Remembering Ryan: An Extraordinary Life Lived by an Extraordinary Man
I was first introduced to Ryan and Doug at the 49th Annual Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) in April 2018. I was giving a workshop on the Alexander Technique during the conference. The Alexander Technique is a psycho-physical method used to help individuals relearn how to use their body with greater ease and efficiency by first recognizing undesired habits that get in the way.
Ryan and Doug attended my workshop and I remember thinking that Ryan had so much energy and enthusiasm. He was warm to everyone he met. Doug told me a little bit about Ryan's injury and asked if I would come back and give Ryan some private lessons the following day. Since they would be returning home to Texas after the conference, that would be the only time I would be able to teach Ryan. Although Orlando was a little over an hour from where I lived, and I normally don't drive to students to give lessons, something about Ryan made me want to teach him and see how he experienced the technique.
We had two lessons back to back with a short break. During that time I noticed how easily Ryan picked up the principles of the Alexander Technique. His body moved easily and at times with the same agility that small children have, such as going into a deep squat on the floor. This is important to note, because small children haven't yet acquired the stress and tension adults accumulate through life through misuse of the body. To see a man in his 40s move with such fluidity was very rare. It was an absolute joy to teach Ryan.
A few months later, I received a call from Donna Martin, an Alexander Technique teacher from Austin, Texas. She told me that Doug had contacted her for Alexander Technique lessons since Ryan hadn't had a seizure in two months since our session together. I had no idea of the incredible progress that Ryan had made and was moved by the news. I reached out to Doug and he confirmed what Donna had said.
I have no doubt that Ryan was the biggest factor in his progress. I teach many students the same tool but not everyone is immediately receptive to the principles of the Alexander Technique. What I found unique about Ryan was how little he interfered with life; he just let it happen. By doing so, he didn't harbor a lot of tension in his body, which allowed him to experience the full benefit of the technique's principles.
My brief encounter with both Doug and Ryan left a lasting impression on me and I was deeply saddened to hear of Ryan's recent passing. He was someone I admired for the ease with which he lived life and the fun he had while living. I also admire Doug, for his abiding faith in Ryan's capabilities and dedication to his well-being. It was an absolute honor privilege to teach Ryan and to meet them both.
I first met Ryan Reitmeyer and his father, Doug, the Friday after Thanksgiving 2018. It was not clear to me how the Alexander Technique might be of help to Ryan and as I listened to Doug describe Ryan's accident, brain injury and his recovery to that point I definitely felt in over my depth! Doug was interested in the Alexander Technique as a way to reduce or limit Ryan's seizures. I knew nothing about seizures.
Two things in particular that day were instrumental in giving me a point of departure for my thinking as we went forward. First, Doug and Ryan attended the national conference of Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) in April 2018. There they attended a talk about the Alexander Technique by Tami Bulmash, an AT teacher in Orlando. The following day she did two back to back lessons with Ryan with a small break in between. It was some months before Ryan experienced another seizure and it was then that Doug contacted me.
The second thing from that first meeting which was of particular interest to me was Doug mentioning that it was at least 6 months after brain surgery before Ryan's seizures began. Doug theorized that it was perhaps the formation of scar tissue in the brain which was contributing to the seizures. It made me wonder if the "pulling down" we in the Alexander world think of as connecting to poor posture might be putting stress on the scar tissue. Would lessening the "pulling down" and "going up" relieve some of the stress.
With these two things in mind we set to work. From Thanksgiving to mid-March we met once a week. We did not meet for a few weeks and then began again mid-April meeting bi-weekly 5 times, had a break from mid-June through early August and then met only twice before his passing. As usual in Alexander lessons we focused on inhibition and direction. We also created activities that Ryan could do with his assistant Scott in order to keep the work going in the absence of the teacher.
It was a great pleasure to work with Ryan. He was always eager and interested in the process, very cooperative and willing to try anything. Ryan had a great sense of humor and I will miss our lessons! He was very much looking forward to new projects for the future along with his father and was filled with hope. He was very much loved and he knew that. His life took an unexpected turn with the boating accident but it was well-lived. To the fullest!
To read more about Ryan's extraordinary story, click here.