Sometimes I can feel quite guilty about giving Alexander Technique lessons. People come for a lesson in how to use the technique for themselves for a wide variety of reasons, but essentially to overcome habits of use. These are habits that effectively lower our standard of general well-being, often resulting in poor posture, pain, stress, timidity, lack of agility, not to mention poor breathing, high or low blood pressure, digestive disorders, and joint irritation. They come for lessons to receive the hands-on guidance that gives them a unique experience of using their entire self with refined balance, more freedom and ability to move without stiffness and pain as well as gain an increase in height and stature. People come for lessons to benefit themselves and believe quite rightly that I am here for them. …..and it’s true. But actually I am here for myself too as I benefit from every lesson I give as well as enjoying the satisfaction of helping others. Naturally this is all aside from any business considerations.
When someone decides to train as a teacher of the Alexander Technique one of the main reasons will be that they want more of a full-time involvement and to immerse themselves in a method that is truly transformational and helps them feel better for themselves. Yes, we want to help others; to provide a service that helps others enjoy a better quality of life, but we can achieve those objectives by doing other forms of personal service; we do not need to do Alexander Technique.
I remember one client (or pupil if I am to be more correct in referring to people who come for sessions) asking me, “Have you ever had this done to you? It feels great.” I was surprised at first that she may think that I might have become a qualified teacher of this technique involving a minimum of 3 years of full-time training, without ever having experienced a lesson for myself. But I quickly appreciated what she said for her simple implication that she was ‘having a good time’ and enjoying the process and experience of freeing up and growing in stature and change in her co-ordination; where she experienced the process of walking, standing and sitting as being almost effortless beyond what she had previously known. And I was most grateful for her feedback!
It is not widely known that in order for a teacher of the Alexander Technique to help bring about postural and co-ordinational change in a pupil which involves hands-on guidance that we must actually be ‘doing’ this for ourselves first! It is only by clear thinking and intention in the right way do we create the stimulus firstly for us ‘teachers’ to release unnecessary tensions and improve our own co-ordination and expand in stature (without effort!), and then subsequently ‘bring the pupil with us’ in that expansion. The stronger my own thinking to inhibit, release and ‘direct’, the greater is the stimulus in my hands that communicates this required quality in another. All the intellectual knowledge and understanding about the Alexander Technique one can get from books, DVDs, Apps, etc stand for nothing when it comes to teaching the Alexander Technique and giving lessons to others if it is not being applied by the teacher him or herself at the very same time. As it is only this way can we convey what is required. When the pupil ‘feels’ the change in poise and co-ordination, it gets into their system. No amount of talking or giving instructions can ever replace this most powerful means of communication…through a highly trained and experience pair of hands. The more I apply the technique for myself and the more powerful is my thinking, the greater benefits are experienced by my clients. This is why I like to be very busy with a full diary because I do my best work when I am so active. Naturally as teachers we must avoid over-doing it as exhaustion can be quite detrimental. It is a delicate balance. Trainee Alexander Teachers are told that when they begin giving hands-on lessons in this technique, if they are starting to feel tired, they should have stopped 10 minutes ago!
The hands-on guidance that we give during Alexander Technique lessons is not a mechanical pushing or pulling, nor is it massage with our hands, but a sensitive and thoughtful process where the teacher’s hands provide feedback to and from from the pupil to the teacher, to the pupil. It is through our kin-aesthetic awareness as teachers and clear mental thinking and projection of ‘orders’ that can we bring about changes in ourselves and therefore subsequently in others. When the pupil receives repeated correct experiences of using themselves well, and when the ‘pupil’ learns to think correctly, the new way of standing, sitting, moving etc becomes more ingrained and permanent. We retrain the subconscious and nervous system creating new and healthy habits. However by learning to apply the technique for themselves, they are able to maintain it and avoid problems in the future.
So you can see, if I am working with a pupil or indeed many pupils during the day by giving them Alexander Technique lessons, I am actually using the technique for myself first and foremost. It is only by applying the principles myself do I have anything to offer others. So if my pupils walk out after our lesson feeling calmer, freer, taller, more agile, pain-free and as though they are lighter than air, how do you think I feel after seeing a great many pupils throughout the day? By 7.00pm I may be a little tired but if I have been applying myself well to this technique, my fatigue will not be from standing all day or by physical or mental exhaustion as the technique I use helps me sustain myself throughout the day. It is self-fulfilling. If I’ve been working well, I walk out 12 hours later feeling better and healthier than I walked in.
Maybe you may see why I may at times feel a little guilty? I have such a good day! How can I possibly call this work! I am very grateful to the thousands of people who have been to me for Alexander lessons. 🙂
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882 American essayist, poet and philosopher