Alexander in the office
talk on Alexander Technique in the office, Friends Meeting
House, London, February 3rd 2009
by Antonella Cavallone
talk begins with an introduction of himself as an Alexander
Technique (AT) teacher and an ergonomics consultant. He
tells us that the ergonomic side is easy as it only took him
doing a week-long course to qualify.
all the participants one by one what their interest is for
coming to the talk tonight and uses the answers to structure
his talk. The points that come out are:
We are not
designed to sit for 8hrs. This is in response to a
participantís wish to know what he was doing wrong for being
in such discomfort at the desk.
one loses oneself focusing on the task at hand,
especially while working at the computer.
the group heíll come back to these issues but that first he
would like to tell us what he does when he takes the AT into
the workplace. First of all he looks at peopleís backrests
and notices that virtually nobody has them at the right
place to support the lumbar spine -he adjusts them.
that by law the employer is required to provide seats of
adjustable height. Look at the line of the arms to make sure
that the elbows are down and horizontal for an efficient use
of the arms. Monitors are to be placed in front of the
worker to avoid twisting around, the top level with the eyes
and at armís length in distance. The keyboard must be
independent of the screen so as to allow maximum mobility
and so one can move it aside if needs be.
He then has
some tips for the worker on how to organise the content of
the desk into primary, secondary, and tertiary range:
Primary, that is within very easy reach comprises
everything one uses all the time this to avoid
continuous, awkward, overstretching movements.
Secondary range comprises everything one uses moderately
Tertiary range comprises everything one uses once in a
suggests that for the use/reach of objects in the secondary
and tertiary range one should either get up and walk or use
castors to move around.
introduction he asks the audience to get up and experiment
with the use of the arms. Members are given soft balls and
paired together. The aim is to raise a ball up in the air
while passing it to the person in front of you and to keep
doing these changing sides. The audience is asked to
alternatively think of either the arm floating on air or not
and to pay attention to the difference that thought can make
on the way we move. The quality of thought affects the body.
One of the
participants remarks on how she found it difficult to focus
attention. Peter then asks her to volunteer for another game
where the audience is to experiment with attention. Members
are paired again and given a soft ball to be thrown and
caught alternatively. Members are then stopped and asked to
reflect on how much tension was being generated by thinking
of not being good at either catching or throwing, or both.
Peter then asks not to focus attention on the ball but to
look at the person in front and to notice how much easier
becomes when instead of focusing, awareness of the situation
explains that in his experience there are three types of
pupils that AT teachers encounter -the thinker, the doer,
and the slob. He gives humorous examples of each type and
finishes with stating that in his opinion the slob is the
most difficult to teach. It is very challenging to energise
someone that is low and uninterested and he gives the
example of an office with a few depressed people where the
atmosphere brings everybody else down.
concludes by explaining that basically the technique helps
us to re-learn what nature gave us. He give the example of
the cat asleep on the sofa becoming alert the moment a tin
is opened in the kitchen. The cat is primarily an auditory
creature but humans are primarily visual. This knowledge is
relevant in understanding the importance of the eyes in
relation to movement.
is asked to walk around being consciously guided by his eyes
and with the AT teacherís hand on the pupilís neck for AT
finishes with Q&A and more discussion on the controversial
point of not teaching the verbal directions to pupils. Peter
claims he does not.
© Antonella Cavallone, February