FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What happens in an Alexander Lesson?
Each individual is different, but what is common to us all is Misuse. This is a factor which most people are not remotely aware of. It restricts us in many ways. There are many reasons why people seek out the Alexander Technique. Change and improvement is facilitated by the work that an Alexander Teacher does with his or her hands - along with verbal input. Meaningful insight is best (and I would contend only) gained by practical experience. Without the benefit of recoordination and the aid of a skilled Alexander Teacher it is very difficult to bring about reliable beneficial change. Certainly if an individual is prepared to put the kind of effort and time into working on themselves that Alexander did (years rather than months) it has to theoretically possible. But it is almost certain that Alexander gained many of his insights from the years that he evolved the Technique whilst working as a Teacher. He also had to articulate and refine his teaching language over the years he ran a Training Course. For anyone who wants to discover how to apply the principles of the Alexander Technique lessons are the best way. A major factor of misuse are the wrong ideas associated with our actions (including the fundamental of upright standing and sitting). Alexander recognised that faulty sensory appreciation (one of the principles of the Technique) needs to be made reliable. This is one of the aims of lessons. The process of lessons should set a pupil upon a path towards being able to discriminate better. Gaining ability to direct their activities with improved use. To direct what we intend rather than the accidental autopilot.
Do I need to wear special clothing? You will get more benefit from lessons if you wear loose fitting comfortable clothing (non restrictive everyday clothes). Jogging/ sportswear trousers are ideal. Most people use more effort than is necessary (in terms of muscular contraction) just in order to be upright. A major element of the work the teacher does with his or her hands in lessons is to encourage a letting go (releasing) of unnecessary effort. This enables other muscles to begin working that ought to be. If clothing is too tight it literally holds us in. Added to which tight clothing can restrict our breathing and circulation. Pupils are generally asked to take their shoes off for the duration of the lesson.
How often ought I to have a lesson and how many might I need? As I understand it, Alexander used to insist on his pupils having a daily lesson to begin with. Then the frequency would gradually be reduced. If you can afford it and have time available, 2 lessons a week when you are beginning tends to advance progress. I offer a reduced rate in this instance. It's a flexible arrangement and can be agreed week by week. Most people get on quite well with one lesson a week. This is a minimum if you want to get the benefits. The hands on recoordination is essential. Human beings are creatures of habit. Lessons are not a quick fix, but can be a fascinating process. Alexander used to say "Time is of the essence". How many lessons a person has is entirely up to the individual. People vary in their ability to embrace change - some people are very resistant as it is not always easy. We can have a lot of blocks and barriers! Alexander work is an unusual process. It can all seem strange at first. The familiar, even when it is the source of discomfort and even pain, can be perversely, oddly, comforting. Some people talk every day about their pain and discomfort and even identify with it so much that it can seem scary to get gradually free of it. The idea we might be unknowingly creating our own discomfort can be viewed as liberating or something we wish to deny. The Alexander Technique can provide us with many insights which we can choose to utilise and act upon. Learning and rate of progress is individual. But if we are open to the uncharted territory we have much to gain.
Is the Alexander Technique about posture? And is it a body therapy? Posture as generally understood and experienced coud be said to be the way in which we hold ourselves. Probably in most cases it is not optimal. Really in the Alexander Technique we tend to think rather differently and mean something different by the term posture. Alexander had an extraordinary grasp of the problems we create for ourselves. A profoundly inquisitive and gifted man. We talk more about use of the self, and this has an underlying postural basis. But most people have little or no idea of what is right, good or healthy. Practical experience of recoordination changes a pupil's posture, in a dynamic way whereby they learn to stop trying to get it right! This can only be understood by practical experience. The Alexander Technique is not a body therapy. There is no division between mind and body but it can seem that way. We are a psychophysical unity and this was one of Alexander's most important realisations - at an experientiel and philosophical level he "got it". What and how we think affects our use of ourself. Many people live perhaps too much in their head. Some people don't think enough! Whilst not being a therapy - the Alexander Technique can have many therapeutic effects. Read the Quotations page to find our more. Improved use generally results in better functioning.
What might I achieve from Alexander lessons?
- Improved coordination and poise
- Improvement in functioning (eg breathing, circulation, digestion)
- Better control of unwanted reactions/ responses
- Less rigid attitiudes/ more open-ness. Mobility of mind and body
- Ability to focus attention on what you choose to give it to (instead of mind-wandering and drifting off). Some people are easily distracted and forgetful. Alexander Technique can help with this
- Greater ability to take pleasure in the ordinary simple things of life, as well as complexity
- Less moodiness/ more balance emotionally
- Sense of aliveness
- Improved use of critical faculties
- Greater clarity of thought
- Greater ability to adapt to changing circumstance
- Increasing conscious control generally