My contribution to Alexander Technique Awarness week.
Holding on…..or creating space.
I thought it could be interesting to combine some of my previous physiotherapy approach, my own personal experience and Alexander principles on the subject of micturition.
Sometimes I would wet my pants when I was a little girl…under our summer dresses, we wore big blue-checked gingham bloomers with elasticated ends which pinched my little thighs, so of course, for the rest of the day it was a soggy, chafing, secret shame.
But everything … learning to read, art and arithmetic, spelling and knitting were all so exciting and interesting that I could not tear myself away from the classroom in case I should miss a single moment. So began the habit of holding on TOO LONG!
I remember that I was also prone to cystitis. A burning, horrible deterrent to going for a wee.
The complexities of the bladder and associated post natal difficulties later became a part of my studies as I stepped into a wonderful job as obstetric physio in the brand new maternity unit in Torbay.
“Urgency”, the (so aptly called) sudden need to urinate, and reduced capacity of the bladder was just one of many possible post natal complications which I could be called upon to treat. It was also a not uncommon problem for more mature women in the gynaecolocy ward.
Years went by and my habit of being ‘doubled up’ for a wee continued in a pretty unconscious way….. occasional minor mishaps, along the way.
But one day (as I was bent over for all I was worth at the bike shed) on my return home from Alexander school, I began to wonder about the sense ….. well the lack of it….. in doubling up, crossing my legs and holding on for dear life…..
All that pulling down would surely be significantly reducing the space for my poor distended bladder. What would happen if I thought of freeing my neck and lengthening and widening.
From then on I made a decision to become more aware of my habits around the whole subject. It is a work in progress.
There are some useful physiological details to add into the equation, which are helpful when retraining a small bladder ( one that has become habituated to holding smaller and smaller volumes) to gradually regain capacity.
The muscle fibers that cause the bladder wall to contract and expel urine, depend on reciprocal relaxation of the bladder neck and pelvic floor sphincter muscles .
Conversely, if the sphincter muscles contract, by conscious control, the bladder wall muscles will reciprocally relax, thus allowing the bladder to enlarge a little.
In other words, a well timed, conscious contraction of the pelvic floor muscles can help to retrain the bladder to hold a greater volume.
( I am experimenting with applying my Alexander directions in this moment of specific activity)
Other useful factors….. the importance of drinking enough water. That coffee and tea can irritate the bladder wall and make it more reactive.
This is not the same as holding on for dear life just because it is too much trouble to go to the loo. In fact holding for too long can cause the very opposite problem…. difficulty in initiating the flow, or in dire cases, retention!
So, with this in mind, when I get a non urgent signal that it is time to go to the loo, what is a useful, conscious response?
I might be in the middle of practising an exhilarating passage of Beethoven.
Or about to go shopping.
In a gripping conversation.
Can I even listen to the signals of mild or growing discomfort?
Can I stop and “let go” of my pressing need to carry on/get going/mind my manners in favour of a pressing need to go to the loo?
It can’t be that hard can it?
This is where force of habit truly is a force, and where inhibition of the gentlest kind is such a grace.
Just stop. Make space. There is time. Time, when the urge is caught several steps BEFORE there is no return….BEFORE doubling up becomes the only option….
Time to listen and think of directing the neck to be free, the back to lengthen and widen.
So much more space in the pelvis for the bladder to function naturally….and for the natural message “hey you, how about me?” to get through. What about courtesy to my bladder? …. courtesy to the whole of this marvelous instrument, my human psychophysical being?
And then make the move to the loo with good humour and time to get my trousers undone without the cross dash and muttering “left it too long AGAIN didn’t you”
So for me the thing is not just a hopeful application of “head neck back etc” in the urgent moment, but a choice to listen and then respond a good deal sooner.
It means holding on to the things I love with a lighter touch in the faith that I can let go for long enough to visit the bathroom and that they will still be there after I have pulled up my trousers!
Old habits?….. ha!
Will you excuse me