Sultry weather can make us all sleepy after lunch. But if we’re having an Alexander lesson it’s important to be awake, aware and to contribute to the session. So although we may lie down on the table in semi-supine as part of the lesson, we cannot really sleep. I personally will always have a nap after my lunch to ensure that I am at my best for everyone coming to see me in the afternoon. It’s no good if the Alexander teacher is falling asleep! But nor is it good for the pupil either.
Alexander Technique is not like massage or any treatment where a practitioner or therapist ‘does it for you’. If you’ve had Alexander lessons, you’ll know that you’re not a passenger in the situation, but an active participant in the lesson. We learn how to use the technique for ourselves; we need to learn how to be more aware of our poise and to give the correct directions (thoughtful instructions), to inhibit our harmful habits while also bringing about the best co-ordination of our muscles for healthy movement and best possible overall functioning. We learn to think directions so our head goes upwards, our back lengthens and widens and we come up to our full height and stature. This requires us to be conscious and aware.
But if you’re lying on the Alexander Technique table for ten minutes as part of the lesson, surely we can drop off just for a few minutes? This is a common question and the answer is unfortunately “No” because we need to start associating the new freedom in our joints and expansive stature with normal everyday life. It’s common for people to associate being ‘relaxed’ with being in bed or going to sleep, and when we’re active and awake, that’s when we tense up. This goes to show just how much we are actually in need of the lessons to change our co-ordination and ‘use’. In Alexander lessons we bridge the gap, so we start associating this free expansive quality with being very awake, calm, alert, as well as physically active.
In Alexander Technique lessons we encourage the release of unnecessary tension but we’re actually here to encourage our muscles to work. We encourage them to work in a highly co-ordinated way to support us with far less effort than we may be accustomed to.
But if one of my pupils cannot stay awake for some reason and just keeps nodding off every minute or so while lying down I may get him (or her) off the table. On the other hand I may also let him sleep for a minute or so and then when he wakes up, he’ll be far more alert. Even just a few seconds of sleep can refresh us adequately to restore some vitalisation to our body and mind! By giving ourselves what our body needs (a quick doze, and I mean very quick!) we will make far more of the lesson afterwards.