About Paul Cook – Alexander technique teacher

Once upon a time…

My first encounter with pain in the back was working for KFC as a teenager.

At the end of the shift one evening I lifted a black plastic garbage bag into the skip out the back and tweaked something in my shoulder. I didn’t think any of it until the next day when it was worse. I told mum, we visited a doctor who said it would probably go away soon. It did and we thought nothing more of it.

When I was t-boned in my XP Falcon at 19 years old, without a seatbelt on… life changed.

The rusty old girl had no chance of protecting me from the bull bar that came through a stop sign into my door. I ended up on the other side of the bench seat as the car rolled out of control another 75 metres down the street until stopped by a letterbox. I couldn’t breathe.

I went to work that night… but was sent home due to my grey complexion and confusing antics.

The next morning I woke up with a neck that felt like it had lead in it. I went to the local physio who took me straight in and noted that I had a “gorilla’s neck”. I hadn’t even looked in the mirror to notice the swollen symptoms of severe whiplash. He gave me a spongy collar and sent me home.

A couple of days later I was back to normal. Life went on without a hitch.

6 months later I got back on a surf ski to do some training and noticed that my back just wasn’t quite normal. Oh well, it must be from the break and maybe I got back into training too quickly.

I took some time off and started again a few months later. Something still wasn’t right, so I consulted a physio and after taking down my history advised me that the soft tissue damage from the accident 12 months before was likely the cause of my discomfort during and after training.

This was perplexing as I hadn’t noticed any “soft tissue damage” before now. I settled in to weekly physio coupled with stretches, specific exercises and light training to get my body back.

The change of pace allowed me to build up strength and literally get a couple more months through the surf lifesaving season… but about 4 weeks before the State Titles, my back “blew up” after training one day and by the next day, I could hardly move again.

To cut this story short…

5 years later, 4 physios(the last one highly recommended, worked for an AFL team), 3 chiropractors (growing in expense to $190 per session) I was still getting worse. The only time I felt good in my body when I was paddling my guts out during training, the endorphins obviously masking any symptoms.

But… every morning I could hardly get out of bed, found myself falling asleep on the way to my first appointments in my car and worried sick that I was losing my life at 24.

The final nail in the coffin for physio advice was the recommendation to eat anti-inflammatory meds “whenever I felt pain”.

So, in other words… all the time.

I purchased a Gravity Inversion Swing as an option for self treatment and this worked like a charm for the first few weeks… falling asleep upside down after work each night was my bliss time. However, after about a month I noticed that my returns were diminishing… the relief was lasting less time each hang and I was still waking up sore every morning.

Obviously this wasn’t the answer.

I began Aikido at a dojo in Fremantle…45 minutes from my home. Several evenings a week I rolled around a mat hoping that this might push some flexibility or strength into my weak back.

Alas, it was a similar solution to training on the ski. So long as I was moving and sweating things were good. The rest of my life I was in pain.

Chronic fatigue was setting in… unable to get out of bed in the mornings, stealing naps in between sales calls in the company car, going to bed earlier each night… 12 hour sleeps. But to no avail. My life was getting worse and everyone around me just couldn’t understand.

I decided to consult with Naturopathy/Allergy Specialist/Iridologist/Herbalist just in case there was a diet related issue.

The advice was to remove 5 Key elements from my daily intake. (sign up for my 6 Week Course to learn more about this important advice) I was given options to wean myself off… I went cold turkey. If this was going to work I wanted to find out sooner rather than later. The best advice I was given from this resource, “90 days, don’t expect results before”.

Day 88 I woke up feeling slightly normal.

Back pain still, but energy. The cloud was beginning to lift.

Not long after I heard Glenn B Swift being interviewed on RTRFM. He sounded interesting so I gave him a call and made an appointment.

It was the meeting that changed the direction of my life.

Glenn, an experienced Alexander Technique teacher, opened my eyes to a completely new avenue of learning. It wasn’t the whiplash, or the lack of flexibility, or lack of physio exercises or my genes etc. He helped me see the enemy… and it was me.

Over the next 11 weeks I met with Glenn, then Mark Baker and Richard Beavitt… three men I owe my life to, and they took me from borderline depression and chronic pain to independence and empowerment… no more pain! In 11 weeks. This was a miracle, especially when the best mainstream professionals Perth had to offer only helped me get worse over the course of nearly 5 years. (not to mention thousands of dollars of my money and hours of lost time in waiting rooms etc)

The rest is history, 2 years later I joined a teacher training course in ’99 and graduated from the School for FM Alexander Studies in Melbourne, 2001. 10 years were spent teaching and presenting in Melbourne…

Today, I’m the only male teacher of the Alexander technique on the Gold Coast.

I also publish Direction Journal, the industry paper for the Alexander Technique community worldwide.