The Alexander Technique is an educational method and therefore anyone wishing to benefit will need to learn it by taking lessons. This is an important point to note because an individual coming to a session is a pupil, not a patient, and therefore takes an active role in the process. People coming for their first lesson have very different expectations, some anticipate a miraculous cure after one lesson or expect to be wired up to a box of technical wizardry to speed up the process. The Alexander Technique is none of these and some are put off by its subtlety.
A lesson is on a one-to-one basis and can last for 30 minutes to an hour. The teacher will use their hands to guide the pupil through a series of movements whilst giving verbal instruction. For example, the pupil may be asked to get up from a chair, an every day act. The initial response for most is to attempt to do it using far too much effort, invariably this involves tightening the lower back, pulling the head back and lifting the shoulders. The pupil is encouraged to become aware of any unnecessary actions they may perform in their actions. This will help to overcome the problem of inappropriate preparation and promote freer movement with appropriate muscle tension. These activities provide a new sensory experience of movement with better balance and co-ordination.
In essence the pupil is learning how to differentiate between the stimulus and their response. Once we can recognise what makes us react in a particular manner we have the opportunity to control our response.
Muscles are re-conditioned more effectively when used in a manner suited to their intended function with appropriate effort. There are no exercises in the usual sense, any movement can be used whilst applying the method to promote better use. The pupil is asked not to try to get it right to avoid guidance from their habit. If I perform an act how I believe to be right, I will continue to use the same patterns. I will also become frustrated if I cannot achieve what seems to be a simple request without getting ‘set’. An attitude of frustration brings about more muscle tension.
Following the teacher’s instructions, without trying to get it right can be difficult initially, as conventional education has instilled the need to be right yet in order to change we have to become aware of our tendency to react without prior thought. However, with guidance and application anyone can learn how to stop, think and then act in the most appropriate way.
The benefits from taking Alexander Technique lessons can far exceed improved posture and reduced aches and pains. Any problem caused by habit can be overcome when we can first learn to think before we act.
Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has taught people of all ages, backgrounds and ability. He is particularly interested in applying this remarkable technique to sports people to help enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury. More information about this unique educational method can be found by clicking The Alexander Technique