What Can I expect in an alexander technique lesson?
Through a combination of gentle touch and verbal instruction, the teacher will guide you through basic activities, such as sitting and standing; lying down, and walking. Later the teacher may help you integrate these simple activities into the more complex series of movements which define your everyday life (typing, writing, speaking, lifting, playing your instrument, playing sports, etc.)
During your first Alexander Technique lesson, your teacher will be observing your posture and habits of movement. In order facilitate this, you may be asked to perform some simple movements while she place her hands in easy contact with your body. The hands serve both to gather kinaesthetic information about your movements as well as to communicate directions for improving your pattern of body use.
You will not need to remove your clothes, but you may want to wear something in which you feel comfortable moving and lying down. For instance, ladies may feel more comfortable in loose pants than in a skirt.
The Story of F.M. Alexander
When actor F.M. Alexander began having serious difficulties with his speaking voice in 1898, there was little that doctors of the time could do to help him.
And so, when Alexander was offered the biggest break of his acting career, he hesitated to accept the job, worrying that his voice would not withstand the pressures of performance. A prominent specialist instructed him to remain totally silent for 6 weeks, promising that by the time his performance arrived, he would have his voice back.
At the end of 6 weeks of silence, Alexander's voice had in fact
returned; yet within an hour of being on stage, it had gone again.
Alexander returned to the specialist and asked, "Would it be fair to say from this experience, that it is actually something that I am doing which is causing my trouble?"
"Yes, that's fair", said the doctor, "but I'm afraid I don't know how to help you stop doing it!"
And so began Alexander's search for a technique which would allow him to change the bad habits which were causing his pain and dysfunction. The method he developed is what we know today as Alexander Technique.
At its most basic, the Alexander Technique is a method for addressing and changing our most deeply ingrained harmful habits.
By a process of resisting, or inhibiting a familiar reaction to a stimulus, and then of replacing the habitual response with a series of reasoned directions, the teacher is able to help the student become aware of what they are doing wrong, and move towards a healthier use of their body in every day life.
Inappropriate Sensory Awareness makes control of physical habits based purely on one's own bodily sensation difficult. If any bodily sensation is present for long enough, we cease to feel it, leading in some cases to inaccurate awareness of what we are actually doing. Anyone who has watched himself in the mirror while trying to imitate the motion of another person will be aware of this issue.
Means Whereby is the method by which one chooses to reach a goal.
End-gaining refers the habit of entering into an activity in a habitual way, without taking time to consider the means whereby.
Primary Control refers to an optimal relationship of the head to the neck, and of the neck to the torso which is indicative of healthy body use at large.
Conscious Control is the goal of Alexander Technique - that is: a complete awareness of what the body is doing, and the ability to control the response accurately.
Non-doing is beautiful movement in an Alexandrian sense. It is characterized by lack of effort, ease, flexibility, and inhibition of habitual response.