<![CDATA[Fiona Cranwell - Blog]]>Sun, 29 Mar 2020 03:43:45 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[isolation]]>Tue, 24 Mar 2020 10:48:19 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/isolation
Greetings all.
This is a crazy time of great uncertainty and we are living it out all on our own, or alone with our family. It is emotional as we feel the fear this virus has created around the world. We fear for our loved ones, our lives, our health, our finances, our communities, our futures. It is hard to believe it is affecting our far off friends in foreign lands in the same way as it is affecting us, but it is. This is affecting our whole world. All we see is our 4 walls and the same view out the window, everyday. As do families everywhere from Asia to the Arctic, living confined to their own spaces, just like us. 

The airwaves are telling us all to stay in and keep washing our hands. By doing so we are protecting not only ourselves but our communities, our country. Staying in, slowing down, interrupting the habits of doing what we always did is challenging to the whole self. The whole family. But let's stick with what I can do for myself as an individual. If I take care of myself, then I can take care of my family. If we take care of ourselves, that's the best we can do.

At these times when every thing we know is shifting we are learning to live in limbo, on shaky ground. Adjusting our feet to each new step. Bringing our whole body with us. And it feels odd. The mind is full, the body is restless, the heart is heavy,  the breath is caught.  We know we can use many tools to find our ways into peace or healing. I use Alexander Technique which I find a practical tool for all sorts of reasons. It starts with addressing the here and now.

Where am I? How do I feel? Am I holding it together, for the family, for show? Does my body want to curl up and cry, or do I want to bolt out of here and escape? What are my physical feelings? Is there tightness in my neck, my face, my heart? Is my breath caught or can I let it flow deeply? Are my feet on the ground?

Whatever you are feeling in this moment, touch into it and let it be. Be honest with yourself. It's ok to be feeling whatever you are feeling. Learn from the signs your body, your barometer, is telling you. Your body is taking in a lot of new information and each piece of information has it's own invisible energy attachment. Let yourself feel what ever your body is feeling. Good or bad.  Whatever judgement you may put on a feeling, let it be. It's ok.
Give yourself private time to feel and get in touch with your whole self. The world has been shouting at you so let yourself listen inside to how you have embodied the world's messages.  If that brings a sense of vulnerability, let it be. If tears come, let them come. If words fill your head, let them out. If your body wants to shake with rage, let it. Dance or stomp it out. Do it. Let it out. Let it be. Take the time to care for yourself in whatever way your SELF needs.

Alexander Technique it is a great tool for balancing and working on your SELF, physically, mentally, heartfully. In working on yourself "stuff" might come up. See it. Feel it. Be with it. It might not fit into your Alexander knowledge but that's ok. Let it be. Slump, if that is what your body wants to do. Take the time to slump or collapse. You will find a time when you will want to lengthen out of a slump . . . and then . . .  you will. 

Giving your self that internal time can in itself help you feel lighter.  It can offer you a shift in perspective, a release maybe. By listening you can free the body of some little tensions just by becoming aware of them. Freeing the body up so that it can feel easy again and you can walk more gently on the shifting ground, finding a new balance. We have to let all the yesterdays go. The news is changing so quickly, everyday, and so we need to live in the new day. A little shift. A little different. Breathe out. Release. Move on.

There is an Alexander Technique App that I have to recommend. In these times of seclusion it is a great assistant in guiding your mind to focus on your body with listening, building awareness and freeing it UP. It is designed and written by eminent Alexander teacher and colleague Sarah Barker and it is called Allez-Up!. So go to your Play Store or where ever you get your Apps and download to your phone so you have this tool close to your well washed hand.

Go gently. Safety is in your hands. In a time when we can't put hands-on each other to teach or guide, know that I and many other Alexander teachers are available to teach online. Reach out if you need me. We'll work it out.

Love Fiona

<![CDATA[Walking the Talk]]>Tue, 09 May 2017 19:35:30 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/walking-the-talkWalking the Talk

On Saturday I spent the day walking around like a zombie, bumping into things and drinking way too much coffee. I was disoriented and confused from getting up at 2.30am for a bit of a walk and then trying to catch up on sleep later in the morning. I wonder how people on shift work or with babies do it all the time!!!!!
I, like thousands others across Ireland, joined the Pieta House ‘Darkness Into Light’ walk, raising awareness for mental health.

It’s just a wonderful idea that has literally grown legs and quickly spread in popularity over the last 9 years. 150 locations around the island of Ireland hosted thousands of walkers and runners come together to move from the dark into the light as the dawn made its way through the clouds.

Metaphorically it is so beautifully simple. Physically it is an act of showing up, in kindness, something to do to share support and acknowledgement that you know there is a thing called mental health.

There is no requirement to raise sponsorship or set targets. Supporting the event with your presence and your contribution is the simple all-inclusive way you show that you wish to help your own and others mental  health, and one way to do that is to move.

Walking is the most simple form of exercise. Just by leaving the house and going for a walk can help change perspective. A change of environment, changes how you feel, how you think and how you move. You leave the safe familiar walls and expose yourself to weather, traffic, sounds, people animals. To hard roads or soft grass. To cold wind or soft rain or bright sunshine. By simply leaving the house and moving even within a ten minute comfort zone, something new and variable has started.

Moving your body, moves your mind, processes your thoughts. Being active in your body effects your mind and emotions and vice versa. You are a whole and indivisible human being. As am I. As is everybody. But we have learned to separate, suppress, shorten and stagnate.

I am not saying walking will solve mental health problems, but it is a tool in self care. And it’s universal. Walking or running for Darkness Into Light is walking together. Sharing the time. Enjoying company.  Talking about stuff. Welcoming the light. It’s not a race. It is not about personal bests or records. It’s about showing up. Being together. And moving. Taking one foot and placing it in front of another, walking in a direction you have chosen.

Well done Pieta House for raising awareness of mental health in an inclusive and kind way. Walking the talk.
Thank you.
Love Fiona

Picture thanks to The Journal.ie

<![CDATA[Tool Box]]>Mon, 01 May 2017 10:14:16 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/tool-boxTool Box
Alexander Technique is a passion of mine that keeps me working at it. I have turned my back on it many times seeking shinier and more fantastic ways to study, heal, use my body. I have forgotten about it and hurt myself from moving stupidly or being overactive without engaging my mind. And when I hurt myself I come crying back, like a toddler to his mammy. It’s always there as my rescue remedy. It the tool box I go to, to solve my movement problems.

I woke up one morning with all the effects of a decent wedding. Drink aside there were many other symptoms. Sore feet from a day in high heels. Neck tension due to dancing to eighties classics  enthusiastically which involved serious air guitar, head banging and general jumping around. There may have been some other unexplained bruises from hijinks, otherwise known as fun.

So while I was having fun I may or may not have been mindfully taking care of myself with Alexanders guide for movement.

Once I was awakened to the fact that my body needed some care and attention, there I was, back to my tool box, experimenting with what ways I could move with ease. Barefoot on the floor I learned the new protective holding patterns: lactic acid burning around my calves; my neck was so tight it felt like a whiplash gathering my head towards my shoulders. I could barely turn my head. A sore foot ankle area. Maybe I had gone over on it.

Not to worry. It was a great night. Let’s do the clean-up.

I worked with freeing my neck. Just the thought brought about relief. My head leading helped the neck muscles release. I hobbled to a mirror and observed the awkward gait. So I took myself to the floor and used my semi supine laboratory for support as I listened to my body.

Soon I got up, moving more freely. I learned that the more rigorous I was with keeping my Alexander directions the easier movement was. And so I left the room and met the wedding crowd. Every time I distracted myself and moved unconsciously my revelry taught me something about movement and so led me back to the tool box and rediscovering myself. Not on the floor now, my laboratory was in the moment when the pain arrived.

I was soon out of pain and back to free movement, much quicker than other revellers.

Every time I lose my way, and I do often, I find my way back to Alexander. Simply because it works. He discovered what is simply there for us to use. I don’t need contraptions or perfect environments or other people, although other people can help in support and direction. It starts when I connect my wayward mind back to my beautiful body and the answers show up.

To me it is simple. If I use my body well it will function well for me. And it just takes my focus to apply it. This is not just to help after nights out. We normally address pain, posture and performance problems. AT can help you move your body well to move you away from pain, or towards great performance. But first you need to build the tool box, understanding how it works. 

If you want to build your tool box for your own internal rescue remedy Get to Know Your Body Better. Starting Thursday next May 4th.

Don’t Hold Back

Love Fiona x

<![CDATA[Stop]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:53:30 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/stop

MAN                     “Doctor, I’ve hurt my arm in several places.”
DOCTOR               “Well don’t go there anymore.”
Tommy Cooper, hapless comedian and magician.

We all hurt ourselves. Often a hurt is found repeatedly in the same place. The bad leg or back or . . . insert your favourite pain.

Now in our culture we are taught we are not strong enough, we need to exercise more, there is something wrong with us. We need to work harder. Achieve. Fix your posture or muscle strength and you will take care of the pain.

Let’s look at it differently.

What if everything is working beautifully? What if pain is telling you something? Think about it. What is pain’s purpose? It is there to tell you something is wrong. “Hello owner of this body, this pain I am giving you is because you are doing something that is not working with the design of this body. Please pay attention. Please pay attention.”

So a pain arises. It is small and visits regularly. It becomes familiar. You learn how to manage it, or ignore it, with pain killers or compensation and carry on. Eventually the pain gets bigger and unmanageable. It cannot be ignored. So then you decide to do something about it.

If it was your car, and a noise arose or a light started to shine on your dashboard, would you wait until you were broken down at the side of the road before you ask for help? Or would you investigate it?

What if we listened to the pain. Listened to what it says. What is it there for? What does pain actually want you to recognise? That of course is the reason for pain. It’s not there simply to inconvenience you, it is delivering a message. Often the message is "STOP! Please stop and listen to what's happening." You might muddle on through until you can't anymore, or you might stop and rest. Then you have a chance to take care of yourself.

The messages that want you to keep going are coming from your head. The stresses you are working with don't want you to stop or slow down. But that is your head over ruling your body. And it's not wise. The body is suffering because it's not being listened to. So when we have pain it is the body making the head listen. It is the body having its say. And this information is true and valuable.

"Hello pain. What is it you are telling me?"
"Thank you for listening. We have a little problem here. If we move this way it hurts."

So why move that way? Why don’t we stop moving the way that hurts?

To do that we either need to know the right way to move, or the wrong way to move. If we know the right way to move, do that. If you don’t know the right way, you might know the wrong way. The wrong way is giving you the pain information. So from that we can deduct if I just stop the wrong way, something else may be better. Moving in a new way could be better. It doesn't have to be the right way, if we stop what is causing the pain then movement can become easy again. What is the habit of holding that you can stop?

Don't Hold Back. Explore.

And for your entertainment - https://youtu.be/Ow0lr63y4Mw

Love Fiona
Get to Know Your Body Better just for the craic. It will serve you well.

<![CDATA[One Size Fits All]]>Wed, 26 Apr 2017 05:54:04 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/one-size-fits-allOne Size Fits All

Well I can tell you that is not true for me. Once in Thailand “one size fits all” was a lure too far as I dared to try on something exotic and ended up wrestling out of the baby garment in the tiny makeshift dressing room. Thailand is not a place to shop for this statuesque Celt. I’m not their target market. But it’s not just Thailand. Another time in an English dressing room, as I reached my arms above my head I hit the ceiling and the electricity went off. Not entirely my fault, as I did not wire the place, but it did lead to uncomfortable manoeuvres in the dark.

The “one size fits all” may work ok for magic gloves producers, and the mean of a demographic the item is aimed at, but it does not take in our individuality.

Some say Alexander Technique is a “one size fits all” cure all. While I can apply the same principles to many different activities, and it helps me with each one, I would say the application is different in each case. It takes an ‘in the moment’ creativity and interpretation to teach a principle to a student.

For example. If someone has many compensation habits due to accidents over the years, they may or may not understand how much time it takes to make a change. If I spoke Alexander’s Victorian language I may lose them before we begin. So making the information accessible, and keeping them interested and aware while we visit a new experience, is my job.

They have a different goal to the singer who wants to perfect their voice. Different language, approach and entry point. Their interest is unique to them and so we approach the lesson differently.

The tools may be the same and serve both purposes, but I cannot apply what I used with the last person in the same way as the next. This new brain and body interprets differently.

It’s like when I was learning to cook. 44 of us would witness the same demonstration, follow the same recipe and use the same stock of ingredients. Miraculously 44 different loaves of bread would be produced.

So similarly in the way each student is unique, each teacher is unique. They bake Alexander’s ingredients with their own style and interpretation. And deliver their message, their teaching, their work in unique ways. 44 different lessons would be created for one individual with their individual needs (list of ingredients). Who is to say which would work better. It is to recognise that ease human brings their own ingredients and together we develop the recipe. The outcome is often surprising. It may be the bread you expected, or it may be cake. The important thing is that each lesson is a new invention interrupting, old moments, leading to new ways of understanding movement.

I find Alexander gatherings fascinating to watch teachers from different backgrounds work with students, work together and share ideas. To witness conversations based in historical interpretations, and hear never ending stories of old masters. Each may have a different way and their own ideas but one thing is in common. Always exploring. Exploring ourselves, students, Alexander’s discoveries, each other’s interpretations, and back to ourselves again where we process and live the findings of our explorations.

It’s a grand life, being an Alexander teacher, exploring life and movement and simplifying. Making life easier.  Is it not the reason we humans are here?

Don't Hold Back
​If you want to make your life easier sign up for Getting to Know Your Body Better starting May 4th

Thanks to the internet and the artist Corbett for the cartoon
<![CDATA[Facts]]>Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:22:14 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/factsEarth, Science, Us

On Saturday it was World Earth Day. The world marched to support our home, the earth, and science. This is an annual event but this year there was heightened awareness around it as there seems to be a threat. We haven’t been taking great care of our home, the evidence is showing,  but many are still ignoring this fact.

Science, after all, simply observes and interprets what the body of the earth is saying. People have always spent their time observing how things work so they can best use natural forces to assist their survival. From figuring out how to make fire and inventing the wheel, which we still use, to how modern technologies can now send pictures instantly around the world and read signals from other planets. All of that came through science; the observation and study of natural laws.

It has always been so.

It is a fact that you are reading this through some technological device invented from what was learned through science, many miles from where I write. That is fact. 

The problem is some accept science for what they find useful and ignore it, or blatantly oppose it, when the information does not best suit what they want to do, or how they can make money.

It’s always been so.

Our human bodies give us natural information all the time. These signals we can interpret as pain, hunger, distress, joy, excitement, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, fun. What do we do with these signals?

Many of us are not accustomed to listening to ourselves for guidance. We look externally for distraction and entertainment and then when we do have a problem, we look for further distraction or to the internet, books or experts for advice on how to fix it. We don’t listen to the natural warning signs leading to a problem. We catastrophize and deal with it when it becomes an emergency situations. We all do it. Well I certainly do.

FM Alexander was a scientist. He observed his body and the laws of nature to discover his technique. But he didn't start that way. He was human too. It took an emergency for him to stop and look and listen. Losing his voice threatened his career, necessity being the mother of his, and every other, invention. His study of human and animal movement led him to understand many simple ways in which he was interfering with his voice and movement. As he applied what he learned from nature he took care of his problem and enhanced his whole body performance. Fact. And his discoveries have been helping people for 100 years since. Also fact.

I will be exploring the simple aspects of what he discovered through everyday movement in a four week course in May - Get to Know Your Body Better.

As we learn to use our body better we grow respect for the home we live in. Your body is your first and most important home. It is the home you have most control over and the home you have most reward from. Then you have your environment, the home you live in, the community your home is in, and of course the world.

Technology is now part of all of our homes. Our towns and cities have large projects and infrastructure to enable living in great numbers. Our houses are filled with gadgets and mod cons such as electricity and connections to every place in the world. And our bodies are using medical breakthroughs to live longer, move better and keep us alive. Science has led to great things and continues to.

We are all scientists. The more we listen and observe how me move the more we understand how to.  Pain is the emergency that teaches us to stop and listen. Studying and observing ourselves teaches us the joy of moving, and the potential we have as humans. We are part of science, not separate to it.  We are the scientist and the experiment. That's life.

As Aldous Huxley said “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”  I don't have to like the facts, but acknowledging them is useful.

​If the house is on fire but I choose to ignore it I will most likely perish. I might not like the fact the house is on fire but I have to act, to save myself, and possibly more. But how could I ignore something so obvious and dramatically violent suddenly appearing in my environment? If my body is giving me natural signals why would I ignore them? Pain may not be as immediate or obvious as fire but it is an important signal.

When I choose to listen to my sore knee or tight neck, I learn something. I might not like the fact that it is there. I might not like listening to it. But by listening to what the natural signals in my body are I now have power to deal with it, instead of avoiding it and playing the compensation game. When we ignore what the body says, it adapts, but not necessarily in a healthy way.

Whether governments choose to support what the scientists say or not, we have to do our part. It's up to each one of us to take care of our selves and our environment, as best we can. It starts here.

Love Fiona
​If you want to learn more about Getting to Know Your Body Better contact me.
Starts May 4th for 4 weeks  7.30 - 9pm at Oscailt, Dublin 4   

​Photos with thanks to Mick Koons
<![CDATA[I Blame Chairs]]>Sun, 02 Apr 2017 15:30:00 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/i-blame-chairs


There I said it. I mentioned in my last post that I blame chairs for a lot of the habits of holding our backs we humans have today. It is not our fault. It is the chairs that we have been using since our youth that have influenced the shape of our bodies. A hundred years ago the shape of people was different. Everyone was more physically active because bicycles were more popular than cars, playing was an outdoor pursuit, and time spent sitting was a small percentage of time spent sitting today.

When I think about the negative impact chairs have had on most of our bodies it makes me angry. It feels like a huge conspiracy the world made to trap us into sitting and holding ourselves back. But it was just progress. Automobiles offered a more passive sitting experience to riding a horse or driving a carriage. Many social and technological factors are involved in humans moving less, but let's take the chair. 

Can you remember the school chair that came into vogue in the nineteen-sixties and seventies? A revolution for the time with the invention of polypropylene and mouldable, cheap, stackable designs. How wonderfully ergonomic for tidying up spaces. How cool and trendy to move away from traditional flat wooden benches, to something curvy, and new. I can see the attraction at the time.

As you just think of these chairs what feelings come up in you?

Some find them comfortable, but in the surveys I have done more have feelings of discomfort, boredom and being trapped. 

Let’s look at the design with human support in mind.

Which seat do you prefer?

The five year old child has been moving since it emerged. The child is suddenly asked to go to school and sit down for long periods in a room full of other five year olds. To the new school goer it is a challenge to be still, stop moving, with all these new people and things to play with. Everything is new.

They sit in the plastic chair that slopes backwards and figure out for themselves, naturally, how to balance their head over their spine and pelvis. They may move the chair forward swinging on the front two legs or they will fold a leg under their pelvis to prop it up and support the spine. Both ways are useful to take the torso and head forward towards their work/play, but neither is sustainable in the classroom. These behaviours are ill-advised by the teacher, and so the instruction to sit “properly” starts. (That's another story I'll save for later.)

And so it begins. Slowly the beautiful movement, agility and freedom we were born with gets trapped into muscle tensions developed from managing ergonomically unhealthy furniture. By teenage years the habits are already strong and we are dependent on the backs of chairs for support, more than the natural support of our own beautifully design spine.

The curved shape of the chair looks attractive but it invites the pelvis to roll back. If the pelvis is rolling back then the spine needs to lean and use the back of the chair. Now the upper spine and head curves forward so that the head is over the pelvis again. But the spine is not stacked to support the weight of the head. The neck and back muscles are holding onto the heavy head and the front muscles are shortening to adapt to the smaller space. (See the pink lines). Muscles of the whole torso are out of balance and working inefficiently. The chair is taking the child/person backwards when the task they wish to be involved in is forward.

​When we sit on the sit bones, the pelvis is supporting the spine and the whole torso has room to be alive and available for movement. (See yellow)

Chairs have us Holding ourselves Back by invisibly teaching us to Hold muscle tension in Our Backs just to sit.
(This is one of the reasons I called my website Don't Hold Back.)

These days there is greater interest in creative ways of learning and encouraging children to move more. This is more from the point of view of catering to all types of learning and abilities, integrative learning practices and prevention of obesity, than improving posture. Preventing poor posture can assist all these goals. 
Sitting has been labelled the new smoking. Long hours hard at work sitting down has many health risks these days. Movement is medicine, so I heard the  for both body and mind health. Standing desks, sitting on balls and walking meetings are new trends in the workplace. Running and mindful meditation are the antidotes when off-duty. All of this is positive self-care. It is important that  the average adult who has developed poor postural habits without knowing why or how, begins to realise that dependence on chairs might be a problem.


I hope this helps you understand how you have become the shape you are, and that you are not to blame for poor posture. On a positive note, understanding how your spine is designed to support your head and other movements, offers natural poise in sitting, standing or whatever activity you choose. You can move more naturally and free yourself up so that you Don’t Hold your Back muscles in tension.

I am not saying never use the back of a chair. Of course we can relax and switch off, put your feet up and watch the telly. But if I am working with a job, something I am interested and engaged in, in front of me, is it wise to be looking for support behind me? Am I being pulled in different directions?

​There is a lot of information there to digest. What I have written challenges the way we understand sitting and that is no small thing. We may not have thought about it before but chairs influence our whole life. Please share your thoughts and objections to what I have written. It is important we understand how we are supporting ourselves.

Don't Hold Back.

Love Fiona xxx


​If you want to learn how to support yourself through the design of your spine, sign up for Get to Know Your Body Better or ask me about private lessons Fiona@fionacranwell.ie

<![CDATA[Spring Forward]]>Sat, 01 Apr 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/spring-forward
Spring Forward

I have found myself enjoying the late evenings since the clock went forward last weekend, but I am not talking about getting more into the day. That’s what we were working with today. I am literally talking about finding the spring in your step as we let ourselves go forward. Or at least that was what the gentleman I was working with this morning rediscovered.

Many of us hold ourselves back. Yes, me too. That’s why I call my website Don’t Hold Back. It is a constant reminder to me Not to Hold my Back. So often I find people complaining of back pain, holding their backs. It’s what I did too. I blame chairs, but that’s another story.

One of the signs of this is where is the weight on your feet when standing. Your feet are touching the ground so you have a good place to refer. Often, we are standing in our heels as a habit and tightening all the muscles in the back of us, from the floor up; calves, hamstrings, low back, neck.

When we let ourselves find a less rigid way to stand in balance, our weight shifts more over our ankles and whole feet. Can you find your toes connect more to the ground, without grabbing?  Now the back muscles and those of the legs can let go or begin to feel safe to do so.

This morning my gentleman literally found the “spring in his step” as he found balance in his forward, and up.

It is very easy to think ankles and feet when we are trying to change the weight we have recognised in our feet, from heels to a better distribution throughout the foot. Then we think down. However up and forward are our pain free destiny.

Try this. Take the information from your feet and then check in all along your body as you take you attention upwards, noticing where tension and holding patterns are. When you get to the head, offer yourself the thought that your neck is free and your head is floating up. Your whole head now, so that the crown leads. Not your chin up so that your eyes look up and your face tilts your head back onto your spine. Let your eyes see a great big horizon as you free your neck and whole spine, as your head floats up,

Play with UP.

And then when you feel ready play with forward. Imagine your face is heavier than the back of your head.  Think about your nose being heavy. Just imagine. Don’t drop your face and head down. Just imagine a small weight shift so that your head is now balancing slightly forward of where you are used to. You are playing with thinking up and taking your self a tiny bit forward.

​Play with FORWARD. This is of course the direction of your face and movement. It's generally the direction you travel in.

Now check your feet again. Is the weight more distributed through your whole foot? Are the joints of your legs less held – ankles, knees, hips. Do you feel more of the front of your foot and the toes? Are the muscles of your legs softer? Is your back still in the same amount of pain or tension?

These are all very small changes. Very subtle. In the beginning you will notice you do it more than think it so keep refining to lighten your work load. Do less and less muscle work, and more subtle and light swaying. 

​When you come more forward you will notice the spring in your step as the momentum takes you over your toes. My gentleman exclaimed “Spring Forward!” when I asked him what notes he would like me to make to help him remember the practice. How timely, I thought.

Play with it for yourself. Don’t hold on to the new place you find. Throw it away and play with it again. The main thing is to STOP Holding YOUR Back. Standing is an activity, after all. A gentle lively subtle activity of balancing, rather than holding yourself up and together. Roll onto the front of your feet and Spring Forward.

Let me know how you get on.

​Thanks Pat for a lovely light and springy lesson.

Love Fiona


If want to put a spring in your step, or you need help stopping holding your back, join the Get to Know Your Body Better class or  contact me fiona@fionacranwell.ie for private lessons.

​Thanks to the internet for photos
<![CDATA[March 27th, 2017]]>Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:44:41 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/march-27th-2017Posture

Aidan O’Mahony won Dancing With The Stars. The girls were better, all but Kerry people would agree. But the footballer did make great improvement from day one to becoming the ultimate winner. He probably made the greatest difference on his journey. “Zero to hero” as judge Julian said. https://youtu.be/MxKr-I0FuO8

A lot of the talk during the show was of posture. In the beginning, Aidan’s posture was stiff and his performance wooden. But he would have been admired for his posture on the football field as a multi medal winning All Star for Kerry.

So, what is this posture thing so often talked of? If you have good posture wouldn’t it transfer from the football field to the dance floor?   

Apparently not.

Maybe it is our interpretation of posture. Often it is defined in the way we hold ourselves. And while that is not completely untrue, it is misleading. In finding a frame for dancing or taking a free kick, you want to find the space in your joints and as you balance and focus on alignment. However, “holding” is the misleading part. Muscles are meant for movement. If we hold our muscles, we fail to be flowing as we move.
You, the viewer, have become an expert on posture while watching dancing shows, team games or athletes. If a person is not flowing in their activity you see it, you know it. You know when it works and when it doesn’t. You might not know how to make improvements but you can recognise who is performing well and who isn’t. Sit in a football stadium and listen to the experts around you speak to all the faults they see in the players. We are wonderful armchair experts.

To recognise posture complaints in yourself may be more difficult. It is hard to notice internally. When the dancers were told to improve their line or frame, the tendency was to put it on. Put a frame on their posture and tighten up. Rather than allowing the frame to come from inside, soften the muscles and direct the activity. When the intention for the movement comes from inside, it is free and fluid. this improved over the weeks as they learned to go inside to find their resources.

Posture is after all how you feel inside, moment to moment. 

If you feel good, you will move well. Look at how much Denise was enjoying herself last night. If you are overthinking, hurting or sad, your posture and movement will reflect that. If you are comfortable and know what you are doing, you will use your body in a way that is elegant, free and fluid. Look at Aidan on the football feel which is his home. He flows and is comfortable on the ball. Give a ball to judge Brian and see how he does with it. He may surprise you because he does know how to move. He might not do so good if several 15 stone footballers are coming at him.

Posture is changing shape. In dancing, you are constantly changing shapes, to every beat of the music and all the milli-seconds in between. In sport your attention is constantly changing to the process of the game and being in the moment. It is changing in connection to the movement of the ball, connection with your partners, opposition and environment. Life changes moment to moment and so do you.

So, what is the right posture? A question I get asked thousands of times

How can there be one right posture? How can a dancer, sports person, human being get through life with one posture? Just know if you are holding, that's not it.

Let me put it this way. It depends on what you are doing. Good and useful posture is using the minimum amount of muscle tension, and energy, for the job in hand. It is connecting to what you are doing and thinking. If you are thinking of the next step you are already using too much tension. If you are clear and in this step right now you are here and in it. You have the power of now. It is mindfulness in action, in the zone, connection. That leads to excellent performance.
Bad posture is out of balance, excessive muscle tensions, rigidity, jerky movement and poor performance. 

Posture is part of what is happening right now. If you are looking at your phone reading this, notice the posture you are in and if it is stiff or free. If you are sitting at a computer how is your posture? Can you know from your own senses or do you need a reflection, to tell you if your posture is good or bad?

Posture is essentially balance. If I am out of balance it may be because of poor posture. Habits of holding that have set into my muscles, and my thinking. If I understand how I am designed to balance and move as a human being I can invite myself to use less muscle tension and be more in myself. It depends on what you want.

If you want to be in your whole strength of your full person to spin a lady above your head, you need good posture and balance. You can get away with a lot when you are not on camera. If you are regularly sitting at a computer all day the reason to improve your posture might be to free yourself of back pain, or neck tension. Or your wish may be to improve your confidence and how you stand on your own two feet in the workplace.

Posture can be a goal but I find if you replace the goal of good posture with a passion, it incentivises you more to take care of yourself. After all, the body and mind you have are yours. No one else drives you. You are the one to move you around. You are the one who feels good and bad in your body. Aidan improved his dancing posture and enjoyment of dance so that he could win Dancing With The Stars. A compelling incentive to prove himself to the naysayers. He is a competitor after all.

I’m not saying Aoibhin and Denise didn’t want it as much as Aidan did. They were truly brilliant and inspirational in their commitment to every dance, every long line and trusting lift. They all brought their best game last night. And you can see and feel and know the joy of dance and the connections the whole group made on their DWTS journey. It was a beautiful thing.

So to those who wish to improve their posture. What is the real reason you would like to improve your posture? What incentive do you need to feel good in yourself? What goal will move you to make the changes to live more presently in your body and mind? To put you back in the driving seat of the vehicle you live in. Because that’s what we’re really talking about. Do you want your vehicle (body) to move well and look good?

​Think about it.

Alexander's technique offers tools for life. Not just for posture.

Move it.

Fiona xxx

PS  Individual lessons to explore your unique postural habits can be made by appointment.
Contact me now 087 6503523

Photos and clips thanks to RTE

<![CDATA[March 14th, 2017]]>Tue, 14 Mar 2017 07:44:56 GMThttp://www.dontholdback.ie/blog/march-14th-2017
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”  

We do like our own way. We humans like to be right. As we sit and observe the world and its actions it is quite clear to us what is right and what is wrong. But to turn the focus internally is a challenge.

To make change is a problem because everything we know feels normal or right, and so to challenge that and do something new that interrupts our logic or feeling, is wrong to the senses.

That is why habit is so successful. To break a habit takes will power, strength, commitment, discipline and consistency. It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

What if we embraced our habits? Well we embrace unconsciously the ones we want to keep, because we let them run. The habits we want to kick we punch and fight and cast guilt and shame upon them. What if we embraced the habits we want to change instead of shaming ourselves? It is only ourselves who gives the orders to change, out of guilt or some other useless state.

What if we listened to our whole selves, at the bigger picture, and discovered the why we want to change. The first why will be because the doctor/boss/parent told you it was good for you. The second why will be because they are right and you didn’t really like that way of being anyway, but it took an external force to show you what you wanted. But find a third why. A why that moves you towards something. An incentive. A carrot, rather than a whip.

A common why to change is posture. People often come to me because someone has indicated that they have poor posture.

 - So what? Other people think you have poor posture. Why would you want to change for them?
 - Well I keep pulling my shoulders back, but that doesn’t seem to be any good.
 - So why are you really here?
 - What do you mean?
 - You are paying me money so that you can please other people’s opinions around your posture. What is posture?
 - It’s how you hold yourself.
 - Do you want to change how you hold yourself?
 - Emmmmmm ....  Confused face.

People don’t even know why they want to change. As a good friend and respected colleague of mine says “It’s all bonkers! People are bonkers!!!”

I was bonkers. Some say I still am, but in a new way. I was bonkers trying to fix my posture by pulling my back and shoulders to satisfy my respectable grandaunt. It never lasted and was awful tiring. But what was more bonkers was all the work, unnecessary muscle work, I was doing to trap my body into pain and dampen my natural spirit.

I didn’t know what posture was or who I was trying to please.

Once I learned that if I put my head on top of my spine, life becomes so much easier. It was in this moment sixteen years ago I decided I wanted to train in Alexander’s work, because I was eager to know more. Why didn’t I know this simple stuff as a teenager? Normal, obvious, biologically scientific, logical, self-care. Do less instead of more. I had always been working too hard. This is freedom and choice. Why is it just for performers? This needed to be shared with every normal person in the world. Now there’s a goal. A big, fantastic, altruistic, worldly goal.

But first I had to find MY personal goal. Make MY life easy and simple. Now that's MY kind of goal. Way better than improve my posture, a goal from another era. Of course I changed my posture on the way to the simple life. I changed lots of things. My energy improved, as did my confidence and bravery. I became less reactive and more responsive. I took my time to please myself and not jump to others demands so readily. My thinking is more balanced. I receive more information, read situations better and remember where keys are because I am more observant. And it all started from letting my head live on top of my spine with a free neck, rather than working all my back muscles really hard and out of balance. An understanding and acceptance of how I am made to move and be, took me out of poor skewed up posture and into gentle freedom and my full height. 

So posture may well be YOUR goal. Posture is after all every move you make. It is a reflection of how you feel inside. Posture could be replaced with other words. Confidence. Presence. Acceptance. Performance. Love. It’s all the same work that will take you to your goal, whether your goal is to climb a mountain, win an Oscar, or get through the day in a good way, it is the whole of you that you take along the road.

But let’s look back at the problem you want to change, the thing you want to get away from. Can you embrace the problem and listen and learn from it? Can this be a way to learn about yourself, rather than push yourself in to contortions of change? Does it have to be hard? As Rumi said, can you let your life live through you? You may be surprised that the habits you wish to push away can teach you something. The pushing is exhausting and wrong anyway. But you don’t know another way because it feels right to you based on your current programming.

My advice is let yourself feel wrong. Right is so overrated. There is something new in feeling wrong. Wrong does not have to be painful. Wrong might just be odd or different. You won’t know where you are going on the road to wrong, but at least you will have stepped off the road you know to be right. And right just isn’t right anymore, is it?

But that's just a starting point. You may need help if you want to make lasting change. Help  is here.

​Love Fiona xxx