Author Archives: Stylus writer

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Reducing Stress on the Body

Do you suffer stabbing pains in the neck, shooting barbs of discomfort in the back, thumping tension headaches or knife-like shoulder tension?

Is bending over to tie your shoelaces or doing the housework an exercise in overcoming the pain barrier?

Is there a solution?

For more than a century, people of all ages have benefited from the Alexander Technique, a method of teaching movement that reduces the amount of muscular effort and tension that we habitually use in our daily activities.

How will it help me?

The Alexander technique provides:

  • relief from back pain
  • relief from tension headaches, RSI pain and neck and shoulder tension
  • improved posture, balance and coordination
  • a freer breathing mechanism.

It is widely used for refining and improving the performance of sports people, singers, musicians and dancers. The Alexander Technique forms part of the compulsory curriculum in many of the renowned schools of music, dance and theatre around the world including:

  • The Royal College of Music, London
  • Juilliard School, NY
  • Yale School of Drama
  • Urtrecht School for the Arts, Netherlands

Alexander who?

F. M. Alexander (1869 -1955), an Australian actor, made these discoveries after suffering debilitating vocal problems. He regained full health and returned to work. However, he soon realized the potential for his technique to provide better overall health for all by retraining the way we use the body.

He gave up his acting career and devoted himself to teaching his technique. Now there are training schools worldwide, including New Zealand. Qualified teachers undergo a minimum of 3 years full time training, governed by international teaching and training standards.

How does the Alexander Technique work?

Alexander observed that efficiency in daily activities is dependent on a proper relationship of the head to the neck and back. The head needs to balance lightly on top of the spinal column (as seen in young children) to maintain this healthy relationship.

Unfortunately, many adults pull the head forward of the vertebral column or back and down into it, thus contracting the spine and producing undue tension throughout the body. Mostly we are not aware of this detrimental behaviour.

Isn’t this just about good posture?

In reality, good posture is far more complex than just standing or sitting up straight. Using the body wisely requires us to support and balance our bodies against the unseen force of gravity as we respond to the stimulus and stress of modern living.

Is the Alexander technique just another exercise fad?

The Alexander Technique is not an exercise regime or a treatment. Alexander described his work as ‘the study of human reaction’.

It is a self-help method taught over a series of lessons. The Alexander technique teaches us to:

  • Observe the root of harmful habits of tension that cause or aggravate many health problems
  • Improve the way we move and use our bodies throughout the day
  • Change the lifelong patterns of mental and physical behaviours that undermine the efficient functioning of the whole self
  • Embrace a more thoughtful and less reactive response to the world around us.

What happens in an Alexander technique Lesson?

During a series of lessons, an Alexander Technique teacher uses hands on guidance with verbal instruction to help unravel tension and bring about a better postural tone and neuromuscular coordination in the whole body.

While doing the simplest of tasks such as sitting down, walking, bending or lifting this hands-on experience raises the student’s awareness of any unnecessary muscular effort or strain.

The student experiences a lighter, freer ease of movement that requires a lot less energy. The lessons establish a clearer connection between the mind, nervous system and the muscles.

What scientific research supports the Alexander technique?

Non-specific back pain accounts for a high percentage of lost working days per year. Traditional treatment may relieve some back pain. However, if there are no associated lifestyle changes, recurrence of the problem is highly probable.

The BMJ: unequivocal evidence for the effectiveness of the Alexander technique.

Alexander Technique Lessons give chronic and recurrent back pain sufferers long-term benefit.British Medical Journal, 2008.

In 2007 Professor Paul Little (Primary Care Research at Southampton University, UK) led a clinical trial of the Alexander Technique funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Health Service research and development fund.

The trial involved 579 patients. The results, as published in the British Medical Journal of August 2008, showed that lessons in the Alexander Technique provide:

  • long-term benefits for chronic back pain sufferers
  • reduced number of days in pain per month–from 21 to 3 with a series of lessons
  • consistent and sustained improvements.

Discover how you can reduce strain on joints, bones, muscles and the breathing mechanism, improve balance and regain strength after an injury or surgery.


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Cleartrip, for Effortless Travel in India

Travelling anywhere in India used to be notoriously difficult, frustrating and exhausting. Fortunately, online booking has revolutionized the way we book and pay for our travel requirements and has transformed the whole India travel experience. No longer do you need to queue for hours at one counter to fill in a form that needed to be presented at yet another counter before finally making your way to the Reservations counter–that’s assuming you could even find the correct counters. However, it still pays to keep your wits about you.

With the plethora of web sites dedicated to taking your money in exchange for flights, train/bus tickets, rental cars, hotels etc., it is more important than ever to do your research and spend wisely. Otherwise, you may find that you are travelling lighter (at least in terms of cash) than you had intended. Whilst most sites are bone fide, some rapscallion rascals out there will happily take you for a ride. Buyer beware—even the reputable sites have little tricks that you need to be aware of.

Are there pirates in India?

Yes, there are but if you use your head, you can avoid having your hard-earned money being drawn and quartered by someone else. We are going to look at one of my favourite sites for booking travel where you can get more bang for your buck (and not bucks for the buccaneers).

We will also look at some of the sneaky tricks the pirates will use to steal your pieces of eight.

Cleartrip is a site I have used regularly but like all things in life, nothing is perfect. This review simply reflects my personal experience.

What can I use Cleartrip for?

You can search and pay for air, train, bus, hotel and flight/hotel combined. It allows you to choose your currency so that you can get an immediate feel for price comparisons. This is an invaluable function. It isn’t so easy to know the value of your deal when you are used to thinking in USD and you are quoted a price of 96,000 Rupees or 160,000 Rupiahs. For goodness sake, just tell me what it costs in doubloons.

One of the best functions of this site is its ability to book train tickets (through IRCTC) for travel on Indian trains. If you have ever tried to book a ticket for an overnight sleeper berth in India, you will know exactly what I mean. This site can save you hours of frustration and stress and for this reason alone it rates as one of my top five sites. You will still need to register with IRCTC, the Indian Railway and Catering Tourism Corporation, but Cleartrip make the entire process as seamless and easy as possible.

Can I get cheap flights?

However, when it comes to finding cheap flights, Cleartrip, like most ‘bucket shops’, attempts to palm off cheap, miscellaneous flight sectors that can prove to be poor value for money. For example, you want to travel from Bangalore to Christchurch (NZ) – search – it is your lucky day – you can travel with Kingfisher Air and have complimentary stopovers in New Delhi and Abu Dhabi for the price of a direct flight with Singapore Airlines. Don’t get me wrong, I love Abu Dhabi airport – wow – six hours imbibing the delightful atmosphere of the Abu Dhabi terminal. Thanks, I will have a bottle of rum with that. To fly half way around the world in the wrong direction and then fly back again? Frankly, I would rather sail with Long John Silver on the Flying Dutchman to Treasure Island.