My Experience with Multiple Sclerosis – by Jim Haverlock (August/September 2001)
I have learned that ‘we are often unaware’ of habits that cause us stress and interfere with our ability to respond effectively to ‘stimuli’ in our daily lives. Having “Progressive MS” for the past 11+ years has drastically changed my posture and functional mobility. As my nervous system has deteriorated, I developed many maladaptive habits to compensate for lost function.
The Alexander Technique is all about changing these maladaptive habits so we can respond more effectively and achieve better, more efficient functioning. Although not well known, the Alexander Technique has been recognized by knowledgeable individuals for over 100 years as a unique and remarkably effective technique of mind-body re-education.
I am not sure if it was ever meant for people suffering with M.S. but I can personally attest that it is one of the very few therapies (including drugs) that has visibly improved the quality of my life.
“Unlearning my old habits has been challenging, but immensely rewarding — not only in terms of my ability to move and function more efficiently, but also in terms of experiencing the first physical improvements in many years of gradual and progressive decline”.
My M.S. created a physical condition that resulted in poor posture and very inefficient functional mobility — i.e. balance, walking, sitting, etc. And I was totally unaware that this could be changed – I just assumed it was all part of the M.S. experience. When I heard about the Alexander Technique, I realized I might be able to reverse some of my physical losses, and immediately enrolled for private sessions with Josette Pelletier, a certified practitioner. Josette is currently teaching in Chelan, WA. This is what she had to say about working with me.
“My working with Jim has been a wonderful experience that has taught me a great deal. My trust in the workings of the technique is even in reawakening the connection of mind (thought) to the better working of the body.
When I first met Jim, he walked in with the help of a cane in a slow, contracted way. His joints appeared stiff and flexing with great effort. His upper body compensated with the imbalance with much muscular tension and his speech was slower than normal. What struck me about Jim was his honesty, his acceptance of this limitation, his strength in continuing to trust that he could improve; his willingness to create a strong connection of mind – body communication and lastly that he didn’t expect a miracle cure. After 13 sessions and Jim’s great perseverance in applying the newly learned information, he has a wonderful, re-established balance creating an open and relaxed upper body. His ankles, knees and hips are now moving with much more freedom and he can stand and walk for long periods of time without his cane. It continues to improve bringing more assurance, energy, and more trust, less pain. Certainly his quality of life has improved a great deal!”
Josette took me through basic movements giving gentle hands-on guidance. Through this guidance, I experienced more natural and easy coordination without the on-going interference of maladaptive habits. Repeating these experiences of natural, efficient movement stimulates my internal coordination feedback so it becomes more accurate. This develops the ability to choose better coordinated and non-stressful responses to stimuli. With practice, I can make habit changes that will last.
Benefits I have found in doing this technique or method are that I now stand straighter, taller and have overall better posture. Friends have noticed this change and comment about “how healthy” I look. I have also found that I can get into and out of a chair without all the tension and stress that it took before. I have a better sense of balance, and I can actually walk short distances without the use of my cane/crutch or other support devices that I have used the past several years.
I learned very quickly that these Alexander Technique lessons are taught on an individual basis. Private lessons gave me the opportunity to make in-depth and lasting improvements and to develop substantial skills in changing habits.
I am an ongoing student and my teacher works with me for up to an hour and a half each session. I have found that repeat sessions are most useful, and often reinforce the learning of these new habits in a positive way.
In order to gain the most benefit from the Alexander Technique, it’s important to take the time to learn it thoroughly with a qualified teacher.
Contact Jann McMichael for more info