Psychotherapist and author Andrea Harrn speaks with Steve Nobel about how mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and positive psychology theories are woven together to create the bestselling Mood Cards and its follow-on deck ‘Understanding Deep Emotions’.
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated. The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions.
Andrea discusses how people are already using the Mood Cards in Schools, Hospices and as a tool for therapists. Mental health in the UK is of growing concern, Andrea explains how these cards can be used at home to help you take control and understand your emotions.
Listen to Andrea and Steve chat about cultural differences in emotions, mental health in the UK and a closer look at ‘Abandonment’, ‘Bullying’, being ‘Excluded’ and ‘Passive Aggressive’ emotions.
Download to listen on the go.
Subscribe so you never miss an episode!
We publish a new podcast every 2 weeks on interesting Mind, Body, Soul, Personal Development and Health topics.
Steve Nobel: Hello, and welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel, and today I’m speaking with Andrea Harrn on Understanding Deep Emotions. Andrea is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, intuitive healer, expert in emotional intelligence. She is the creator of the Mood Cards published by Eddison Books. Her latest offering is Understanding Deep Emotions, which builds on her work of the previous Mood Cards set. And her mission is in creating more peace and understanding in the world through emotional intelligence, empathy, forgiveness, and love. Andrea, hello. Andrea Harrn: Hi, there, Steve. Steve Nobel: Now, it looks like the Mood Cards have been highly successful in helping people gain greater insight into this emotional state. Have you had a lot of feedback on the first deck? Andrea Harrn: I’ve had so much feedback on it. It’s been amazing, actually. I created them originally just for myself in the therapy room, but they’re spreading out and being used in so many settings by parents, by teachers, by coaches, meditation teachers, health workers working with kids in children’s homes, hospices. So much feedback and people are using them in so many different ways. Maybe sometimes with groups as well and with young people. Yeah, I’ve had some great feedback. I’m really happy, thank you, Steve. It’s all going well. I just keep hearing more and more feedback from people about all the different uses for them. Steve Nobel: Well, I can really understand how kids would benefit, schools, even coaches, young people. Hospices, that’s a new one. How are people using it in hospices? Andrea Harrn: Well, when people are in a hospice, it’s really hard for the families, and sometimes the families just find it very, very hard to talk about what they know is the obvious. There’s a grief card, there’s lost cards, there’s disappointment. There are so many cards that can help people to express themselves, and it can help people to communicate and come together at that very, very difficult time. Also, help the person themselves who is in the hospice to perhaps talk about some of the feelings that they have around family. Maybe there are things that they always wanted to say, but they never said them. The cards do bring people together, Steve.
Steve Nobel: You must have had feedback from around the world. Do you find that there’s a cultural aspect to moods and emotions? Like some cultures find certain things easier. For example, I always felt the Mediterranean cultures were very much more able to be angry and say what they feel. Whereas in Britain, I always felt, well, if you say anything like that, your relatives won’t speak to you for 20 years.Andrea Harrn: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we are more reserved here, aren’t we. We’re more reserved in the way that we talk about our feelings in this country. Yeah. In fact, in some of the different countries, they’ve had different ways of expressing. The cards have gone out to places like China, for example. In those countries that are quite heavily influenced in the way that you’re supposed to think and feel, I think accessing emotions is something they’re just not used to. Yeah, it’s different. Wherever you are, it’s different in terms of how you talk about feelings. Steve Nobel: Wonderful. I mean, that’s great it’s gone to China. You’re right about that. Are you getting much feedback from these countries? Andrea Harrn: There’s a lot of interest in them, interestingly, from the ex-Eastern Bloc in Europe. Countries like Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary. They’re doing really, really well in countries like that. I think that for many, many years, perhaps people weren’t able to express how they feel, and the cards are doing are really well in those countries. It just shows you how it’s a human need in all of us, isn’t it, to be able to be who we are and talk about what we think, what we feel, and to be able to talk openly and honestly in relationships as well.
Steve Nobel: How do these differ from the first deck, are they aimed slightly differently? Andrea Harrn: The concept is the same. The way the cards work is the same. The difference really is in the cards themselves. The first deck that I created was more of a general moods and emotions deck. This card is really more about the issues and problems that people bring to therapy, so we’ve got cards like abandonment, rejection, bullying. We’ve got all sorts of other cards that relate to the problems that people bring into the therapy room like victim, for example, sensitive, Limerence, problems with people that have got love problems, jealousy problems, envy. Yeah, I would say that this second deck relates more to the issues and problems that people bring into therapy. Steve Nobel: Could it be described as an aid for therapy? Therapy nowadays, particularly in the NHS, I think you get six weeks or something and then you’re out. Not the good old days you could years and years of it. Andrea Harrn: Often you get six weeks now. You don’t really get that even, and people have to wait months for that. Even when people get the therapy, a lot of the time it’s more about filling in questions and fulfilling assessment criteria. That’s not to say that there aren’t good therapists out there because there are many good therapists out there, but it’s quite hard for people, especially in the U.K., to get therapy and long-term therapy is just not happening with them on the NHS. Yeah, I mean, the cards are an aid for therapists working with clients, but for those that can’t access therapy, it’s a self-development tool. It’s a way to learn more about your moods and your emotions, and your obstacles. Or perhaps with families, to help children and young people communicate how they feel. There are a lot of families using them. A lot of parents are using them with your children and helping their children to open up about their feelings. It gives children that experience of learning that it’s okay to talk about feelings and to explore them because with mental health issues on the rise … The problem with mental health issues is because people feel that, a lot of the time, they can’t express themselves or there’s no one there to listen to them. Using the cards does help people to be able to explore their moods and emotions, and if you can use them working with a friend or a family member, it’s going to be even more powerful.
Steve Nobel: This deck talks about some much deeper issues than the first deck I should say, bipolar, addiction. Is there a strong healing and educational element to these cards? Andrea Harrn: Well, the education is more about the self-awareness and the self-management, and how you may be able to gain control of your difficult moods or emotions or your mood swings. Also, the cards help you to recognize behaviors that don’t support you or help you or even your thinking that’s unhelpful. Again, if you use them with other people, it’s a great way for people to understand what it’s like to be you. What it means to be you with your problems. Not necessarily trying to change you or fix you, but just being able to listen to you. It helps to develop empathy, and if we experience empathy, we feel heard by someone else. That in itself is so healing. It’s so powerful to feel heard, and it doesn’t always happen. Everybody’s busy with their own lives, we don’t always have the time to sit down, and really listen to someone. That’s why counseling is so good because it does provide that place. But for people that can’t get counseling, this is a great way to experience what it feels like to have counseling. They’re not there to give scientific explanations of problems as such. They’re more there for individual discovery and learning for positive outcomes. Steve Nobel: Yeah, and I would say these cards are a much cheaper form of therapy than just going for endless therapy. Can I say, like the first deck, these cards are based on CBT, mindfulness, and positive psychology. Again, can you say something again about that? Andrea Harrn: Yes, because mindfulness is really about acceptance, isn’t it. If we can accept how we feel, by talking about how we feel we can accept okay, this is where I am at the moment with whatever it is. That in itself is a powerful process. Being mindful about your feelings and what’s going on inside you be it a physical problem, be it an anxiety or be it thoughts in your head, obsessions in your head. Just to acknowledge that’s where I am, in a mindful way, is powerful. Then the CBT is really based on three structured questions on the back of each card to help people to define, then to explore, and then to move through and see different perspectives on problems. Taking action points as well. Helping people to see how I can move forward. The cards in the box, they’re not all negative cards, by the way. There are many, many positive cards in both of the card decks. The positive part cards you can help to reinforce all the positive things about you. If you’re very talented or creative, the cards help you to become even more talented and help you to place your creativity and actually inspire you to do something about what you feel creative about, what you feel inspired about. It works with the positive cards as well as the negative cards.
Steve Nobel: Wonderful. Now, these cards use affirmations. I think the first time I came across affirmations was the Louise Hay book You Can Heal Your Life. What is the value of affirmation? Andrea Harrn: Affirmations is really talking to yourself a powerful way. It’s a positive way. You know sometimes if you have a friend that is feeling really down on themselves, you might want to give them some words of encouragement, so if you think about an affirmation as giving yourself words of encouragement. It’s about being there for yourself. It’s about aiming to build positive self-esteem, and empowerment, and hope. It’s using words and language that are powerful and positive. When you actually speak out the words, it’s like planting seeds of positivity not just into your mind but into your whole energy system. Of course, depending on your voice tone and your body language as well, it can become even more powerful. For example, if you’re going to say something like, “I choose to be around positive people and in positive environments.” If you say it like, “I choose to be around positive people and in positive environments.” Okay, you’re saying it with a low voice tone. You’re not being very energetic about it, so just raise your voice tone. “I choose to be around positive people and in positive environments,” and as you’re doing it, you feel that energy raising. That’s also important. It’s the way you say it. The way you talk to yourself about it, whether you’re going to talk to yourself, perhaps in an energetic way. Or if it’s an affirmation on relaxation, it will be doing the complete opposite and lowering your voice tone, “I feel so relaxed. My body is feeling calm. I’m really relaxed. I feel peace within.” It’s changing your voice tone according to the message that you want to give yourself according to the reaction and the impact that you want from it. If you want to become more empowered, more lively, more energized raise your voice tone. If you want to become more relaxed, lower your voice tone. The other thing is, because I’ve my hypnotherapy training as well, but a lot of my hypnotherapy training has been brought into the different language and the different words and the different suggestions in the mood cards. Steve Nobel: I’ve picked a few cards. I’ve actually been drawn to more negative cards, sorry about that. The first one was abandoned. Can you say something about this card, abandoned?
Andrea Harrn: Yeah. I mean, abandoned it’s hard because people do feel, sometimes, that abandonment can be something from childhood abandonment, parental breakups, that kind of thing. And I think that people that go through feelings of abandonment have probably experienced very early abandonment, so it’s about exploring that, those feelings and asking you, if you were abandoned, what it feels like. Helping people to resolve things in their own mind about how their own personal abandonment has happened and how it’s affected them, and about learning to make the best of that situation from now on. Steve Nobel: The second card, which I guess is really powerful for many particularly young children but not all, is the bullied card. I mean, there are many people also being bullied in the workplace, so what can you say about this one?
Andrea Harrn: Absolutely. Yeah. The bullying is quite often people that are bullied, don’t understand why it’s happened to them because they haven’t asked to be bullied. Quite often people that are bullied are actually people that have got a lot of very positive qualities. Bullies, generally, have low self-esteem and not very strong identities, so what they tend to do is they tend to bully people that maybe they have envy for that person or they feel that that person has something they want. Especially these days in the workplace when you’ve got a good employee, and then you have somebody that’s perhaps not so good at their job, and they could be bullying that person that’s actually doing a great job. Of course, when you’re going through bullying, you don’t see that that’s the reason I’m being bullied. That it’s because there’s something about me that is a threat to somebody else. And so the cards help you to explore your own experiences of bullying. Looking at who do you think has the problem, was it you or was it the bully? There are lots of questions on the cards that help people to really get to grips with this whole concept of bullying. It’s a massive area for exploration, but it does really affect people. Even today, I had somebody come in. This is a person that’s really successful, and it just suddenly came out that why she’s feeling so bad, and she just brought up this bullying incident that happened when she was about 12. It still stayed with her for 20 years, and it’s affected her self-esteem. It’s a big thing that affects people for many, many years, so it’s important to explore it and resolve it. Steve Nobel: The next one I’ve got, which follows on in some way, is excluded.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, it’s another form of bullying, isn’t it, exclusion. Again, it’s a similar process looking at who’s excluding you. Why do you think that’s happening? Is there anything that you could do differently as well because sometimes people feel I’m being excluded, but actually it’s them that doesn’t want to socialize. Maybe they’ve got some social anxiety, or perhaps they’re more of an introverted type. It’s just helping people just see what’s actually happening, what’s really happening, where’s the evidence for it? Is there something that you’re doing that could maybe help the situation or change the situation? Steve Nobel: Yeah, and the last one, which I’ve actually come across many times in my life, is this passive-aggressive thing, which kind of, seems to me, to link to anger or how people can’t really express it clearly. It comes out in weird ways. Andrea Harrn: Yeah. I mean, I’ve done a lot of work on passive-aggressive behavior. In fact, a lot of my writing on my website is about this subject because it is a really difficult problem. Especially when you’re faced with it in your relationship. It’s about the anger that is the hidden anger. It’s the way that the anger comes out, and it can come out in all sorts of very, very abusive, emotionally abusive and destructive ways. The passive-aggressive card helps people to understand what it is, how it affects them, and maybe what the triggers are to it and how you can manage your own passive-aggressive … If you’re in a passive aggressive relationship, the card will really help you to understand what it is you need to do to put in firmer boundaries and to be more assertive against the passive-aggressive. Now, if the person looking at the card is the passive-aggressive, it will help them to learn about how they don’t need to be passive-aggressive. It can help them to learn that they’ve got a right to have their emotions and feelings, and they’ve got a right to express them as we all have.
Steve Nobel: Wonderful. Well, Andrea, once again, thank you for speaking with me. Understanding Deep Emotions, and the website is TheMoodCards.com. Thanks, Andrea. Andrea Harrn: Thank you so much, Steve. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you very, very much.
Understand deep emotions
Explore more complex emotions and behaviours for healing, happiness and inner peace.
Based on mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology, this pack demystifies psychology and mental-health labels, and offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore moods, feelings and emotions. Following the success of the original bestselling MOOD CARDS box, this new, stand-alone volume offers 50 cards to help you work with more complex emotions and behaviours, so that you can embark on a deeper journey of self-discovery. Learn more about your issues and obstacles, and how you operate in relationships and work situations, and gain new insights and perspectives that will take you forward to success and a healthy work/life balance. Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking, and the pack is suitable for personal and professional use alike.
Make sense of your moods and emotions for clarity, confidence and well-being
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated. Based on cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and positive psychology, The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions. Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking. Whether to help you manage difficult moods, approach relationships more skilfully, become more sensitive to the needs of others, or simply be able to communicate and listen effectively, using the cards will encourage you to be con dent in who you are, expand your emotional intelligence and help you move forward in a positive way.
Psychotherapist and author Andrea Harrn talks to Steve Nobel about how mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and positive psychology theories are woven together to create The Mood Cards.
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated.The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions.
Andrea explains how she designed the cards to help teachers, psychologists, mental health professionals and hospice workers connect with, and help their clients open up about their moods and emotions. Andrea talks through a couple of cards with Steve, giving examples of the questions she may ask her client and the issues surrounding each emotion.
Listen to Andrea and Steve chat about emotions, psychotherapy and get a closer look at the emotions including Anger, Acceptance, Forgiveness and Disapointment.
Download to listen on the go.
Subscribe so you never miss an episode!
We publish a new podcast every 2 weeks on interesting Mind, Body, Soul, Personal Development and Health topics.
Steve Nobel: So, hello and welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel and today I’m speaking with Andrea Harrn on The Mood Cards. Now, Andrea’s a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, intuitive healer, and expert in emotional intelligence, and she’s the creator of The Mood Cards, published by Eddison Books. Now, these cards are based on cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, and positive psychology. There are 42 cards in the box, showing a variety of emotions, ranging from happy to sad to resentment to guilt to stress. Each card comes with guided questions for self exploration, plus an affirmation for positive thinking, and her mission in creating these cards is to bring peace and understanding to the word through emotional intelligence, empathy, forgiveness, and love. And a good website to check out these cards is themoodcards.com. Hi, Andrea.
Andrea Harrn: Hello, Steve.
Steve Nobel: Can I ask you … I really think they’re brilliant, by the way. I’ve been looking through them and I can see so many applications for these. Can you say something about how you came to create these cards?
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, sure. Well, I’m working in my therapy, and I’ve been a psychotherapist for over 18 years now. I was noticing that a lot of people found it really hard to find the words to express their words and feelings and their emotions, and I was actually looking for a product myself that I could show to people with the different types of faces and expressions, and there was nothing available. So I just started to work on my own set of cards.
Andrea Harrn: In the beginning I imagined that this was something that I was just gonna use for myself. But as the idea developed it sort of grew and grew and I could see that there could a good use for this with other therapists, because if I was looking for it then I guess other people might be looking for that as well. As the idea developed, I began to realise that this could actually be a great tool for people that aren’t even in therapy, just being at home on their own and maybe struggling with how they think and feel. The idea developed over a period of time, and it eventually became the product it is now, which is a product that is suitable for adults and children and also the professionals to use, and teachers, and anyone really working with vulnerable people.
Steve Nobel: Great. I was going to ask you that actually, because they have these kind of very child-like faces, don’t they on these, kind of round faces with different expressions, but I guess everyone can relate to that.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, the point was I wanted to keep them very simple, so I didn’t exclude anybody. I did toy with the idea of making the faces fancier, but I just really liked that that’s not necessary, and actually simple is good, because what the faces do is they act as a mirror to whoever’s looking at them, they act as a mirror to that person. So in a way, when you’re looking at the card you’re reflecting your own impression onto the image, and the image is looking back at you. It’s that simple form that helps people to open up, because there’s no barriers there.
Steve Nobel: Do you think, it seems to me this way, that there’s a greater need for emotional intelligence in our modern day world? We’re kind of trained educationally to think and to do stuff, but what about emotional intelligence?
Andrea Harrn: Well, I think that it is something that is very important, because if you look at the way society is and other societies are [inaudible 00:03:23] in a way to think certain ways or believe in certain ideologies, or religions or ways of doing things. Even in families, families are built up with certain structures. Actually it’s quite hard for people to break away from that, and sometimes you feel that you can’t be who you are because you’re born into a certain society or to a certain culture.
Andrea Harrn: What the mood cards does is it helps you to think for yourself. So they can actually be quite challenging to a person using them, because as it gets you to really think things through, and it might go against what you’ve believed or to avoid in the way that you’ve seen life or thought about life, and really understanding it through emotions is a great way to do it, because emotions is what drives us. When we drive with our emotions our moods influence the way we behave, and of course, having emotional intelligence can help us to understand who we are, and have better relationships with people. If we can understand, especially when things go wrong, if we can understand what it was that happened to us in that process of things if things go wrong or maybe go right, then we can look at how to make things better in relationships, or having better connections with people, more understanding.
Andrea Harrn: So yeah emotional intelligence also opens up self-awareness, and it opens up empathy, and deeper connection. That has to be a good thing for societies.
Steve Nobel: Yeah, no, I come from an averagely neurotic British family, that’s my background. Certain emotions felt almost like taboos. There were certain feelings that just would not seem to be allowed. Do you think that’s kind of a general thing for a lot of families?
Andrea Harrn: I think that sometimes people aren’t given the opportunity to express themselves and feel that they’re being listened to. For example, if you are feeling a certain way and you are wanting to express that, but you weren’t given that space to express it, and you don’t feel like you’re being listened to. In the end you just begin to clam up and hold all those emotions in. That’s why people have problems in mental health, because they’re not able to express themselves properly, they’re not able to be heard, and to use other people to bounce ideas off. It can feel for some people that there’s no point in telling anybody how they feel, or if they do tell somebody that they’re gonna be talked over or told that they’re wrong.
Andrea Harrn: So yeah, it’s good to be able to express yourself and to give a person the chance to listen to you and you to listen to them. That’s really what I wanted to create the cards, because I wanted to bring an easy way really for people to look at how they’re feeling, and to have conversations with others. For example, if you’re using the cards with a friend or with your partner, or maybe for a parent using it with child, the questions on the cards actually allow people to open up, because it’s not the person asking the question it’s the card that asks the question. So it does allow people to open and answer in an honest way and hopefully be listened to.
Steve Nobel: I never really thought much about the difference between a mood and an emotion, but I guess there is one. What’s the difference?
Andrea Harrn: Well, I mean both of them are temporary so nothing is permanent. For example, if you wake up and you’re feeling angry when you first wake up, by lunch time you may feel quite happy because your day’s gone well. So I would say that you could wake up in a bad mood, but you can be in a good mood later on in the day, something good happened. Emotional thinking is more instinctual. It might be when somebody does something and you immediately go into a feeling of hurt or disappointment, and you feel that in your body. So it’s more of an instinctual biological response. To be honest moods and emotions there’s a crossover in both of them. More or less they’re both really doing the same thing, except that I would say that a mood can be longer lasting, and emotions tend to come and go.
Steve Nobel: Yeah. Now your cards are based on CBT, mindfulness and positive psychology. Can you say something about how all of this works together? How have you woven all these different things together?
Andrea Harrn: Okay well it would really be, the cards are a reflection of how I work as a therapist. So I’m an integrative therapist and many therapists will be working in an integrative way. So you know lots of models and study to become a therapist and a counsellor, but you never just stick to one model anyway, because life’s not like that and people aren’t black and white, so it won’t work that way. So really what I’ve done in the cards is the cards are reflection of how I work.
Andrea Harrn: For example with the mindfulness, it’s really about paying attention to the mood or the emotion that you feel, not trying to push it away, but just looking at it and sitting with it for a while, and being able to accept yes this me, this is how I feel. And that’s really important to do that because if you don’t do that then you’re just burying it and pushing it down or fighting it or resisting it.
Andrea Harrn: Then CBT, which is cognitive therapy, is a really useful way to break down problems, and look at how your thinking might be affecting the situation. For example, some people have what I call a negative script, everything about them tends to be, it might be nothing’s going to work, people don’t like me, I’ve got no friends, I’ll never get that job, things don’t go my way, that would be a typical negative script. So what CBT aims to do is look at how a person thinks about a problem, and then break it down and see is that actually true, is there evidence for that, okay if that is the case what can you do to move forward from that. So it’s quite a structured process. CBT is quite structured by it aims to move somebody from thinking negatively about a situation, to be able to see a different perspective, and hopefully to come out seeing a brighter side or a learning that you can take forward.
Andrea Harrn: Then the positive psychology is more to do with changing mindset, having positive thoughts, thinking about life in a more positive way. That also includes, well on the cards it is about the affirmations, and being able to give yourself positive statements. The thought is just a message that we give ourselves, and it’s just as easy to give ourselves a nice little or a helpful thought than it is to give ourselves a bad thought or a negative thought. But it does take practise to learn how to do that.
Andrea Harrn: I have separated the cards out into three different areas of working on the cards, and usually what I would suggest is people start with the mindfulness, which is looking at the image. And then also the statements and the words on the front and the image which you can work with as well. Then moving on to the three questions which is the CBT moving on to the affirmation. So why I’ve done in that way is I’ve found that a lot of my clients were looking at positive affirmations, and saying that they didn’t work for them because they hadn’t really moved to that point where they could say a positive affirmation. There was still work to do, there was resentment, or hurt, or disappointment or trauma that hadn’t been worked through. So if you could imagine if you’d been through a trauma or something really difficult, say something like I really love myself, it’s like sticking a plaster on top of a huge wound. So you work through the wounds and the injury before you can come out and give yourself the positive affirmation and actually feel, yeah this feels right for me now.
Steve Nobel: Yeah, I guess these cards have a wide range of applications from schools to therapy sessions. Can you say something about, kinda, the applications you envision for these cards?
Andrea Harrn: When I first created the cards, I didn’t really know, I sort of did it intuitively, I went through the process of creation of them, and I hoped that they would reach the right people. My intention was these cards will reach the people that need these cards. I couldn’t have imagined at the time how wide this would reach, it’s actually amazing and the publishers have done an amazing job of also making sales of the cards. I think they’re in about 14 languages already, just in three years, which is incredible. I know from the feedback I get from people that they are being used at the moment I know that they’re being used by therapists, psychologists, counsellors. They’re being used in hospices, they’re being used in children’s homes, they’re being used in youth projects, the kids that are on probation, or kids that are getting into trouble, they’re being used in schools, they’re being used by mental health workers.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, there’s lots of cases and at junior schools and primary schools. I am really happy that they’re reaching into schools as well, because that’s such a good place to be teaching children about emotions. When schools talk about results, you know SATs results, and other results, well you know so many kids don’t do well at school because there’s so many emotional problems going on. I think especially nowadays with so many children coming from difficult backgrounds, poverty, and chaotic family life, refugees. There’s a whole array and reasons why kids can’t do well at school, and these are emotional reasons, so it’s actually, I feel really happy that they’re getting into schools now.
Andrea Harrn: It’s so simple to use the cards as well that they can be used by children from about three or four upwards. So yeah they’re being used in lots of places, and of course by individuals buying them just for themselves to use for their own self-awareness and their own self development. They’re being used by couples as well to help to understand each other, because quite often you can be with somebody for twenty years and not really know what makes them tic. But somehow using the cards, the questions on those cards gets people to open up in a way that they might have ever opened up before. It does deepen connections.
Steve Nobel: Great. Now I’ve picked four cards just to give people a flavour of this, and let’s go through. The first one I’ve pick is this universal, probably universal, anger with a big red border with a ‘grrrr’ around it with a round face and kind of grimace. Can you just take us through this card?
Andrea Harrn: Yes sure. Well you’re right, anger is something we all feel isn’t it? I know that I felt angry a few days ago, and it did take me awhile to process that. But what I noticed in my own anger is that it was me that was really suffering. So the meaning of the card is to actually help people to see, well what is it that’s actually causing you to feel angry. When we talk about what it is that’s made you feel angry sometimes you can even laugh about what made you feel angry, because it doesn’t always sound that serious when you speak it out. So the first question, “What is causing you to feel angry?” To actually pinpoint what is the problem here. Is it something simple like somebody pushed in front of you in a queue, or is it something more of an anger that somebody’s done something terrible to you? So it’s about putting things into perspective.
Andrea Harrn: The second question on the card is, “How is your anger affecting you and those around you?” I think that’s an important question because when we hold on to anger it’s us that suffers isn’t it, Steve. We’re the ones that are feeling knotted inside. So also thinking about that question, how is it affecting you, how does it affect you physically? Are there knots in your stomach, are you clenching, are you getting hot? Also, what’s your behaviour like, because when you’re angry it might be affecting others around you. So it gets you to think through actually what is happening when I’m angry and how many people are affected by my anger. Then it asks, “what could you do differently?” So that will help you to just think, well maybe I should just walk away or go for a walk and do some deep breathing, something like that.
Andrea Harrn: Also, the third question, “Are there possible explanations?” So that question helps people to look at maybe see the other side of things, look at things from other people’s point of view, or perhaps just check out that you’re not making assumptions. Then the affirmation is about being aware of the anger and knowing that that will pass, so it’s not a permanent state.
Steve Nobel: The second card, acceptance, with a blue border this time. A bit of a different faced with a statement at the top, “I take life as it comes, there are some things that you just can’t change.” Acceptance.
Andrea Harrn: So should I do this card for you, Steve, and that might help you, yeah? So I am just wondering the first question that I might ask you is why you chose this card, acceptance?
Steve Nobel: Well, it seems to be a nice follow on from the anger. I chose kind of a difficult one and the a nice easy one, and acceptance to me seemed one of those things, something that I work on a lot. There just really are some things you can’t change. Of course there are some things that you can do things about. So this card really for me is about self-acceptance and accepting external things, around me which I might not like particularly.
Andrea Harrn: Okay, so the first question on the back is, “What does acceptance mean to you?” It will mean something different to everybody I’ve asked, but what does it mean to you, Steve? Acceptance as a concept, what does it mean to you?
Steve Nobel: It means accepting the parts of myself I might not like very much. For example, my vulnerability, I might not like feeling vulnerable. But it’s accepting that I do have these different aspects of myself, and to love all of those parts or to accept all those parts of myself. Also, accepting what I consider I would say difficult people. Trying to accept them, that that’s the way they are, rather trying to change them. It actually leaves me feeling much happier during the day doing this kind of practise.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, so that would be the second question, “How does it feel inside?” So when you come to that point in acceptance what does that feel like for you inside of you?”
Steve Nobel: Yeah, a lot more relaxation, less fighting, less struggling, more going with things, more helped me put my energy towards things which are probably more constructive.
Andrea Harrn: So in the future, thinking about acceptance, how can that take you forward if you keep going with this sort of acceptance, how do you think that can help you in moving forward in life?”
Steve Nobel: Less worrying, less struggle, less putting energy into things which is a bit pointless in putting into. So it makes me more productive in a way, because I’m actually choosing to my energy into things which can be moved forward, rather on stuff that’s just almost like banging my head against the wall.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, wasted energy.
Steve Nobel: Yeah, totally.
Andrea Harrn: So do you want to say the affirmation?
Steve Nobel: Yeah. I gratefully accept all that comes my way as an opportunity for personal growth and learning. That’s nice, I like that one, very nice.
Andrea Harrn: So with the affirmations, they’re not always gonna feel like the right affirmation for people, but I offer that opportunity for people to think about the affirmation, and then maybe if it doesn’t feel quite right to make their own affirmation or change the affirmation slightly that’s fine. It’s not a fixed affirmation that has to be your affirmation. It’s a suggestion of an affirmation. When I’m working with clients I find that they really like the affirmations, they don’t want to change them. It seems to work quite well.
Steve Nobel: Great. Now the third card is disappointed, and there’s a kind of grey boarder. I expected more, you know the face is slightly less than happy face.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, so that’s something that causes a lot of problems for people, is disappointment with others, and it’s about expectations. People have their expectations quite high. A lot of people have high expectations than others, and other people can’t make them because they don’t know what they are. So unless it’s a specific agreement that you have with someone, if I do this for you you’ll do that for me. It’s specific, people don’t know what is expected of them. So where expectations are too high, that just leads to disappointment. But nevertheless when people are feeling disappointed, it’s important for them to be able to express it and not just to have the answer that I shouldn’t expect so much, because if you’re feeling disappointed you’re feeling disappointed. It’s important to be able to express why.
Andrea Harrn: So the first question is, “Why are you feeling let down, why are you disappointed?” And that gives people the opportunity to just express it, whatever it is, however much it might seem a big thing or a small thing, however it may seem to somebody else, to the person that’s disappointed it’s real, and it’s hurtful, and it’s affecting them. So the first question gives people the opportunity to talk about the disappointment. Who’s let you how do you feel, and also be empathic if you are working with somebody else on this, let them express themselves, be empathic, be kind, be compassionate, this person hurts and they’re disappointed.
Andrea Harrn: So and then it talked about that, then you can talk about expectations. Where your expectations realistic, did you expect that to happen? That gives people that opportunity to think, well actually maybe I was just hoping for something that was never going to happen anyway, or perhaps that this is just typical that this person always does this so why am I surprised, you see what I mean? It helps people put it in perspective.
Andrea Harrn: Then the third question is, “What can we do to make sure that you no longer let events or behaviour of others affect you?” So in that way it might be well, I know this person always cancels me at the last minute when we have arrangements. So what can you do to no longer let that affect you. Well, I won’t make arrangements with that person, or I will do this or I will do that. So it’s quite a logical practical step that people can begin to take, because it’s about empowerment really as well. Empowering yourself and not being let down by others but actually being in control of the situation, deciding how you are going to manage it, and how you’re going to be in control so you don’t have to be let down by anybody.
Steve Nobel: Great. Now the last card is forgiving. A nice green boarder, slightly more smiley face, “We all make mistakes.” This is obviously a much more optimistic and healing card isn’t it?
Andrea Harrn: It is. Would you like me to do this one with you, Steve, and ask you the questions?
Steve Nobel: Sure, okay.
Andrea Harrn: Okay, so do you believe that we all make mistakes?
Steve Nobel: Yes, totally.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah. So the first question is, “How easy or hard is it to find forgiveness in your heart?”
Steve Nobel: Well to answer this one, being in the spiritual world I should say, it’s very easy, but I’m not going to say it is always very easy. I’ve noticed in myself actually I need to feel everything in myself completely, before I can ever come to a point I could let it go or forgive it. I can’t do it immediately, it sometimes takes me a day or two if it’s very strong to just process all the stuff inside of me to come to a point where I know, okay I’ve felt it all fully. I need to feel it fully, what’s going on and then, not necessarily express it without feeling it. When I’ve come to a point of neutrality, then I find it’s okay, but I have to go through the process first.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, I think that that’s quite understandable and normal and perfectly acceptable to do that, because we’re human aren’t we and if we’re hurt by someone, then to just forgive somebody straight away, I don’t know, it might happen, but I guess it depends by how hurt you by someone, or what they’ve actually done to think about forgiveness straight away. Would that be saying that well that didn’t matter or you weren’t bothered if you weren’t bothered that it wouldn’t hurt you that much, but if you are bothered than yeah, it’s normal to want to take that time to process.
Andrea Harrn: But forgiveness isn’t forgetting, there’s a difference between forgiving someone and forgetting what they … you know still remember what somebody’s done, but you might reach that point when you can forgive them. Actually forgiveness helps you. When you do forgive how do you find that it helps you when you can forgive someone?
Steve Nobel: Well, I like the saying, “Forgive but not forget.” I think as you said I think it’s important because there are lessons in life that we can learn from even difficult experiences, rather than just go ah forget about it. So I think what’s the learning and this, how can I learn and grow, and forgiveness kind of lets go of the hard edges of it, lets go of the kind of angst all the story of it. So for me forgiveness is letting go of the story, but absorbing the lessons. I’ve found in my life that I’ve learned so much from the hard knocks as much as from the lovely hugs you know. You do learn from hugs. I think it’s letting of the story of it that keeps us bound in the patented or maybe recreating it.
Andrea Harrn: Also, I think it’s similar to the anger card as well. When you’re not forgiving somebody what you’re holding onto is anger or resentment or hurt. All of those negative emotions. You’re the one that suffers when you’re not forgiving. When you can forgive and let it go, actually it frees you up, it frees your energy up for better things and more important things. It’s sort of letting go it’s a cleansing isn’t it, forgiveness?
Steve Nobel: Totally. It really feels like a weight is gone.
Andrea Harrn: Exactly, exactly. It moves you out of conflict because when you’re not forgiving it there’s a level of conflict there isn’t there?
Steve Nobel: Yeah I’ve got a fair amount of scorpio’s on my chart, so I can understand the power of this card. Scorpio’s don’t find it easy, I’m not scorpios I haven’t got a lot in there, so I have to really feel the angst of it and then I’m okay, then it’s gone then it’s fine.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah and just as well Steve that this first box, the main colours was relating much to the colour of the chakras as well. When I created the cards I had to sit with all of these feelings and facts. This is a bit of my personal journey here because everyone of these cards, I couldn’t just sit and write it, and create it, I had to actually go through all of these emotions. When I was going through them it was, I connected to where felt the emotions in the body and that helped me to connect with the colours of the chakras and see where those emotions are held. It was a powerful process for me really to go through creating these cards. It was quite hard to write them in the beginning …
Steve Nobel: I guess that makes them more powerful doesn’t it?
Andrea Harrn: It was really powerful, it was powerful. It was, I had to go through everything myself. That’s why it took a long time to create them. I’ve let them go now. It took me a long time to know that I could let them go, and now I’ve let them go emotionally, and they’re just doing what they need to be doing, they’re out there in the world.
Steve Nobel: Well, I highly recommend people to check these cards out. The Mood Cards published by Edison books. Andrea thank you so much for speaking with me.
Make sense of your moods and emotions for clarity, confidence and well-being
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated. Based on cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and positive psychology, The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions.
Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking. Whether to help you manage difficult moods, approach relationships more skilfully, become more sensitive to the needs of others, or simply be able to communicate and listen effectively, using the cards will encourage you to be con dent in who you are, expand your emotional intelligence and help you move forward in a positive way.
Understand deep emotions
Explore more complex emotions and behaviours for healing, happiness and inner peace.
Based on mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology, this pack demystifies psychology and mental-health labels, and offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore moods, feelings and emotions.
Following the success of the original bestselling MOOD CARDS box, this new, stand-alone volume offers 50 cards to help you work with more complex emotions and behaviours, so that you can embark on a deeper journey of self-discovery. Learn more about your issues and obstacles, and how you operate in relationships and work situations, and gain new insights and perspectives that will take you forward to success and a healthy work/life balance. Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking, and the pack is suitable for personal and professional use alike.
Steve Nobel sat down with Laurent Turlin to interview him about his book ‘Heal Yourself with Chinese Pressure points’
Laurent talks about your qi, and how your qi can become stagnant, and how acupressure helps relieve stagnant energy to nourish your organs.
Steve: So hello and welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel and today I’m speaking with Laurent Turlin on “Heal Yourself with Chinese Pressure Points: Treat common ailments and stay healthy using a 12 acupressure point system.” This book is a wonderful introduction for beginners. Explores 12 key acupressure points for treating common ailments and conditions according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And this book explores how to use these 12 key points to treat a range of conditions, from headaches, sciatica, and fatigue, to insomnia, motion sickness, and even a sore throat. Now Laurent is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and qualified acupuncturist, where he practises in a clinic in Paris.
Steve: Hi. So can I ask you, many people are really familiar with acupuncture as a complementary form of treatment for conditions. I mean I’ve had it many times. But many are less familiar with acupressure. Can you just say something about acupressure?
Laurent: Acupressure is the very first thing everybody does from the beginning of humanity. For example, when you have a shock, you touch or press the zone where you have had the shock. This is acupressure, it’s healing to relieve the blood and the qi stagnation. So acupressure, now we can specialise with acupoints, but it can be done anywhere on the body when you have a pain, self-administered, like with intuition it’s just a natural reaction, you know.
Steve: Yeah. Can you say something about qi stagnation, and what is qi? Many people may know this, but just in case they don’t.
Laurent: qi is energy. What is qi? Everything is qi. It can be a dense energy, solid, energy in movement. And in the body we have 12 meridians, 12 channels, and the qi goes in each of the 12 meridians to nourish the organs. Qi equals life. So when you mesh some points with other points, you create the formula and you can have synergy to treat yourself, for example, for back pain or headaches.
Life is movement, so when there is a blockage, there is pain. Chinese medicine is about moving the stagnant qi. And the blood? The blood is the substance of the qi. Qi is young. It’s immaterial. And blood is material, it is you. So the qi needs blood to circulate, and the blood also needs qi to be able to circulate. So when you bruise yourself, the blood is stopped in that area. The pain breaks the flow of circulation.
Steve: So what kind of things cause qi stagnation? You mentioned bruising, is there anything else that causes stagnation?
Laurent: Yeah, emotion. Frustration and anger creates qi stagnation. Especially around the liver. Now tomorrow is the Chinese New Year of the Dog. This is the New Year Chinese is celebrating spring. Every season we nourish special elements and special movements. And in the Spring, the Chinese nourish the liver. And the liver is very important. It’s one of the most important organs in Chinese traditional medicine. The liver is the organ which creates the impulse, the qi, and the blood, and it regulates all the glands. It is the endocrine system, the endocrine glands. The liver nourishes the tendons and the fibres in your body, to your eyes and your brain. So the liver is very important because it is the ‘boss’ of the circulation– the flow and circulation and also your stresses. And we can say the liver digests your emotions.
Laurent: When you feel an emotion, if you receive bad news, something happens and you get frustrated and get angry, your liver is trying to digest these emotions, you can have qi stagnation around the liver. It can also lead to qi stagnation resulting in a heavy feeling on your chest, and feeling of having something in your throat, in sadness, and also for men, genital organ pains. For woman, PMS. And even migraines.
So, Chi stagnation can come from your internal emotions, can come from external shock. It can come also with the season. For example, you can have a qi stagnation if you are outside, you don’t have enough clothes, and of course you get super cold. If you have any deficiencies in your internal terrain, the cold can go, for example, into your lumbar. You can have a qi stagnation in your lumbar because the cold and the humidity go in the channels and go inside your skin and create all sorts of stagnations.
And you can have qi stagnation by having bad posture. Bad posture or torticollis. Torticollis is when you have a pain or something in your neck and you are in your car, you open the window and you drive, for example, for three hours – that’s a lot of wind. And this wind goes into your neck and the qi can stagnate.
Steve: Now I know you’ve got this 12 main points, and I know there are a lot of points on the body, but there are just 12 you’re going into. Why these 12?
Laurent: Why these 12? Because I studied Chinese medicine in China, and I have read a lot of Chinese medical texts. These 12 points are from the optics Chinese medical books. Zhen Jiu is the flow of acupuncture and moxibustion. And Zhen Jiu is a very fine mix of medication. There are four principal points in acupuncture and in moxibustion. And the idea for this book it that everybody can use it. They don’t need to know what is diagnostic, what is yin, what is yang, what is deficiency, what is plenitude, and what is the cold or heat. So this is book is for everybody. These 12 points are chosen because they target and treat the main areas.
So the idea is to give 12 key points. It’s for people that know nothing, but just want to do something before they go to see the doctor, before going to see the acupuncturist, or to call the emergency services. The purpose is not to say, “Here are 12 points – now you can do everything.” No. It’s a guide so you can help yourself.
Steve: It could treat a lot of things, can’t it.
Laurent: Yes absolutely, for twenty years now I have been doing acupuncture. The emergency point between the top lip and the nose has a lot of applications. It is a great, wonderful point to help someone that has passed out. And its also wonderful for the Lumbar (lower back) pain. You know if you have a such a great pain that you can’t stand up. It’s really hard for you to move and you just, even can’t walk. And you practice acupressure, and then acupuncture with needles, and you can ask to the patient to move, after this treatment, the person can stand again. Not to run, to do the New York marathon but he can walk. For example, if has to take the train for his job, he can do this.
Of course acupressure doesn’t use needles and its not manipulation, but really it’s energy. The Japanese do Dao-ing, Chinese do Qi Gong in the morning or so. That’s one treatment. These practices nourish life.
Steve: Nourish life.
Laurent: Nourish life. When we touch or treat our selves we just make our energy balanced. In our occidental world, to touch someone it to steal something they’re in need of. And in Oriental countries and in Africa, where they touch themselves, especially in India, they treat they touch they massage, it’s very normal. But still, us in occident (western cultures), there is always a connotation when we touch ourselves. We need to touch, we need to have contact, I say this in my lectures in Paris, press yourself, touch your family, your loves, your children, your friends, and with the acupoints something happens. It helps you to open your mind and maybe, your heart.
Steve: Beautiful book, Laurent and full of lovely illustrations. And it goes through all the 12 points and lots of different issues such as asthma, or ringing in the ears, or back pain, or sinusitis, or pains, just generalised pains in the body. So it’s a very good book. If you’re interested in this kind of form of complementary medicine, I encourage you to buy this book.
And, Laurent, thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
This perfect introduction for beginners presents the 12 key acupressure points for treating common ailments and conditions, according to the principles of Chinese medicine.
After a simple overview of the meridian system of energy channels in the body, plus easy-to-follow instructions on different massage techniques, you are then introduced to each of the 12 points in turn, and how to use them to treat a wide range of conditions, from headaches, sciatica and fatigue to insomnia, motion sickness and even a sore throat! Clear illustrations and diagrams are included throughout, along with tips on other useful complementary treatments.
Lina Bou talks about the importance of using local and seasonal ingredients for a well-balanced gut. Lina combines her knowledge as a Nutritional Therapist, her creative flair and her love for cooking to create delicious, nutritious meals.
Discover nutritional therapist Lina Bou’s recipe for healthy living, with this inspirational cookbook for the modern lifestyle.
Cooking isn’t just about eating the right foods – it’s about being inventive, having fun and enjoying a healthy relationship with what you eat. Whether you’re looking for tasty brunch ideas, delicious dinners, energizing snacks or mouthwatering sweet treats, Lina shows you how to make simple, nutritious vegetarian meals (suitable for all!) easy enough for anyone to rustle up with the minimum of fuss. There are also suggestions for vegan alternatives, plus recipes free from gluten, dairy and sugar – the most common intolerances. All recipes feature a health-benefit key, indicating at a glance whether they help improve your immunity, boost your energy, balance your hormones, and more. And there’s advice on sensible detoxing, too.
Watch the mouth-watering video, and listen to Lina chat to Steve!
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Good breathing involves a coordination of our whole being. Alexander Technique expert Richard Brennan talks us through how Alexander solved his vocal problems by looking at what he was doing with his breathing. Richard explains how being hunched over your computer impairs your breathing. Let the beautiful illustrations wash over you; read some excerpts; try some breathing along with the audio and learn some exercises to improve your breathing for health happiness and well-being.
‘How To Breathe’ by Richard Richard Brennan
Breath is essential for life, but did you know that the way you breathe can be detrimental to your well-being? Poor posture, stress, muscular tension … all can make the ‘effortless’ act of breathing hard work without us realising. And breathing isn’t just a physical activity; it influences our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, too.
HOW TO BREATHE shows you how to relearn your natural rhythm of breathing to bene cially alter the way you think, feel and act. Packed with breathing techniques to use at home, and featuring groundbreaking methods developed by the founder of the Alexander Technique, it will help you rediscover how to breathe naturally to improve every aspect of your life. By applying consciousness to the action of breathing, you can become aware of harmful habits – and alleviate common breathing problems in the process.
We breathe more than 20,000 times a day – so why not make sure you do it as efficiently and effectively as possible? This is a book you can’t afford to be without.
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Steve : Hello and welcome. My name is Steve Nobel, and today I’m speaking with Richard Brennan on his book How to Breathe, Improving your Breathing for Health, Happiness, and Wellbeing. Richard has studied Alexander technique since 1983 and has been teaching the technique full-time since 1989. He travels extensively through Europe and the US teaching the technique. And he’s a director of training in the center for the technique in Galway, Ireland, and he’s a leading figure in helping people resolve back and neck problems. Now this book will help you relearn your natural rhythm of breathing that will change the way you think, feel, and act forever. And his website is alexander.ie, if you want to check out his work. So welcome to you, Richard.
Richard : Oh, hi Steve, how are you today?
Steve : Oh, good. Yes, it’s a sunny day and we don’t always have that in London, I guess.
Richard : Yeah.
Steve : Let me ask you about Alexander technique. How did it all begin?
Richard : Well, Alexander was an actor and reciter, and he was getting a very good reputation, so he was reciting in bigger and bigger venues. And then he started to notice his breathing was audible, which is something that actors do not like. So he was rasping or breathing in air. And then, after that, he began to get a voice problem. He started to lose his voice on stage, and this was going to affect his whole career, so he was very worried about it.
And he went to various people to try and get help. He went to someone who gave him neck exercises, that didn’t work. Somebody else gave him medication, that didn’t work. And then eventually he went to a doctor who examined his vocal cords. Now, we’re talking about 1890. So the way you examine someone’s vocal cords in those days was pretty much dangle a small mirror down someone’s throat. But the doctor found out that his cords were red and inflamed. And he told Alexander, “Oh, you’ve just been over straining your voice. I’m sure, if you just rest your voice for a couple of weeks, it’ll all be fine.” So that’s exactly what Alexander did and he was so determined, he hardly spoke to anyone for 2 weeks.
He went back on stage and he was delighted because his voice was crystal clear. But, after half an hour, the voice began to get bad again and, at the end of the performance, he could hardly speak. So he went back to the doctor and the doctor said, “Well, it did improve a little bit and maybe you need to rest your voice for longer.” But Alexander said, “Look, if my voice was okay in the beginning of the performance and it wasn’t okay at the end of the performance, surely it was something I was doing while performing.” Okay, if my back is okay before I used to go and do the gardening but it’s not okay when I come in from doing the gardening, it must be something I’m doing while I’m doing the gardening. That whole principle can apply to actually anything. It’s a cause and effect. So he wanted to know what was causing the voice. And, if he could find out what was causing the voice, stop doing it, his voice would be fine.
So he asked the doctor, “So, what am I doing?” And the doctor said, “I have no idea.” So Alexander said, “Well, I’ll go and find out for myself.” So he studied for about 5 or 6 years. He studied posture, the way he was standing. He observed himself in the mirror and he noticed that when he took a breath, he opened his mouth and breathed in through his mouth. So he sucked some air in, which basically dried out the vocal cords and then, on top of that, he pulled his head back and depressed the larynx. And it was this habit that was causing the voice and the breathing problem. So then he experimented and he tried positioning his head in all different ways, and every time he did it the problem would get worse. And then eventually he came to a point where, if he thought of his head as not going back but thinking of his head going forwards, the problem went away again.
Steve : Mmm.
Richard : So then he devised a whole system whereby you just think your way out of problems. You think of your back getting longer. You think of your neck getting longer. And then he helped his fellow actors. And then doctors got wind of it and then they used to send him people with back problems, neck problems, shoulder problems. So he got very used to helping people with a whole … a wide range of people. And a lot of it was just muscular tension was the root cause of most problems.
Steve : Let me ask you generally about Alexander technique, cause nowadays in the modern world it seems to be applied to people with back pain, stress, posture issues, sports performance, musicians, it’s kind of a vast range of people it helps, isn’t it?
Richard : Yeah, it is, yeah. Because in all those things, let’s say a musician would be holding their instrument too tightly, they’ve been having too much tension in their shoulder. Maybe a runner would be having maybe injuries with their knees because there’s too much tension around their knees. So we have 651 muscles in the body and any of them can be tense causing problems in the ankle joint, or in the neck, or shoulder, or pretty much anything. And also, muscular tension … muscles control breathing as well. So, if I’m tense around the rib cage, my rib cage can’t move in and out. So, yeah, it is. It can help a great deal of people in all sorts of ways.
Steve : Now, when the publisher said to me, “We want you to interview Richard on his book How to Breathe,” I kind of looked at the publisher and they looked at me, and I thought, “Really?” And when I read in your introduction, you said, “When I told my eldest daughter I was writing a book about breathing, she replied, ‘That will be interesting. Page one, breathe in. Page two, breathe out. Page three, breathe in again. Page four, breathe out again.'” I mean, initially, I looked at it and thought, “Well, there’s not much in it.” But of course, it’s a very deep area, isn’t it?
Richard : It is, it is. I mean, we all breathe thousands of times a day. And most people are not aware of the way they breathe. So in the same way we can have punctual habits, we can also have breathing habits as well. We have set ways of breathing, which are maybe not very healthy and they can be detrimental. But because they feel normal to us, we don’t even know they’re there.
Steve : What kind of poor breathing habits are you talking about, Richard?
Richard : Breathing in too quickly.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : Breathing in through the mouth, which dries out the vocal cords. There’s hairs in our nose, which acts as a filter. When I started doing the technique, I was amazed that many people might breathe up to 30 or 40 times a minute. So they’re very fast breathing and very shallow breathing. So they don’t get rid of the C02 in the same way as the body is designed to. So then toxins build up and, yeah, you can get ill from it.
Steve : Right. Now, the book says good breathing involves a coordination of our whole being. So can we just go into Alexander technique, the posture and the breath. How do they work together?
Richard : So, if somebody came in with a breathing problem, let’s say something like asthma, I would probably … we have a teaching table. I would lay them on the teaching table and check out to see where they’re holding tension and ask them to let it go. Just even doing that, their breathing will change. Their breathing will be much more beneficial afterwards. But also, you can actually have little breathing exercises you can actually do. And most disciplines like yoga, or whatever, would have a whole set of breathing exercises. But most of them involve breathing in, breathe in through the nose, breathe into the lungs. Whereas, Alexander technique, the whole thing is breathing out of the lungs. What Alexander realised was, if I breathe out, I create a vacuum in the lungs, and the next breath it’s all taken by reflex. So the emphasis is on the out breath. So even if somebody, you know when you blow up these children’s bubbles?
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : You know, if you just blow the air out and you just extend the out breath and then you wait you’ll feel that you actually breathe in better. And anyone can do that listening to this audio.
Steve : Right. Is this in the book? You talk about natural breathing. Is this the natural breath focusing on the exhalation rather than inhalation?
Richard : Yeah, yeah. If you look at a small child when they’re asleep, it’s almost looks like the whole body is breathing. It’s not just their lungs, their whole body is actually expanding and contracting. And breathing is a reflex. So to trigger the reflex all you have to do is breathe out. So people are usually … the main habit is to start taking a breath before the out breath is finished.
Steve : That sounds simple, but is it simple?
Richard : It is simple, but you have to go against your habit. So when people first do it, it feels strange to them.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : In the same way as, if I drove your car and you drove mine, your car would feel strange to me. The indicator would be in the wrong place and the pedals would be slightly different. But after an hour or so, I would get used to it and you would get used to mine. It’s the same way … Alexander used to say, “Good posture feels strange to begin with,” if you’re not used to having it.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : So people go, “Well, I feel really good and I feel I’m really breathing well, but I don’t feel like me anymore. I feel like somebody else.”
Steve : Yeah, do we compress our rib cage? You know, if we’re like crouching over the computer or kids at school, is there a kind of compressing of our breath as well?
Richard : Oh, yeah. Absolutely. If you look at most children at school, they’re bending over their desk and they’re not able to breathe. If you slump down and you pull yourself down, the minute you try and take a deep breath you can’t do it. So posture and breathing are very, very inter-rated. So when you’re improving breathing, you’re also improving people’s posture.
Steve : Right.
Richard : And when you’re improving people’s posture, you’re also improving their breathing. So they go hand-in-hand, it’s all the same stuff.
Steve : I know when I did … cause sports, I did long distance running and also short distance running. But particularly in the long distance running, I noticed I had to get a certain … I practised all kinds of breathing rhythms and I noticed that my breathing was so connected to my performance.
Richard : Yeah.
Steve : Can Alexander help in something like long distance running?
Richard : Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We just had a guy called Malcolm Bark over here in Ireland who did a week’s running course with us and it was really interesting, cause I actually learned something too. He said, “If you get out of breath while you’re running, you’re trying to hard.”
Steve : Right.
Richard : And for me that was amazing because, when I run, I always get out of breath. And then he just showed us how to run in a certain rhythm, especially long term, marathon running, where you just stay with this rhythm of your breath and you don’t get out of breath at all. And you can run for a long, long, long time.
Steve : You must see singers, I guess, cause singers are something where the breath and the voice is so interconnected. Is, again, Alexander technique something that can really help a singer, or performers who do lots of speaking on stage?
Richard : Oh, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, there’s a lot of singers. Madonna is one. Paul McCartney is another. And there’s a whole range of singers and musicians that come to the Alexander Technique. It’s very big. It’s very big in the music world. Yeah.
Steve : Why?
Richard : Most colleges, performance, like drama colleges or music colleges, Royal College of Music for instance in London.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : They all have resident Alexander teachers because there is so many problems around … I think there’s a statistic that 70% of people playing in orchestras play in pain.
Steve : All right. That’s not good is it?
Richard : No. Seventy percent, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, yeah.
Steve : Wow. Have you ever had to deal with opera singers? Now, I know the opera singers really have to have these bellow like lungs, don’t they?
Richard : Yeah, I’m actually working with an opera singer in London at the moment. And I’m going to teach her class, that’s in October. So I’m looking forward to that. Yeah, again, there’s this whole concept of I have to try really hard and, therefore, I over try, I strain. And Alexander had a philosophy, if you want to give your best, give 80%. So when you’re playing, just give 80%. If you give 80%, that’s pretty good but it doesn’t push you over to this thing of Alexander – most people are too goal oriented. They try too hard. And, in the trying too hard, they get nervous, they get stage fright, they get tension problems, and then they can’t play their musical instrument properly.
Steve : I get from what you’re saying that really Alexander technique is not really so much learning something new but really unlearning something. Is that true?
Richard : Exactly. Exactly. It’s an unlearning, because we all as children had perfect posture and our breathing was absolutely fine. And our movements, I mean, if you look at a child playing in the sand, they’re squatting with so much ease, their balance, they’re breathing well. Their movements are amazing. And, if you go to people outside the modern world, let’s say aborigines or the Berber people, they have the same movements as children. They feel very upright. The native American Indians, for instance, they’re very upright. They’re not bent over. They don’t have neck problems and back problems. And in India, hardly anyone gets a back operation or a hip operation, unless they’re in a car accident. Not from posture. But in our society, all these aches and pains suddenly come on for no reason.
Steve : So Richard, one thing about the book I noticed is, lots of brilliant exercises from improving air circulation, releasing tension. Can you give a simple exercise for our listeners that would help them perhaps with their breath and perhaps with their voice?
Richard : Yeah. Well, it’s not mine. This is Alexander’s. He didn’t really believe in exercises because he felt that most people exercise their habits. But in breathing he made an exception, because he felt it was an exercise of inhibition. And the exercise is basically, you just maybe lie on a bed and you just notice your breathing. And it comes in and out. And then, after a few breaths you whisper an ah sound. When I say ah, I mean ah, as in father. And when you make that ah go as long as you can without straining. And then you close your mouth and you let the air come back in through the nose. And you just repeat that about 6 or 7 times and afterwards you just really feel that your lungs are working much, much better. Yeah, just very, very simple, very simple. It’s not complicated. It takes one minute to learn it.
Steve : Yeah, most of the practises are very simple like that.
Richard : Yeah. They are, they are.
Steve : Well, it looks a wonderful book. I love the cover. It’s got a beautiful blue/green cover with a kind of huge spiral on it. How to Breathe, Improving Your Breath for Health, Happiness, and Wellbeing. So, Richard, again, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Richard : Okay, you’re very welcome, Steve. Thank you.