Who comes to study the Alexander Technique? It is a unique body of work, a fascinating practice. I have been at it now for 26+ years (23 of those a certified teacher), and I’d say it is with me all day, every day. And I am so grateful.
I am 58 years old, and I do not exaggerate when stating it is by far the most interesting practice I have ever been introduced to, on a psycho-physical, educational/therapeutic level. Classically, the Alexander Technique is not considered a therapy, though it definitely serves as one, whether in a lesson or internalized as a personal practice. I am in love with the work, and that never gets old. It is the kind of thing that remains remarkably fresh because it forces an authentically new awareness of oneself each time one tunes in.
Now I realize most things people choose to teach are skills they love, generally speaking, unless one is simply desperate for work and falls into something without much affinity. It has been fortunate for me to love that which I have spent so many years sharing with others, as it has made the teaching application natural and effortless. Another thing I am grateful for.
Now this gets back to the original question: “Who comes to study the Alexander Technique?” Usually, people who are open to exposing themselves to something new and different. As with anything unknown, sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Though most people don’t have much of a clue what they are walking into, often enough a student has some sense it is something they will be open to. In either case, I have been so blessed to be on the witnessing end of their discovery of something otherworldly. I do not feel like it is a stretch to call the Alexander Technique otherworldly.
One way to describe this work is to say that it goes against the habit of life. In the least, it is unlike anything anyone has been exposed to before, and because most of us feel like we can’t imagine something could actually help us with some problem—if nothing has before—or be that different than other remedies they have tried—it has been a privilege to be a facilitator of a process that more often than not changes a student’s life in one fashion or another. The awareness itself is that enlightening.
I would say that is because it is a practice of non-doing, an undoing, a coming out of where we have been and what we are always going into. Alexander simply called these two states “habit.” The work essentially tries to short-circuit our deepest ways of relating to ourselves and the world, i.e., how we habitually have done so most of our life. So, you can imagine for a teacher this is quite an undertaking! But, because the awareness is so magical, creative, and organic, my work has not been difficult. If one embraces and practices the education of continual undoing, it becomes a new habit, a good habit, and one that can make us feel great.
I was trained to customize the technique to the individual—the special, unique ways that person learns and understands things, rather than putting a formula on someone. This is what makes my work interesting—because every person is so distinct! We all share one thing though, and that is a lack of awareness of what we are doing under the surface of our general moment to moment use of our body. What we are aware of, I should say, is the way things feel. That which is familiar, feels right. And if we are in discomfort, what feels right is to try to fix it in some way—which generally does not work. This concept of trying to fix something was at the heart of Alexander’s teaching. We cannot fix something with the same tools that are getting us into trouble to begin with.
And that is why I said earlier that the work is otherworldly. We must get out of the way, get out of our usual way of approaching our problems—whatever they may be. We must employ an alternate perception, or a lack of our usual perception, to allow changes, something new to emerge that will take us out of the bad place, the painful space. And as luck would have it, our natural, reflexive, easy, fluid state of existence and movement is what lies under our familiar tension and habitual personal use. It is waiting to be relied on if we could just get out of the way with the imposition and forced compression we customarily apply. The obstacle has been that we have never known we were doing anything to ourselves that was interfering with our inherent ease and freedom. Until we were introduced to the Alexander Technique! Most of us are aware of how we are feeling, as I mentioned above. We know when we are experiencing aches and pains, immobility, anxiety, all different kinds of obvious habits in our movement and exertion of ourself. And we have often tried to fix these things through other methods or personal ideas. No one ever conceived the problem could be addressed by coming out of what felt familiar and right, until now.
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