Benefits of the Alexander Technique...some personal testimonials
Staff Development Courses
Karen Clarke, Staff Development Officer of St Martin's College, Lancaster
In response to a growing need for stress management support, Gail organised a programme enabling both teaching and support staff to learn, practise and develop further their skills in management of the Technique and, ultimately, management of individual levels of stress. Staff quickly learn how to identify and relieve those problems associated with stress such as back-pain, headaches, stiffness and anxiety states in a warm, friendly and extremely relaxed environment.
These sessions have been overwhelmingly well received. General feedback and formal evaluations have been outstanding and I feel Gail has achieved a considerable amount. Personally, I feel this is as a result of Gail's own personality as much as the Technique itself. She certainly brings the sessions to life and has a rare gift of being able to break down inhibitions, enabling staff to quickly work well together resulting in a most efficient form of stress management training.
The senior management of the College received many independent testimonials from participants to the excellence of the programme and various articles have been written in the College newsletter. This excerpt, written by a senior member of Support Staff to the College Management Team, is one of many:
"This morning I attended the most interesting, best-presented, practical and humorous course I have been to for a long while. In a clear, jargon-free presentation, Gail Barlow told us how our bodies should work and how we mistreat them, leading to neck strain, backache, stress and fatigue. In the Alexander Technique I believe there is huge potential for the College to benefit from a reduction in man-hours lost due to illness and an increase in productivity, as the feeling of wellbeing and vitality that I experienced after only one short introductory session was enormous".
I highly recommend Gail Barlow to any individual, group or organisation looking to undertake a similar programmme for their staff / students.
Dave Je, Research and Development Officer
The Alexander Technique staff development course was highly constructive, beneficial and fun. It was well paced and there was a logical sequence, which built within each session and across the whole of the course. The use of the skeleton and the muscle charts and models made the Alexander concepts easier to integrate, with the result that by the end of the course, we had an experiential insight into what is good and what is not good about the way we live and work.
I found my concentration levels increased significantly and therefore my output of work is greater now with less physical strain and I have a more comfortable, relaxed way of working. Walking is more comfortable, as is bending, etc. I also thought the course was a good morale-booster as Gail facilitated an easy crossing of the structural boundaries of the organisation as we all worked together in the small group, and, what's more, she has the knack of making learning fun.
The 'taster' session for sixty people was significant in showing how very simple techniques can have a dramatic effect - every person in the room could do it to some degree and benefit. As soon as I came out of the 'taster' session, I emailed my interest in doing the course to the staff development department.
The combination of a genetic spinal curvature and years of uncorrected bad posture led to me developing chronic back pain in my late twenties. Both my employer and I invested considerable time and money over several years trying to remedy the problem - only to make it worse!
By the end of the staff development Alexander Technique course, I felt I had found a solution to the complex problems I had been trying to solve for two years with both conventional and complementary medicine. I am completely pain-free and so have now embarked on a series of individual sessions to refine my progress.
The 'taster' session was different from what I expected because it showed me that Alexander Technique is actually interactive, in that you are responsible for taking control of your body and posture (with guided help, of course). I was lucky because I was chosen to be the demonstration subject. This meant that I could feel the effects immediately and it convinced me straightaway that Alexander Technique works. It was also useful to have an audience because they could actually see the physical changes I was feeling and they fed them back to me straightaway.
In the small group of the course itself there were huge benefits of group interaction - you become less self-conscious but in a safe and friendly environment. Also, because the results are immediate and therefore you see it's working in both yourself and in others, you want to share that with the rest of the group. Hierarchy was dispensed with and so Gail facilitated a level playing field, which felt a safe and controlled environment - she made us feel comfortable.
Organisationally, I saw that morale in the group improved and people felt confident. Gail invited exchanges within the group, so it was really interactive and made more relevant to individual understanding. I could apply the Alexander Technique really easily to my workplace situation and the benefits are ongoing.
Gail's teaching is very clear and informative with the use of anatomical models and charts to back up the Alexander Technique concepts. Her approach is friendly and engaging and the group soon felt at ease together.
Roger, Research Scientist
Gail's course has been a great help to me in adjusting my posture, relieving my back stiffness and encouraging me to stand up straighter and move more easily than for many years. Gail made it easy to understand the basis for the posture changes I needed to make and fun to do the work to establish them. What's more, her skills and enthusiasm made our six sessions great fun for all the group.
Kay, Senior Lecturer in Education
The benefits of Gail's staff development Alexander Technique course in the late nineties were tremendous. I began to realise that I had not been aware of how I was treating my body and I realised that as I got older I needed to pay attention to it.
I was experiencing stresses and strains in my muscles which were impeding my movement and becoming very uncomfortable. Alexander Technique helped me to understand the need for balance in my body and helped me to realign myself so that I was able to reduce the discomfort. From then on, I felt confident that I knew how my body should be and how to continue to develop a healthy 'use' of my body.
Six years after I did the course I am still conscious of the lessons I learned and still able to apply them in my daily life.
Gail is highly professional, well prepared and manages the whole group whilst also attending to the needs of individuals. She makes the sessions fun, enjoyable and impactful.
Judith, Research Scientist
Years of sitting up straighter and straighter had gradually taken their toll, causing me lower back and neck pain when standing, sitting or driving. Using a computer increased my discomfort since I was also getting pain in my 'mouse' hand and arm.
A very enjoyable and informative course of six group sessions, combined with the necessary daily work on myself, has significantly reduced my discomfort by encouraging good general posture. A few individual sessions focused on specific issues, with Gail identifying simple but important changes needed in my car and with my desk, computer and printer.
In just a few months, Gail has given me the understanding and confidence I needed to change my habits. I still sit upright, but now it's easily and without pain.
Ann S, Law Lecturer
Before the staff development Alexander Technique course held at the university, I had always had very stiff shoulders and wrists plus sometimes I would also feel a bit stiff in my lower back. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer and I recognise now that I was inadvertently causing the problems myself by how I was sitting, etc.
I feel I have gained a more relaxed posture and that I know now how to sit, how to use my arms, shoulders, wrists, neck and back with the result that everything is a good deal less stiff. My overall better posture has also helped my voice in terms of lecturing plus I feel a general reduction in stress levels as I apply the work I learned on the course.
I did wonder if I would like doing something like this in a group and whether I would feel self-conscious. But it went really well. Everyone in the group was keen to learn and Gail facilitated a very encouraging environment. The course was very clearly explained and it made sense as we went along at an appropriate pace. It's a very practical course and involves a lot of 'unlearning' bad posture habits and replacing them with good natural comfortable habits.
Gail's teaching style is very positive and encouraging. You know she knows what she is talking about and that inspires an enthusiasm in the group to learn. She has a calm approach and is very good-humoured. Her light touch on your shoulders or your back made it instantly clear what she meant. And I remember the first time she worked on my neck thinking that my head and neck had never felt so comfortable ever before!
The benefits of this course have been huge for me. It has really made me much more conscious of my own body, but in a good way!
I am just aware of what my body is doing and what position it is in a lot more. It's given me more appreciation for how well my body can work, and how it needs looking after.
When I look at the difference in my standing from before (left) the session above and after(right), I'm amazed! I think, why on earth was I standing like that sticking out my belly in an unattractive way! So now, not only do I feel better, but I look better too!
The course makes staff happier, more relaxed and better at avoiding hurting themselves while they work. For example I now sit better, and as I'm sat at my desk most of the day, this helps me to avoid getting aches and pains, which could stop me working so well. It was great fun working in the group. I thought it might be embarrassing, but it wasn't! We all encouraged each other and I really enjoyed the sessions.
Gail is a good teacher. She's friendly and puts you at your ease. She teaches you new things without making you feel daft for not knowing it already, and helps you to discover things for yourself. She listens to your ideas and sessions are very interactive. I think that the 'hands-on' element is vital. It's one thing being told how to do something but often you just don't 'get it' until you are shown. Gail helps you put your body in the right position, and then you can learn to do it yourself.
Sheena, Research Scientist
The balanced Alexander Technique way of standing feels comfortable, centred and stable. Having experienced this, when I went back to my old way of standing (left), it felt tense and awkward. Suddenly I could feel the joints and feel the tension, where in the new position (right) I don't feel the individual joints or any tension - it is just all one structure. It is just easy and lighter, as if it wants to be there - it's not a strain to keep it there.
Rhun, Agricultural Researcher
It felt natural once I was there in the new position (right) and when I understood where I was supposed to be. When I went back to my old position (left), it felt very odd. The new position now just feels normal to me.
Kerrie, Molecular Biologist
I found the new position (right) slightly strange at first because I felt like a deflated balloon, where actually that is a release because the 'inflated balloon' feeling is actually the 'tummy in, shoulders back, chest out' indoctrination from youth!
Now, as I get used to the new position, it feels freer - my body is more relaxed and not making any effort. If I revert to my old position (left), it now feels like a lot of effort and is very rigid - I was unaware of that before. This has made me so much more aware of my body generally. Although it's not always easy to find the new position straightaway yet, I am aware of when it's not right and slowly I can readjust to the new.
Galina, Research Technician
At first the new Alexander Technique position (right) felt strange because it was unfamiliar. I felt I must look hunched over. It was a surprise when I looked in the mirror and saw that my body was balanced and upright. When I went back to my habit (left), my muscles felt tired and strained, but I didn't realise that before. Now I stand and walk lighter in the Alexander Technique position and so I know I am in balance.
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Jeremy Price, Jazz Course Director at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music & Professional Trombone Player
All the students Gail worked with were more relaxed, more confident and more fluid in their playing. I noticed Leo's posture looked much better and he seemed much more at ease with his instrument, so that he could then concentrate on the music.
Gail's teaching is always friendly, warm and informative.
Dorothy Cooper, Director of Silsoe Jazz Summer School
Even though we only had a short introduction to Alexander Technique, the benefits were obvious to those of us who took part in Gail's workshops. It would be good to make her work a regular feature on our courses.
Trevor Tomkins, Professor of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Guildhall School of Music, London, Musical Director of Silsoe Jazz Summer School and Professional Jazz Drummer
Having seen and participated in Gail's classes, I would unconditionally recommend instrumentalists and singers to attend her courses. In my opinion her work is extremely relevant and valuable for all performers. I noticed it and everyone in the group agreed that not only did Alexander Technique improve people's sound but it also made them more rhythmically secure. This is as well as the personal physical benefits experienced.
Jacqui Dankworth, International Jazz Singer & Voice Tutor
I felt in safe hands. Gail is a very positive and clear teacher and her use of the skeleton in the class was fantastic. I immediately felt a difference and a sense of release. I think singers would really benefit from her courses.
Alan Bulley, Jazz Clarinet & Saxophone Player
The classes with Gail were all extremely relevant to what we are doing as jazz musicians. I consider her work to be essential.
Leo Altarelli, Jazz Trumpet-Player, 18-year-old Student at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music
I found Gail's work really, really helpful for relaxing my muscles, which is the most important thing when playing the trumpet. It has also made a difference to my breathing, in that I am not closing my throat as much and so the airflow is better.
I was born with a bit of a clubfoot, which made me stand awkwardly and put pressure on my knees, causing constant discomfort when I played. As you can see in the photo, after only working with Gail first of all as one of her 'masterclass' demonstration volunteers and then later the same day in a private session, I was amazed to find my left foot starting to form an arch again and I could play without discomfort for the first time ever.
Months after this picture, I have continued to do what Gail taught me on that day and now my foot is a more natural shape and I feel a lot more balanced on my feet when I play.
Gail was really friendly, really positive and really easy to understand. Everything was well explained and you really felt you were getting something out of it.
Elvin Jones, Late International Jazz Drummer
At a masterclass for jazz students at Birmingham Conservatoire of Music, world famous drummer Elvin Jones (in his seventies) was asked by a student drummer about the height of his drums and stool and about his legendary energy levels.
He replied: "Posture is really important. I have to be comfortable and relaxed when I play and that means being at the right height and being centrally balanced".
Mark Lockheart, Jazz Saxophone Tutor at Middlesex University and at Chelmsford Jazz Course, Professional Jazz Saxophonist
The whole thing is really important for jazz musicians. I had a half hour session with Gail on standing correctly to play and after that I played completely free of tension. I have no hesitation in recommending her courses.
Winnie Greer, Jazz Singer
They were very good sessions which have helped me relax and breathe properly before singing and while I am singing. I am also able to release my neck and shoulders. Gail's teaching is very instructive and great fun. It's easy to get into and understand, so absolutely anyone can do it, whatever their age or level of fitness.
Shireen Francis, Jazz Singer
As a jazz singer, to step out onto the stage with that Alexander sense of grounded, inner freedom is next to none! The Alexander way of being enables me to utilise any nervousness and turn it into secure rootedness and lightness. It encompasses everything - once you have experienced it, you come out of your head and into your body. Then the body intuits the brain and that's where real creativity comes out in terms of jazz improvisation. The Alexander Technique work was a revelation and an important part of my singing journey.
Gail has a lightness of heart and is thoroughly engaging. She immediately put everybody in the group at ease and it was a very nourishing time. At every point and turn there were nuggets of real inspiration as she deftly combined the technical with the demonstration and the 'hands-on' experience.
Madge Obaseki, Jazz Singer
Before Gail's sessions I had noticed my voice was tight. The change was dramatic. After her sessions I felt very different - much lighter and freer in my movements and my voice is now free-flowing as I continue to do the Alexander work. Gail has a very accessible style of teaching; informative, enthusiastic and a lot of fun.
Emma Vallance, Jazz Singer
Working with Gail, we really saw the relevance to singing and we could put things into practice straightaway. I was able to stand easily and to free up my normally somewhat rigid neck and shoulders. This made such a difference to my singing.
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Marie A, Civil Servant
I went for one-to-one sessions with Gail first of all and then went on an intermediate course with her, which reinforced everything we'd done.
Although by then my back was better, it was a very affirming experience being with a group. We all had different ideas in life generally, but we all seemed to think the same in this situation. We all gelled together and everybody came away with a very positive feelgood factor! Everyone felt able to give something and Gail enabled that. We all felt we were friends and that it was a special connection through the Alexander Technique work.
I know after our group sessions I felt really energised and felt I could do anything! I could think more clearly and felt a lot better altogether after them. Gail is a unique teacher and very supportive. It was good fun and the day is gone before you know it!
I have enjoyed enormously every opportunity to take part in the group classes and have had enormous ongoing benefit from them. Life is so frantic, even now I'm retired and I can feel myself getting out of balance sometimes. Mostly I can sort this out myself owing to the way Gail teaches - she's very empowering and so I have the confidence to help myself.
Michael, Retired History Lecturer
Apart from it sorting out my lower back problems forever (it's now ten years ago with no recurrence), the group experience I had with Gail in the UK and in France in the mid-nineties was very good because everybody learned from each other and got encouragement from each other. It was energising and nurturing to have social contact at the same time as learning.
Gail is inspiring, interesting, responsive to questions and has the gift of making learning 'fun'.
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Gail Barlow is the Director of Dolphin Alexander Courses, which she set up in 1990 after completing the three-year full-time Alexander Technique Teacher Training Course and qualifying as a Teacher of the F M Alexander Technique.
Gail trained as an Alexander Teacher in the eighties and has now worked with over 2,000 people in the UK and Europe. She is now a very experienced teacher and is able to 'tune in' and work with each person in a method and at a pace uniquely suited to their individual needs.
She is a Member of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT), which was founded in 1958 and is the oldest and largest professional body of Alexander Technique teachers in the world.