Are you in "fight / flight" or "rest / digest" right now?
As some of you may know, I’ve been studying towards a dual Diploma in nutrition and homeopathy during lockdown. Both subjects are fascinating. Also, what I am finding is that although each lecture is about a certain subject (e.g. the gut, or the immune system…) the information keeps getting repeated. And that’s because we are not a collection of separate systems but whole beings; it is impossible to separate ourselves into these systems. Or, in Alexander language, we are psycho-physical unities.
Here’s something you might want to consider. When we are feeling overwhelmed, or “stressed”, that’s not just a feeling – that’s chemical. As the body moves into the realm of the sympathetic nervous system – “fight or flight” mode – then the adrenals release adrenaline into the blood stream to prepare the body for “danger”. If you go running, or do something else to burn off that adrenaline – all well and good. But if you don’t, then it hangs around in your system. If you are in a chronic state of overwhelm, you will also have cortisol added in to the mix – this is the “long term” stress hormone.
So what? You might say. They’ll get filtered out of my system, I’ll be fine. But both adrenaline and cortisol are highly inflammatory – they cause damage to the body which has to be repaired. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and other chronic conditions are what happen when we live in constant “fight or flight”.
It is increasingly being recognised that we need to switch to the parasympathetic nervous system, i.e. that regulated by the vagus nerve, or nerves. You may have heard of polyvagal theory – it’s in the health press quite a bit at the moment – it’s worth a read. When we are are in the realm of the parasympathetic nervous system then “rest, digest and assimilate” rule the day. Your body can breath, digest and actually get the nutrients from your food around the body and (important, this) through the cell wall to where it needs to work. However, this won’t happen in “fight or flight” – your body doesn’t care about getting vitamins and minerals into cells in this mode, it only cares about saving your life.
In my opinion everybody needs to find a way of switching on their rest, digest and assimilate mode, and staying there. The Alexander Technique is, as a great piece of client feedback says below, “mindfulness for your body”. I cannot think of a better way of tuning into your parasympathetic nervous system. So look after yourself and book a lesson today.
Also this time, not one but two great pieces of feedback from clients. Nick from Southfields started having lessons between September and December when close contact work was allowed. Here’s what he had to say:
“I first started getting Alexander Technique lessons from Marie mid lockdown because of some persistent lower back pain, and a mild stoop that my entire family seems to be prone to. Within 6 months I’m largely pain free and I naturally stand much straighter. Brilliant.
How to describe what the Technique is? The best I’ve come up with is mindfulness for the body. Marie will help you to start paying attention, really paying attention to what you are unconsciously getting your body to do. When you do this, again following the lessons that Marie teaches, it’s possible to stop. That in turn allows your body to return to a more natural, efficient pose.
Whilst I still have regular lessons, Alexander Technique is now part of my daily routine. 5 minutes in the morning gives me a great start, and I also add in a moment or two of reflection throughout the day.
I highly recommend lessons in the Alexander Technique with Marie.”
I have a long term, elderly client called Johannes who recently moved back to Germany to be with his family. Johannes if you are reading this please accept my apologies for the “elderly” description!! In spirit you are one of my youngest clients. But I do want to say that in my opinion the Technique works well for people of all ages. I often here people say “oh, it’s not for me, my back’s been like this forever, I’m too old, there’s nothing I can do about it”. Sorry, but definitely not the case. There is so much everyone of any age can do. Johannes wrote:
“I started having Alexander Technique lessons with Marie quite a while ago and wanted to let people know about my experience, which has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Technique is an experience which requires you to let go in new ways; for some people this can be a little unsettling and as such you need to feel safe. Marie helps you to feel comfortable and secure from the very first moment; she is such a warm person, and a pleasure to be with.
It is great to be supported by a real professional as you are actively doing something for your physical and mental wellbeing. Marie is the ideal person to accompany you on your journey, as she is very intuitive, helping you to discover and let go of unwanted habits so that you can get to where you need to be.
I felt totally safe, even at home in a spiritual way, as Marie has the gift to gently lead you through each lesson without urgency. Marie is able to connect with you and help you find your way back to freedom and ease in your body.
I highly recommend that everybody try the Alexander Technique. For me personally, it helped me to be more conscious and happy in myself.”
So please think about your own self-care. Equally, please pass on this email to anyone you know who perhaps needs to take a little more care of themselves.
All the best