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I was wide awake at 5 this morning. For 20 minutes l lay wondering whether to get up and go for a walk with my dogs…. At dawn I can park by the gate and release them straight into the woods, knowing there’ll be nobody else there….. But I’d be tired later. I needed to go back to sleep.

When I wake up in the night, if my mind starts racing, I don’t always get round to giving my directions. But that’s all I have to do.

Four directions. Neck free,  head out, back lengthening and widening, knees forward. As I lie on my side aiming for sleep, they bring release, expansion and calmness. This can happen without any external movement or repositioning.

Neck, head, back, knees. When I’ve given the directions in order, as my head and knees oppose each other, my breathing opens up. I decide to repeat this process ten times and see what happens. By about the sixth time, I’m not so bothered about getting back to sleep, just enjoying the process. By number 7 or 8, dream images/events are starting to creep in. I don’t think I got to 10 this morning.

Now that I remember, my upper back was also hurting a bit, after carrying my canoe yesterday, foolishly, on my back instead of my shoulders. So every time I directed, I could feel my back opening in relief, across the shoulder blades.

It always works, the Alexander Technique, when I apply it. The more I practise giving my directions, ‘going through my directions’, as my friend Pete used to say, the easier it is to find them.

Fifteen years ago, even when I was coming to the end of my three years’ training, I’d get stuck on ‘neck free’ then my mind would start to wander. How could it have been so challenging to connect four thoughts?

Neck, head, back, knees.  You send the directions in order, they coordinate you, get you working as a whole and help prepare you for whatever you need to do.

Maybe with further improvement there’ll come a time when I’m just as easily able to find my directions when facing a stimulus from outside, or when putting my body to some kind of practical use, as when I’m lying in a darkened room!

For now, I’m thankful for small markers of progress. And being able to get back to sleep is ‘worth ten grand of anyone’s money’, as my friend Dave used to say, about small successes during the difficult process of AT training.

Visit the Cardigan Alexander Technique website for more information on lessons.