Category Archives: alexander technique

Uprighting

The following reflection from Fiona was inspired by a recent radio show interview on Uprighting with  my guest Michael Protzel who teaches the Alexander Technique in New York City.

Robert Rodgers PhD
Road to Recovery from Parkinsons Disease

Dear Robert

Thank you for an interesting interview and for putting my question. I have been asking questions about uprighting both in dedicated practicing and as I go about my day. I have found it interesting to practice on a trampoline where there is different feedback via the feet, also on stairs and inclines. I have had glimpses of a different way of standing and experienced the pull of my right hand side; no wonder that I have to lean to the left to compensate. My RHS feels like stone- my LHS like wood – neither are very flexible materials! There is now greater ease in my body and the fear I felt in walking has reduced.

I was interested in the notion that the eyes should be engaged in AT. Mine are apparently engaged but closer investigation reveals that they are not. I discovered there is a name for this “attentional blink” (though it is not confined to vision) which describes the fraction of a second of non-attention while the brain switches tasks. It is easy to see why multi-tasking is so stressful and inefficient.

This period of non-attention gets longer under stress so there becomes a noticeable time period when you effectively don’t know what you are doing. I have had an odd feeling of this as a sensation of forgetting what I am doing as I walk. This may be some of the explanation for freezing. Before listening to the interview I regarded my freezing as protective and very annoying now I am regarding it as protective and very wise!

Apart from freezing I have improved my health vastly. My worst writing is better than my best of a year ago. Then I couldn’t bear to write more than a line or two now I can write several pages. I have lot more energy and look forward to the day. I sleep 7-8 hours when I was once only sleeping for two. I don’t get cramps and the pain in my quads is much less. I could go on.

There are two curious things. First I have put all my energy into improving walking, which hasn’t improved, and second I couldn’t tell you what I have done to get better in these other ways. I had a flash of insight that I put all of my stress into my legs and only when that space was full did I put more stress into other places. It has been an illusion that my hand was first affected (my original symptom was hand tremor) caused by the fact that I couldn’t feel the stress in my legs. No matter how much I focused on my legs and feet I was never going to let go of stress there until it had been released from other areas first. I have had a lot of trauma in my life, including the birth of my sister when I was 14 months when I was consolidating my walking and had a tenuous bond with my mother and father. This may be a factor in walking issues for me.

If I had to give a reason for my improvement I would say it was a byproduct of mindfulness and the huge consequences and insights that come from being present. To be mindful it is necessary to do things you love that have meaning for you so your heart is in it and think in terms of what gives energy and what takes away energy. If you are wholehearted about what you do beneficial changes just occur.

This is just what you keep telling us in all your wonderful communications but It takes so long for the penny to drop!! I can only say I have experimented, asked questions rather than search for answers, and kept going. This way you change your relationship with your circumstances. The thing I love is literature, especially poetry which I use to take me into slow time.

I mentioned in my question that I was looking at magic eye pictures and interestingly all my dyskinesia disappears when I can see the 3D image. I suppose this must be so as the images would only appear if I use my eyes in perfect coordination. This is an exciting discovery as I have found a way that gives strong feedback on my left/ right coordination, provides evidence that dyskinesia may be revealed by levodopa rather than caused by it, and found an activity that is profoundly relaxing and mindful. Furthermore I can now read without glasses which I haven’t done for 13 years! I discovered this by accident when I realized I could read the paper when I picked it up. In my excitement I could no longer focus and lost it.

Since then, only about a week ago, I have practiced daily and if I am patient, the words come in to focus. When I look at a page of text I ask the question “what can I see” rather than what can I read and turn the book at angles, upside down etc. – anything I can think of to change my habit. Poetry turns out to be rather suitable for this because of its lay out and rhyme and because the font is larger than plain text. I try with a half known poem, go to one I don’t know and then try the paper. This is a lot of fun, gives excellent feedback, you know if a word is in focus or not.  

I owe you so much for giving me permission to experiment, try out my own ideas and make my own decisions and for tirelessly providing suggestions. You are indeed wholehearted in what you do.

Fiona

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