There and Back Again – My Alexander Technique Journey through Neck Surgery — 49 Comments

  1. Ah – sorry to hear you had to go through this, Robert! But good to hear that your recovery is going well. Interesting, your feelings of what others might think of this. There might not be any answers to questions like – why did this happen to ah AT teacher? Or even why did you decide to o along with the operation…. I relate to that. I have a severe lung condition which gets me out of breath at the slightest bit of activity. Walking has become increasingly difficult. I feel ashamed, a failure, at times…because isn’t AT meant to be about breathing? Over the yeas, I made some discoveries, and find the process of accepting how things are very interesting. Just because I have a lung disease, my behaviour need not be entirely determined by that. I can behave like a well person. In your case, I would think that you can be in a neck-free mode o being, even though your neck might be physically constrained.
    I will be interested in reading your further reports.

  2. I’m really sorry to hear of what sounded like very necessary surgery. It in no way reflects on your practice of the AT. I have always learned something from your many posts on the forum and your blog. Please look after yourself and I hope you continue to make a good recovery. Thinking is the cornerstone and you do and can always do that.

  3. Robert, this is a very important story to tell, thank you for doing this. I wish you to continue on your path of recovery and discovery; and that no complications impede this healing, especially as we live in such difficult circumstances due to the virus.

  4. Dear Robert,

    Three years ago I suffered from frozen shoulder syndrome in my left shoulder. It was a humbling experience for me, as an alexander technique teacher, to have little or no conscious control over a disease process that included extreme pain, joint rigidity, and reactive tension (that was beyond my powers of inhibition). The disease progressed from savage pain, reduced ROM, to frozen, and then gradual unfreezing (with the help of steroid injections), over the course of around 18 months. During this time I had a wonderful PT who recommended that the exercises she gave me should feel like *nothing. She wanted high quality, detail, and precision, not effort. I found my skills as an alexander technique teacher invaluable because I was not adding to the problem by trying to brace, because I had a non-doing attitude about my recovery, and because of my spatial awareness of the layout of my body anatomy. After I recovered (with very little loss of ROM, I found my ability to teach seemed to have benefitted because I was so motivated to work on my own use, and also because so much of my healing was actually beyond my control. I had to surrender to it, a bit. I had to be indirect about it, you see.
    I think your journey will be positive, in regards to your ability to teach. I think some loss of neck ROM will not hinder you, but help you to learn and adapt and grow more powers of thought, which I believe is the true Primary Control. Such a paradox, eh? I want to beam you a sense of hope. And I so appreciate your honest and helpful wish to share your experiences.

    Best- Holly

  5. Prayers that you heal quickly. I’m positive your Alexander teachings have kept you healthy for this long, and hopefully the effects of the surgery are minimized.
    Tom and I will be thinking of you and praying for God’s healing powers for you.
    Brenda Messick

  6. Robert! i’m shocked to hear this, but so happy to read you’re doing ok now. I’m sending all my best wishes. Thank you for writing this honest post. You expressed concern as to what some Alexander teachers might think. Please don’t spend two seconds thinking about that. I think you will transform this situation and become an even more powerful teacher. Will you consider turning this blog into a book?
    All the best Mr. Robert. Please keep us posted with your progress.

  7. Robert, I am so sorry that you have had such an ordeal. However, Knowing you for so many decades now, this is what I know. You will use this experience to enrich your life and the lives of many ,many others. You are a true teacher always seeking to know more and share what is helpful to anyone who is interested. That the body actually ages is a fact of life and it ages particularly to each individual . You are one of the most amazing people I have ever met on this journey. The Alexander Technique has so many levels of application and understanding and no doubt you will make phenomenal discoveries due to this experience. We are all very fortunate that you will share them with us. Much love to you and Anne and may the force be with you!

  8. I admire your candor and courage, Robert!

    True, “a free neck” is a hallmark of the Technique, although I imagine exactly what that means with 5 fused vertebrae is something you are in a position to discover! KUDOs to you! Perhaps there is still freedom to be found since the head swivels and nods mostly from the top two vertebral joints (although, of course, the rest of the vertebrae are intended to follow and that may not be possible). I predict that you will astonish the medical community, even the AT community, and possibly yourself as you explore the possibilities.

    Wishing you much success and maybe even pleasure in the process!
    Sally Ahner

  9. Robert, very to sorry this happened but glad to know you are already coming out of the worst of it and doing much better. Best wishes for your return to full health sooner and sooner. Missy

  10. Robert, My goodness what a journey! I am convinced that your years as an Alexander Teacher kept this condition from being worse and sooner. Energy flowing and all that. Your knowledge, discipline and attention give direction to healing. A contribution if you are interested is A.Vogle’s calcium absorber preparation. One of my clients went from osteoporosis to osteopenia. It took a year but slow can be better when bones are involved.
    Wishing all the best for you and Ann.
    holding you in the Light today.
    Judith Amundson

  11. Hi Robert. I’m sorry to hear this but glad to hear you had such good medical professionals looking after you. I’ve always thought the Alexander Technique meets you where you are, with whatever conditions you have to deal with. Thanks for writing about this and I’ll look forward to hearing more from you. Hears to a continued recovery. A least its getting to be spring now and you can walk outside.

  12. Hi Robert, As far as my understanding goes, your condition was certainly not caused by poor use. This experience can only deepen your compassion and ability to work with students. Sounds like you are recovering well. Good work.

  13. Robert your expertise has forever changed and enhanced my life and journey! I am so sorry to hear about your surgery and I just as you encouraged me one time, your use and knowledge of A.T. will hopefully provide a recovery that is quick and less painful. There is nothing we can do to prevent certain injuries on our bodies. I use the skills you’ve taught me regularly and the power of thought has changed my life forever. I think of you often. Peace be with you!

  14. Dear Robert,
    I am so sorry you have had to have neck surgery. Where to begin? I often wonder what shape I would be in if it weren’t for the Alexander Work. For all you know, without the work this could have happened decades ago. Also “neck” is a lot more than vertebrae. As Kitty said, “It is also all the soft tissues that support the whole sphere of the head, the chin and the jaw,” as she traced the collarbone, and from the insides of the shoulders to the 7th vertebra, and held the head and reminded the pupil that it ended also at the jaw. So neck is much more than vertebrae. We are also concerned with the freedom of the head on top of the spine – unaffected by the surgery.
    I have always been concerned about those in the Alexander community who feel (were taught?) that there is one RIGHT way to teach. Somehow I thought Alexander said there is a problem with trying to be right. To me that’s where rigidity can set in.
    Thank you for your courage in putting this out to the community. Too many of us experience shame when we have an injury and ask ourselves, “Should this happen to an Alexander teacher?” I have dealt with many injuries, as well as working with my voice as a professional singer. Too often I have “pulled myself down” with self-judgment. I am grateful to have lived this long, and hopefully longer, to have the opportunity to keep working on myself, and hopefully to be able to share some of what I have learned these many years.
    Your generous contribution to the work and the community through your internet presence is enormous.
    Wishing you refuah shlemah – a complete healing.

  15. Hi Robert, glad to hear you are recovering well. I have worked with many people with cervical fusions both short and long. Luckily the fusion doesn’t interfere with your ability to think. It does alter the outcome of neck muscle activation. We have lots of automatic muscular patterns where the brain expects particular motion and therefore sensory feedback. The AT is very well suited to relearning how to efficiently move with your new anatomic arrangement. You’ll do great.

  16. I don’t think fused vertebrae will prevent you from avoiding isometric contraction of muscles. Look at Tiger Woods who (I think) has three fused vertebrae. The challenge will be to avoid protective shortening of muscles, which may be necessary short term. Many of us have given lessons to students with whiplash injuries, coaxing them out of once necessary protective muscle positioning. You are fortunate to have the A.T. to get you to a (maybe) slightly different freedom.
    Good for you with your walks. All my best for this new challenge.

  17. Dear Robert,
    Echoing what Sally said, I too admire your candor and your courage. Would that our work gave us total control over our bodies at every stage of our lives but of course it doesn’t (a good thing really). Changes occur as we move through life and our good use enables us to respond to these in the most favorable possible way.
    The excellent work done by your surgeon certainly contributes to the speed and ease with which you’ve been recovering but I think your skill and experience play an even more significant role in how active and pain free you are just 6 weeks after surgery. I’m impressed!
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Writing about your recovery and your teaching will be doing us all a great service and I look forward to reading your blogs.
    Wishing you all the best in the meantime,

  18. Robert, thank you for sharing this. I love the total transparency. Nature is so full of surprise and mystery. I know you’ll learn lots and have lots more to share with us from your experiences. Here’s wishing you good health and a speedy recovery.

  19. Hey Roberto, so sorry to hear about this, and so very glad you trusted your body about nedding help. I had this surgery almost 9 years ago, without fusion. For me the thing that still stays with me was that I was told at the time that if I had even had a small fall I could have been paralyzed. Glad you are on the other side of that.
    As usual you sound like you are rocking this, maybe just a gentle shimmy for a bit! Sending healing love and energy.
    I miss you and the gang, maybe a virtual check in at some point. Refuah Shlayma my friend. xo

  20. Hi Robert,
    So happy to hear that you are on the road to recovery! Our bodies are certainly amazing and mysterious! So glad you were able to pin this down and get it taken care of relatively quickly and so efficiently. We are so lucky to have the AT to get us through these kinds of challenging medical issues and these uncertain times we live in! Many Blessings and many healing vibes. Gary

  21. What an interesting blog Robert! I was sorry to read that you have had to have neck surgery and interested in your concerns about the perception of others to an Alexander Technique Teacher having resultant neck problems. I admire your openness and expect it will do your reputation no harm, although teaching may be more challenging I fear. I wish you a speedy recovery. James

  22. Hello Robert, that was a rather scary thing to happen. Thank goodness you are healing up so well. Join the club of slightly imperfect Alexander teachers! Thank goodness that we have this wonderful AT to help us with all circumstances. Love and happy memories from London. Diana xx

  23. Didn’t they say that FM’s hands were at their best after he had a stroke? Looks like your best days are ahead of you young man! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Stay safe. Alan x

  24. Hi Robert,
    I just saw this and I’m so glad I did. Thank you for sharing your experience. The Alexander Technique can’t fix everything, though for many years I thought it could! I came to AT with what was termed a “slight deformity” in my neck. I benefitted greatly from studying it and learning to teach it. My limitations continue contribute to making me a better, more compassionate teacher. I wonder how you are now in March of 2022. Maybe there’s an update. I’d like to read it. I look in later posts. Best, Corinna

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