Brian is a retired warehouseman. His story is in the form of an interview that I carried out with him for a magazine article (this is a shortened version)
Julia: I know you’re very keen to look after your health, though you’ve had some health problems. When did they start?
Brian: When I was 60 I was given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and I have to take insulin every day. That shook me a bit. I coped with it but about 2 years ago I started to have pain and numbness in my legs and feet, which turned out to be peripheral neuropathy. It’s gradually getting worse and I have difficulty walking.
Julia: Apart from the walking, how has the pain and numbness affected your daily life?
Brian: I live in a flat and have two flights of stairs to climb – though that’s easier since I’ve been learning the Alexander Technique. I still do the cleaning and shopping but going shopping is a painful expedition.
Julia: So what else do you do to look after your health and wellbeing?
Brian: I took up T’ai Chi about 20 years ago and have managed to keep doing some practically every day which I think has kept me quite flexible; and doing the Alexander Technique with you has also helped.
Julia: So when did you first hear about the Alexander Technique?
Brian: I read about it in a book about dyslexia which said that people with dyslexia often have poor coordination and muscle weakness, and that Alexander Technique was good for it. So I got interested and read a couple of books on it. Then I saw a leaflet from the local college which had a one-day introductory workshop. After the workshop I thought I’d have a go at it.
Julia: Can you remember your first Alexander lesson?
Brian: Yes I enjoyed it and after the lesson I felt more energised. I think I was a bit stiff at first but gradually I’ve loosened up.
Julia: You’ve had quite a few lessons since over a period of time – could you describe any other changes in yourself that you’ve noticed?
Brian: When I get up from sitting down it’s much easier and also bending down to pick something up is a lot easier.
Julia: Can you explain why it is easier?
Brian: Because you’ve changed the way in which you’re doing it. I’ve changed the way I do things and the way I think. I’m more aware now of myself and what’s going on around me. I’m much more aware of my movements, especially sitting and standing and picking things up. I’m much more aware and that helps with my problems.
Julia: What about your balance?
Brian: My balance is not too brilliant, mainly because my ankles and feet are not steady – it’s linked to the peripheral neuropathy – so I have a lot of trouble but I still manage to go dancing and do my T’ai Chi. The Alexander Technique helps my balance, as I’m ‘thinking up’. My deportment is also a bit better than it was, my girlfriend has noticed the difference.
Julia: So generally how do you feel during and after an Alexander Technique lesson?
Brian: I feel relaxed and loose, and afterwards I feel more energised.
Julia: And there’s been quite a long gap since your last one. I’ve been really pleased to see you’ve remembered everything and your movement is still so good, what do you think?
Brian: Yes, even though I’ve not had any lessons for a few months, I still think about it in my daily life, when I’m at home, standing up, sitting down, picking something up, walking to the shops. It’s very, very helpful.