On a long drive a headache is always likely to be round the corner for me. Noise, speed, all the visual stimuli, quick decisions, bad decisions, glare from the road. These things combine to cause brain confusion and internal constriction. Not an obvious pulling down or squirming, not a stupid arching the back, pointing the chest forward towards the road kind of stiffening up. A subtle compression, just enough to hinder my breathing and freedom of movement; to make me fixed.
I have polarised lens sunglasses to relax my eyes and a bottle of water for regular sips. I share the driving with my wife if she’s with me and when I’m solo I allow time to stop at the services for a stretch and a snooze.
A box of aspirins lives in the car, just in case. One pill worth about 2 pence has the power to fend off an oncoming humdinger and as a last resort, can feel like a lifesaver.
On a long sunny drive last night, tired after a late night camping with friends, I could feel a headache coming on. I popped out an aspirin in acknowledgement. But I decided to see what I could do with some focussed Alexander Technique attention first. I’d give it fifteen minutes.
I said the 4 directions to myself out loud a few times. Neck free. Head forward and up. Back lengthening and widening. Knees forward and away. But being behind the wheel and continuing to drive makes it difficult to unfix. Planning and carrying out a movement is the best way but it would be a while before the next service station so there was nowhere to go. As I sent out the messages from my brain, I suspected nothing was happening, though you can never be sure.
Then I remembered an old teacher Maya Galai putting her hands on my chest and telling me to ‘go up from inside’. I put a hand on my head, really thought it out of my back and away from my knees and my breathing opened up. Now I knew I was in, I’d found an upward direction and managed to unblock something.
As I directed a bit more, suddenly, as if out of the blue, a band of pain around the bottom of my skull sort of gripped me for a few seconds then floated away. This was a real release rather than a masking of the pain with a pill. The headache I knew had been coming was gone. I had a lovely journey home (another two hours away) and felt pretty good at the end of it.
Whereas an aspirin does something to the brain to get rid of pain in the head but not the tension causing it, in Alexander work we’re using our brain to direct our energy where it wants to go. Indirectly, this may bring deep release and if we hit the target (though we don’t need to understand exactly what or where this is) it can get rid of a headache. Since all we’re using is thinking, it feels like a bit of magic when it works.