..Lese Dunton ..

An Interview With Daisy Cockburn
Writer, Musician, Actor and Healer Reveals Her Work with the Alexander Technique

Ms. Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn) specialises in teaching Alexander Technique to teenagers and children. Her background in the arts has also led her to work with actors, performers and artists of all kinds, and she is passionate about teaching anyone who might benefit. She divides her time between England and California. Daisy can be contacted at daisycockburn@gmail.com.

Lese Dunton: What's the basic description of the Alexander Technique?

Daisy Cockburn: It's a practical method for improving freedom of movement and ease of being in everyday life and performance. It is based on discoveries made by F.M Alexander concerning the relationship between the head, neck and back.

LD: When people go for an appointment, what might they expect?

DC: In a typical session the practitioner uses verbal instruction and hands-on guidance to encourage flow, presence and ease during simple activities such as standing, sitting, and walking. There is also lying down work, where you learn how to rest constructively, restoring the natural length of the spine and undoing unnecessary tension in the whole musculature. Awareness of deep habits of mind and body increases at a natural pace and in a supportive environment.

LD: How did you come upon it? And what made it feel like the right modality for you to work with?

DC: I came across it at drama school. I broke my toe on my first day. I had coordinative problems that stemmed from an over-excited fear reflex. I had a lot of extra tension and screamed hysterically when someone threw a ball at me! The course director pointed me towards the technique. In my first lesson I was immediately struck by the combination of mental reasoning and sensory magic that took place. I welcomed the subtlety and intelligence of the approach and was impressed by the effective yet non-intrusive touch of the teacher's hands. It felt like the right modality for me as it gave me some real tools to work with and this was truly empowering.

LD: What makes it a good healing tool? How has it helped you and others?

DC: It is a fantastic tool for healing as it teaches, in practical terms, a compassionate approach to self and others, and encourages expansion in body and mind. It gave me the tools to meet life's challenges with more openness, and the knowledge that I can help myself recover from emotional and physical setbacks and continue to grow no matter what.

Applying the technique in my daily life prevented the development of the severe scoliosis and consequent back pain I had as a teenager. I also no longer suffer from the acid indigestion and constipation I endured for many years - symptoms of a compressed and hyper-tense organism that vanished as a result of practicing.

It has helped people in many different ways, and anyone who has benefited from it will have their unique story of how it came into their lives. It is known for alleviating back pain and improving posture, yet its application works on many levels and has infinite scope. It engages you in a process of self-discovery, and as you peel back the onion layers of habit you discover a more spontaneous response to life.

LD: Tell me about your work with teenagers. What makes this modality particularly helpful for them?

DC: In my decade of teaching Alexander Technique in schools, I have seen the many ways that children and young adults can benefit from the gifts this work can bring. Generally pupils found it the most relaxing part of their week and it set them up for the tasks ahead. Many found it useful in the management of growth-related problems such as scoliosis and kyphosis. Young musicians or those involved with disciplines such as horse riding or dancing also benefited. Others simply felt more comfortable during periods of rapid growth. I saw flat feet regain their arch as the downward pressure of the head upon the spine was relieved and a natural upright direction regained.

Students learned to manage exam nerves by increasing their ability to be in the moment and not anticipate results. Almost all appreciated having more choice in how they reacted to life when so much of life consisted of marching to orders. Many pupils were sent to me by parents concerned about their kids' postures, and often the pupil would show up with a slightly condemned air, as if waiting to have their postures analysed and told by yet another "expert" what was wrong with them. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that the technique was a mentally engaging and calming endeavor that we would embark on together, and that growing taller or more comfortable in your skin can be a friendly and often humorous experience.

LD: What's your vision for your work with the Alexander Technique? What kind of possibilities excite you?

DC: My vision is to create a retreat space for exploring the application of Alexander Technique to a variety of activities, integrating it with the learning of other skills. I would host guest workshops in music, art and theatre, and include the Alexander Technique as an integral part of the program. Alexander Technique is part of life's journey, and I don't yet know where it'll lead me next.

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See also: Painting in My Father's Garden by Daisy Cockburn

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