In Her Own Words – Peggy’s Story

Read Time: 4 min

Peggy’s a student of mine. She recently wrote about her experiences over the past two years with the Alexander Technique.

She graciously agreed to let me share them with you here on the blog.

Peggy originally came for lessons when she was caring for her elderly mother.  Her mom ended up living well into her 90’s.

If you are or have been a caregiver, you know it can be a very stressful job. And it’s very easy to stop caring for yourself.

One of Peggy’s main reasons for starting Alexander lessons was to learn to “take care of Peggy”.

Peggy’s also a flutist. She was hoping lessons in the Technique might help her with some issues around her flute playing.

Without further ado, here’s Peggy in her own words:

I came to study with Lauren Hill via the recommendation of a musician friend who is also an Alexander Technique instructor, but who moved to Texas. There have been many areas that I have requested help with over the past two and a half years of lessons with Lauren (began in July of 2016).

When I started, I was the primary caregiver for my elderly mother which involved a lot of stress and physical work.

I am a professional flutist and have had ongoing muscle tension in my neck, jaw and shoulders for years.

Plus, as I have gotten older my right knee pain has flared up due to an injury many years ago.

Lauren is so exceptional! Her tone of voice, attitude, clarity of instruction and explanation, calm gentle manner, smile and caring make such a difference.

She is very professional, but with a personal individualized approach. Lauren is willing to go at a pace that I can handle. She offers practicality to specific needs while covering the general core principles involved. She makes it simple and effective, keeping each lesson interesting.

I have learned so much and come a long way!

Hard to put into words, but I will try.

Initially just coming to recognize and feel what proper and natural balance is for the body. Guidance in how to manage the relationship between the head, neck and torso – compressed or free – helps so much with overall coordination and movement. The whole approach of primary coordination that the head leads, and the body follows, with being able to lengthen out through my entire spine and widen through the shoulders just gives greater ease and openness.

Then the aspect of better breathing throughout the entire torso and being able to recognize what I am touching as support, awakening that inner kinesthetic sense.

The whispered Ah and counting during exhale and not sucking in air during inhale has helped me.

The folding monkey is great be it from standing or sitting, allowing me to recognize how the body counterbalances itself.

It is amazing that I can simply mentally through my thoughts “give myself direction” and things change in my body without actually “doing” something.

Or that I can tell myself that “I can do less of” something or that “I don’t care” and inhibit those old tension patterns that work against me.

Misuse or overuse of our bodies can create malfunction.

At first the guidance that an Alexander instructor gives through hands on touch was challenging for me to be comfortable with, but Lauren was incredibly patient with me. Now I am so aware of how effective that is. I view it as an “invitation” to follow, a guiding touch to help re-educate my nervous system.

What we feel as normal or habitual is many times incorrect and until we are guided to recognize and adopt a different way, we often cannot find it on our own.

So, hands on touch meets that need.

The lying down on the table work at lessons gives the opportunity to learn how to release tension in a different relationship to gravity. For me at times it is like a mini-retreat where it is easy to let all the tension just move right out of me. Constructive Rest done at home by lying on the floor is a great assist as well.

I’ve learned special cue words to use such as “let, allow, observe, notice, lazy, soften, release, do less” and others.

Regular lessons really make it work. I do all right on my own, but then I come to [a] lesson and Lauren fine tunes it and moves me further along.

It is an ongoing process of discovery that is actually quite fun!

For some of my lessons Lauren has specifically guided my flute playing. She studied with Alexander Murray who was an incredible flute professor at Michigan State University as well as an Alexander Technique instructor. Lauren passed on to me some of the things she learned from him related to flute.

We adjusted my sitting and standing position for playing flute so that I now have a more graceful, natural lifting of my arms when I play. Lauren gave me a pointer of how to put my flute to my lips that Alexander Murray used.

How I use and feel my torso and shoulders to breathe for playing my flute has changed as well. I feel more lifted in height, with shoulders staying relaxed and down, with my head and neck more free as I play.

It is all a matter of applying the same Alexander Technique principles, but to a specific body need. By Lauren observing me and giving personal guidance has made all the difference.

Results:
Getting up and down off the floor effectively, going up and down stairs without pain, walking without being stiff, sitting and standing with ease, pausing throughout the day to regroup, just feeling more natural and at ease overall in everyday activities, being able “to choose” not to be tense. Learning how to avoid “end gaining” or pushing myself too hard, too far.

I now have effective ways to practice the Alexander approach while driving my car that truly reduces tension.

I received from Lauren practical suggestions about computer and iPhone use or using a pillow when reading a book. Lauren even gave pointers for mowing the yard and shoveling snow.

She supplements the lessons at times with articles or short videos. Plus, her blog and e-newsletter articles are wonderful!

I would give Lauren Hill a five-star rating and recommend her highly.

Peggy Doerrie
Flute Instructor and Performer

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