In 1962 I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. They gave me exercises, which I did not do. In 1967 I flunked my draft physical, in the middle of the Vietnam buildup, and decided that perhaps I should get my back looked at.
After 2 days at the University of Chicago hospital, the doctor came in and said, “So you have 200 parachute jumps and are carrying mail?” I said that was the case and he said, “This is a reportable case!” The curvature was, as one doctor later said, a profound deformity.
Over the years I carried mail, made over 1200 skydives, wrestled criminally insane men to the floor, and worked as a heavy equipment operator for 25 years, until my retirement in 2004. And I assumed my back should hurt.
I was first exposed to the Alexander Technique in 1977 after reading a book on it. I had been told by a surgeon, “we don’t ‘do’ people your age.” (Age 23) The senior AT teacher in LA rejected me as a student because I would not commit to two lessons a week. The second teacher I contacted agreed to work with me and I came in for my first lesson, about a 50 mile trip each way. The course of lessons helped a great deal with my back pain.
Twenty one years later, in 1998, I was having weekly lessons for the Repetive Strain Injury (RSI), which I thought was carpal tunnel syndrome. I had been assured that”now’s the time” for surgery, but after 40 lessons I could brush my teeth without my hand going numb. I realized I really liked the Technique, and the people who came to study, and decided to train to teach.
My wife was not enthusiastic about my taking off work for 3 years, and I agreed to hold off for a year. In the meantime she agreed to attend a week long workshop on the Technique with me. Mid-week my long time teacher commented, that “Nothing we are doing here should cause pain,” and I was surprised and confused. I looked at myself and realized that if you assume you are going to have pain while doing challenging tasks, you probably will! With fairly minor effort, I was pain free for 7 years. Not everybody is so fortunate, but it is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Alexander Technique community.
I trained from 1999 till October 2002, a 1600 hour, 5 day a week course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. It was a 70 mile drive, each way, and was worth every minute of it. After I qualified, I opened a small studio in Riverside, California and taught part time till my retirement as an operating engineer in 2004.
I have been in Mobile since February 2006 and continued a small practice teaching out of my home.
In the fall of 2006 the back pain returned, caused by a lumbar scoliosis which has produced a 6 inch decrease in height in just a few years. Four lessons a month, for 2 years, in Atlanta (a 5 hour drive) took the pain from constant to intermittent. The past two years of weekly lessons in New Orleans (a 2 hr drive) have greatly reduced my pain, as long as I pay attention to how I move and perform a few simple AT procedures on a regular schedule. Teaching the Technique is the most effective method to concentrate my attention on how I use myself, and this is one reason I am working to expand my practice with this website and other marketing tools.
I have the found Alexander Technique a wonderful treatment for back and RSI pain. My teaching with dancers, and musicians as well as pain sufferers has convinced me that the Technique can help with just about any difficulty. It has with me, and I hope it will with you too.
|Bobby van Deusen
|I’ve been an AT student for 40 years, started with Bill and Barbara Conable at Ohio State in the 70’s. Al is a wonderful, communicative, efficient teacher with marvelous hands and a gentle style. I always know I’ve had a successful lesson when I have to adjust all the mirrors in my car(and the seat, for that matter) before I drive home.|
“Thank you for giving me my voice back, for letting my speak with my friends!”
Paul Sanchez www.paulsanchez.com
11.8.19 (Second lesson)
Working with Al has been amazing. I started working with him because I was looking for a quick fix for bad posture and back pain. My wife told me that I seemed to be shrinking and I could see in a mirror how bad my posture was. I hoped to work with Al for a month or two and get some kind of ‘fix’. What I didn’t expect was that I’d find a practice that would gently but powerfully change my posture completely, and also get rid of my back and shoulder pain, but more than that it would help my energy levels, my sleeping, my breathing and, as I’m a professional singer and performer, it would totally transform my voice work. I’ve been to all kinds of body work in my years as a performer: pilates, yogo, Feldenkrais, massage, chiropractors etc etc. They’ve all been useful in their way. However, Al’s guidance through the process of the Alexander Technique is the first practice that has given me concrete, practical tools that allow me to constantly check-in and adjust and refine what I’m doing with my body and learn constantly. Vocally, as a singer, I now do long, three hour gigs, and at the end, I’m not vocally tired, and my voice is more powerful and consistent throughout its range. I’ve paid a lot of voice teachers a lot of money over the years searching for the results that Al has given me by clearing up a host of bad postural and physical habits. I only have good things to say about the work – Al is a great communicator with an innate understanding of how to fix issues, and I leave the sessions feeling taller and lighter and with more energy to move through the day.