn’t seem to fit?

Suicide is the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.

Suicide is an active thought, a decision made at the height of depression, the final decision that will sort everything because I won’t be missed and my loved ones will be better without me.

Can Alexander’s discovery stop someone not taking their life, I don’t know but I don’t see why not. It’s helped me manage my asthma, it’s helped me manage my anxiety. Alexander’s discovery helps people to change their life of pain to a life of freedom just by understanding their head, neck and back relationship and thinking differently.

I’ve made this sound so simple, well it is but it can be difficult to be simple.

I discovered the freedom and happiness from Alexander’s discovery, I’m cynic and can be very stubborn, if it can work for me I know it can work for you.

If you have those blue days or see too much of the black dog, why not contact me, I may be able to help.

I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing


Now you understand where your sit bones are and also where your head neck joint is, if you  don’t then please read Your boney hollow and Acetabulum is one of those words I just love then you will discover where they are in your body and also what an acetabulum is.

What are your views and beliefs on how breathing happens and how does breathing happen within yourself.

Once I had some really skewed beliefs how I had to breathe, I thought I had to consciously breath when I did any strenuous activity and also I didn’t trust my breathing to happen on its own.

Unfortunately we can learn to control our breathing, this is necessary if you want to hold your breathe when hiding from someone and something or swimming under water. When stress and anxiety becomes a way of life, being conscious of your breathing becomes second nature.

Thoughts of:

  • He going to be angry with me – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • Thats a steep hill to walk up – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I don’t want to face up to something – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go shopping – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go to work – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing

The list is endless and you may have other reasons to hold your own breath. This breath holding is the initiation of conscious breathing.

Conscious breathing with anxiety is not a very successful partnership. The anxiety sets your breathing to a quiet mode with minimal diaphragm and rib movement Breathing takes place just at the top of your lungs, you may notice short shallow breathing with some movement of the scapula, the scapula moving forward so the glenohumeral joint rolling forward in space into a shrug.

Conscious breathing with the smallest use of your lungs is not adequate in fact it’s hopeless but that is what may people with anxiety do.

I know I was one of them.

I changed my breathing with help from others and I learnt how my breathing happens and the anatomy involved in breathing. I found the anatomy so important for me as it dismissed the beliefs I had in how I breathed.

Did you know your ribs move up and down hinging about your vertebra and sternum as you breath, this was a shock to me. I thought my ribs were just there to contain my lungs and heart, they didn’t move. Discovering my ribs moved down on an out breathe and up on in breathe was hard discovery to make, first because my ribs moved and secondly the direction of movement was illogical to me and sometimes still is.

The curve of the ribs with their movement changes the volume of air in the lungs. The ribs go down the air is displaced out of the lung, when the ribs go up the volume increases causing a vacuum in the lungs, air is drawn in to the lungs to equalise the vacuum with atmosphere.

There are many muscles that are involved in breathing, if you want to know more then it time for your own research. I might do a later blog about them if you want to wait.

The important thing to know about breathing is that you can just let it happen, when you start interfering with it, you will mess it up. Knowing the physiology and anatomy gave the confidence to leave my breathing alone. I still have certain triggers that bring on an asthma event, instead of jumping to my old trusty inhaler, I use the knowledge of how my breathing happens, notice any rising anxiety, and consciously control the rising anxiety and allow my urge to control my breathing to diminish.

These skills didn’t happen over night, it was may months, in fact a couple of years, so don’t put your inhaler in the bin and do it my way, things my turn nasty for you. Gently, gently is the key.

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When thinking goes awry


Sometimes I don’t want to walk my dogs, lots of excuses, non of them are valid but in the moment they are really true – honest. It’s that moment of getting up and doing something to meet the expectation of others or my dogs that I find difficult to achieve.

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think.

So what can be done, instead of trying to satisfy someone else’s expectations, I go for a walk  for myself and the dogs can come as well. It’s their choice to come along if they want. My dogs never say no so now I have a win – win situation. I’m going for a walk under my rules.

Some where to go, I’m quite fortunate as I can walk out from my house, up a very step hill into the Forest of Dean. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood the hill outside is just too steep so I have other options, dogs in the car and off to somewhere else. My favourite walk, my sanctuary is Soudley Ponds, my dogs love being there as you may have guessed there’s water, my dogs love water, I prefer dogs and water to dogs and mud.

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There’s a good path around the ponds and parking at both ends. At Soudley Ponds I have two walks, the easy one around the ponds, the walk is just under 2 miles so it is a nice distance to reflect and reset my thinking for the day. I return home motivated and eager to get on with the day.

If I want a challenging walk there’s a step hill up to Blaize Bailey  (a link to google maps) there’s a view point which looks over the River Severn, it’s just a beautiful view. Perhaps a blog about the Blaize Bailey walk later.

I use my walks to reset myself, consider if all those urgent things are really urgent, perhaps decide to tackle a few of those things I love to procrastinate about. I always find them so simple once I get started and a great relief once they are completed.

Have you ever wondered how we do things, a thought and it happens. Keeping it very simple, we think and something happens, for example, at the moment I’m having thoughts about what to write, I translate these non verbal thoughts into verbal thoughts, formulate a sentence then change these verbalised thoughts into muscular activity so my fingers can move around my keyboard to produce these words. We do this all the time and it’s amazing how with just a thought things happen.

Sometimes this simple thinking can get awry, a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared to walk a few hundred yards without my trusty inhaler, yes I suffered from asthma, or as I like to think nowadays my thinking had gone awry. I was stuck in the freeze mode of the fear reflex. The fear relex is wonderful for freezing when hiding when being chased or being quiet ready to pounce on prey but not if it’s held for weeks, months and years.

I did years, several miserable years, years I can’t remember.

I just survived.

In the freeze mode I found that I breathed in but not out, there was some breathing else I won’t be here to tell you.

My breathing function reduced to just using the upper part of my lungs, my inhaler helped when things got tough.

I thought my life was set as it was.

However I discovered that my thinking was awry and that I could change my thinking, I needed help to guide me though and time to realise it was possible. So if your breathing is effected by stress, depression, anxiety then from my experience there is help and it’s within you, you may be like me and need help to find it in yourself and you may be able to find away yourself.

There’s many aspects to understand about your breathing, I found that understanding where my lungs and diaphragm are helped me, it may help you. Also understanding how breathing is semi-automatic; we can control breathing or just let it happen without conscious control. It is this ability to consciously control breathing when fear triggers the fight and flight response.

If you get stuck then your thinking goes awry.

So how to prevent, notice, do something to prevent this thinking, you’ll have to wait or read more in my mailing list; if you live in the Forest we could meet up and enjoy my sanctuary, Soudley Ponds?

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think. Again this is thinking gone awry.

Simply change the volume in your chest cavity


This is a series about breathing, the first part is Troublesome Breathers

Try this out, but first please read Troublesome Breathers.

Intertwine your fingers of your hands, knuckles pointing up. Now imaging your knuckles are your diaphragm and your arms are your ribs.

I’m going to ask you to move your hands up and down, if you can keep your shoulders quiet so they don’t move too much.

Hopefully you are sat down, if not please sit down.

Now lift your hands up, if your shoulders are still your elbows should come close to your body. Do this activity a few times and notice what your elbows are doing.

Hopefully you have done this a few times and may be discovered something, if you want add a comment of what you have noticed.

Now for more imagination; your fist is your diaphragm, your arms are your ribs and your shoulders are the joint where your ribs attach to your spine. Hopefully that makes sense.

Now raise your fist, what happens to your arms? For me my arms rotate about my shoulders and are drawn into the side of my chest.

Now lower your fist, what happens to your arms? For me my arms rotate about my shoulders and my arms move away from the side of my chest.

This is what happens to your ribs when your diaphragm rises and lowers.

Air is exhausted from your lungs by two major activities, your diaphragm rising and your ribs rotating downward that reduces the volume of your chest cavity.

Air is inhaled in to your lungs by two major activities, your diaphragm descending and your ribs rating upward that increase the volume of your chest cavity.

Now for a warning – please be seated the first time you experiment with this activity and stop if you get dizzy.

Revisit the activity of moving your fist up and down in front of your chest, notice your arms moving in and out to the side. Do it a few times.

Move your fist to the lowest point in the activity above, now this time imagine your fist your diaphragm. Breath out, as you are breathing out raise your fist, stop when you want to, don’t do any forcing. Now on your in breath allow your fist to lower as your diaphagm descends.

Repeat a few times.

Stop if you feel light headed or dizzy.

Repeat again but this time synchronise your diaphragm with your fist and your ribs with your arms. As your diaphragm rises your fist rises and your ribs descend as do your arms, reducing the volume in your chest cavity.

As your diaphragm descends with your fist your ribs rotate up and away as do your arms, increasing the volume in your chest cavity.

That is how we breathe, we simply change the volume in the chest cavity, on the in breath a partial vacuum is created as the chest cavity volume is increased, air is drawn in to balance the chest pressure with atmospheric pressure. On the out breath the air in the chest cavity is displaced as the diaphragm and ribs reduce the chest cavity volume.

You may have notice a change in your breathing, when I practice this I have a change in the quality a my breath, it’s hard to describe apart from it feels cleaner and I feel more buoyant.

Here’s another warning, take care, wait a moment, you may feel light headed so remain seated until you feel safe to move.

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Troublesome Breathers


When I started writing these blogs I didn’t know where they would lead, I now seem to have a direction, my earlier blog Thinking this is what freedom feels like explains where I was stuck, I’ve been writing about thinking over and over again and couldn’t work out what was wrong, what was wrong was that I was thinking to much.

For weeks I’ve been wanting to write about how I overcame my breathing issue but could never find the words. I seem to have found them.

Breathing is a natural act that we all do, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t breathe. The issue with breathing especially with troublesome breathers like myself is that we can take control of our breathing, generally in a poor way. We have beliefs that aren’t true and disable us from breathing naturally.

Some questions

Where is your diaphragm?

What does your diaphragm do?

Do your ribs assist in your breathing?

Where is the top of your lungs?

Where is the bottom of your lungs?

What is in your chest cavity?

How far in your back are your lungs?

These are important questions for the troublesome breather to understand. We humans can have differing thoughts where our body parts really are. These beliefs have been developed over time by listening to others and just having a good guess. These beliefs will also trip you up and reduce your capacity to perform activities. If is important to know where your body is and this include the lungs, diaphragm and your other internal organs. If you don’t know you are just guessing.

What I need you to do now is to answer the questions above honestly, no cheating. If you answer to the best of your ability and it’s wrong, that is great as you now have the opportunity to learn. If you doubt my answers, please research and let me know if I’m incorrect.

I’m going to join you in answering the questions above with what I believe is correct, I’m not going to cheat and research the answers.

The diaphragm is attached to the lower ribs and the spine near the lower ribs.

The diaphragm aids breathing by moving up and down, up on the out breathe and down on the in breathe.

The ribs hinge from the facet joints of the vertebra and the cartilage of the sternum. The ribs move up and down, as the diaphragm goes down on the in breathe the ribs hinge upwards increasing the space in the chest cavity, giving more space the lungs to use.

The chest cavity contains the two lungs and heart, the diaphragm seals the bottom of the chest cavity.

Your lungs fill the chest cavity except for the space for your heart. The top of your lungs is just below your collarbone, the bottom near the lower ribs. What I find amazing is that your lungs are behind your spine. Have a look at a cross section on the internet.

How did you manage with your answers, were they the similar to mine, if in doubt please check. The important thing is to know what is true.

Don’t do anything about these discoveries, just think and sleep on it. I’ll continue on the next blog  Simply change the volume in your chest cavity.

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The first 5 steps to managing asthma


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I probably do but manage it without medication, so do I really do have asthma?

I don’t really know but I do know that when I get stresses or anxious I notice my chest tightening and I have a shortness of breathe.

Is that asthma, is that like your asthma?  My doctor seems to think so!

I never thought of having asthma, I really didn’t want it; are you like that?

If you’re interested this is what I’ve learnt about managing asthma, this took me a few years, it’s a slow process with many hour practice, keep taking the inhalers.

1. Stop and notice when your asthma rises

Just let it happen as it normally does and take you medication as you normally do, but notice what your thoughts were when you notice your asthma rising.

  • Was something bothering you?
  • Were you about to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Was something getting awkward?

For the first few times this is probably enough. Remember not to rush, noticing is important, perhaps write a diary of what you were feeling, you may be able to notice a pattern.

2. Do something different

Hopefully you have noticed a pattern; something has bothered you, you have reacted which resulted in your asthma rising. Perhaps you could react differently, not getting vexed or angry, what about having the opposite reaction or just notice you’re being bothered and not reacting, staying neutral. Maybe its worth an experiment to see what happens, remember your inhaler is always available so use it when you need it.

As with step 1, this will take time and you will get it wrong, remember getting thing wrong is a learning experience that you can learn from.

Remember this takes time so don’t rush or put yourself in danger.

3. What are you thinking

Where are you when your asthma rises? This is a time question.

Was it just the thought of doing something stressful. Perhaps you notice that you were thinking into the future, instead could you think about now instead. The future may be less stressful if you think about what is happening now.

This does take practice, notice your surroundings, become interested in something you can  see, hear, smell or touch, just enjoy being here now. Did you notice a change in your asthma rising. Don’t rush anything, and be safe.

4. Let the ground support you

I noticed with my asthma attacks I don’t really know where I was, sort of floating around in a panic and not feeling to well. Perhaps ask yourself if the ground is supporting you, it could be a chair or bed, the thought is that I can feel my weight being supported from the ground, feel nice and heavy.

5. Let my head be light on top of my spine

Now that you can feel your weight being support by the ground perhaps you could have the opposite thought that my head is free to move on top of my neck. This will activate your postural reflex, you may notice a lightness in yourself and your breathing may become a little easier. Remember this all times time and you need to keep working thought the steps starting at 1.

Only practice these steps when it is save to do so and always use your medicine as prescribed.

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Blocked Paths


In the part of the forest where I regularly walk, one of the paths is blocked by a tree, the tree probably blew over in a gale. The paths in the forest had been there for a very long time and have been established by animals and people choosing to walk a similar route. This tree is a particularly beautiful part of the forest, a beech canopy with the sun breaking through, in early May before the bracken appears fields of bluebells that disappear in to the distance.  I walk this path quite a lot, a time to reflect, my dogs to range around having a good time. I’ve been stepping over tree for several months, refusing to walk around it as many others do. Why do I step over the tree trunk, is it because I can, is it because I don’t want it to get in the way of my journey; in the Alexander Technique world this behaviour could be construed as end-gaining, just pushing on regardless and a disregard to my safety.

Perhaps it is safer to walk around but why should I. Perhaps I could use another path in the forest and avoid the fallen tree. I want to enjoy my walk and this is a beautiful part of the forest so I’ve chosen to walk on this path. A conscious decision to face the blocked path as the benefits outweigh the difficulty.

The tree trunk is easy to stride over with little risk but somethings in life may be more risky. Taking time to consider and make a conscious decision to act, sometimes to take that risk, sometimes not, the choice is yours but you can always stop and reconsider.

Perhaps the stopping and reconsidering needs a little more explanation; you can only reconsider if you know what you are doing in the first place, a skill that I’ve been developing for sometime and will be developing for sometime more probably a lifetime of development. Knowing what I’m doing during every moment in my life is taxing and near impossible but tuning up my awareness when it is needed, for example making those important conscious decisions. This awareness takes time to practice and put into operation, for me it’s been years. It’s difficult, upsetting, emotional, fantastic, freeing. Peeling back the blocked paths that stop me from thinking freely, from me being me. It’s a real challenge but worth it.

In the Alexander Technique world this is inhibition, the inhibition of those thoughts and actions that prevent me being really me. Every thought manifests itself onto some form of  physical activity, this is where the Alexander Technique comes into its own, by noticing this physical activity when it happens I can ask myself what was the thought, this takes practice, a lot of practice, I’m the same as you, full of habits that I’m not aware of. The quickest and easiest way to notice these habits it to work with an Alexander Teacher, as was are trained to notice these physical responses and they will be able to help you. For example, if you have asthma you may notice at times of stress you will have greater need of you medication, I certainly was. Over time and working with my Alexander Teacher I learnt to notice the trigger events and instigate a countermeasure to the trigger, early on it didn’t always worked, but slowly I got better at noticing the trigger earlier and earlier and I now control these triggers without medication.

The countermeasure is very powerful and simple, it is to inhibit the trigger by being present, in the here and now, quietening the what if’s, stop worrying about the future. I’ve got little control of the future especially if it involves other people. There’s not many mind readers around and I’m definitely not one.

The Alexander Technique is not just about posture as may people think, it is about thinking and the physical activity from that thought.

 

 

My Story


I’ve been thinking that my story begins when I got asthma but it was way before that, years before but that may be another chapter when I’m ready to write it.

This part of my story starts a few hours after a cruise from Southampton to Spain and Portugal and return.

I was just leaving a supermarket, I thought I was relaxed but this woman, I never asked her, thought otherwise. She stopped me offered a sales pamphlet about her Alexander Technique practice and put her hand on my left shoulder. It was something to do with her touch, I immediately felt safe without judgement. She was offering a half price first lesson, the price didn’t matter, I wanted the safety of her hand, I would have paid double. I ended up going for lessons every Friday for over a year. I changed jobs to another area so my lessons stopped, she cried as I left my last lesson.

In hindsight she probably put a lot of emotion effort in to my lessons which I didn’t notice at the time. I guess I did learn a lot over that time as I was an emotionally wreck on the Saturday and happy happy happy on the Sunday after each lesson.

I took a year away from the Alexander Technique, I fought the urge to find another teacher for quite a while but gave in, I was intrigued and wanted to know more, so I found a local teacher and was with her for a few years. I was a reluctant learner, I must have been hard to teach but did recognise changes in me, I was becoming less anxious, my asthma was getting under control but I wanted more hence I started teacher training.

IMG_1901Reviewing my lessons that I had, I never really got that it was a teacher/pupil relationship until late on, I went for the therapeutic experience. I wasn’t ready to learn because I couldn’t stop I just got on and did, my habitual responses were extremely strong and only very recently and that’s into my third year of teacher training that I can control these habits, well most of the time.

I’ve very valid reasons for these habits, they have protected me from the grief of loss of my two children though divorce and very shortly afterward my mother who was the bedrock of my life. This was 17 years ago, I guess I was stuck in a state of fright for all that time. It hurts both mentally and physically and habits get well and truly stuck.

With Alexander’s discovery I’ve managed to get back on track without the need for medicine or counselling.

If you suffer with anxiety I would give Alexander technique a try, but remember it’s a teacher pupil relationship, you are there to learn, don’t waste your valuable time enjoying the therapeutic experience, use the teacher as a catalyst to your happiness. Hopefully you won’t take as long as me to find your freedom and happiness.