When people first come for lessons in the Alexander Technique, it’s a frequently held idea that they are coming for treatment and the practitioner will ‘do it’ for them. However this is not the case. We will actually be in the role of ‘pupil’ (not patient) and we will be participating in the process. We will be learning how to apply the technique for ourselves so we become self-sufficient.
Lessons in the Alexander Technique does not involve learning how to ‘hold’ ourselves correctly as this only causes unhealthy stiffness and tension. It is about learning to bring about the correct muscular co-ordination within us that will allow us to move, bend walk or sit freely and effortlessly with minimum of strain or pressure on our joints or internal organs. We tap into the instinct we’ve got for healthy poise that we were born with and which will be with us until we die; our body knows what to do if we ‘let it’. We relearn the natural poise we had as young children, but the difference is that we do it consciously, rather than subconsciously.
With the Alexander Technique we bring about a quality of freedom in all the joints as well as expansiveness in the torso that helps us be tall and broad without any sense of effort. There is no holding required. Indeed, it is about preventing or ‘inhibiting’ the wrong tendencies such as stiffening, stooping or shortening in stature that throws us off balance. We learn to consciously think in such a way that allows us to lengthen and widen in stature as we move, bringing about the healthy co-ordination that results in ‘good posture’.
No effort is required. Indeed if we make effort to ‘pull ourselves up straight’ then we are interfering again with a co-ordination that is far more subtle, and we’ll complicate our problems further. So, do not ‘pull yourself up straight’ and don’t ‘pull your shoulders back’. By giving the correct ‘directions’ to ourselves by thinking, the natural instinct within us will provide the co-ordination necessary for healthy poise and movement, without pain or strain. It needs to come from our ‘intention’, rather than physically adjusting ourselves.
In Alexander Technique lessons the hands-on guidance from a qualified teacher gives us a new experience of supporting ourselves differently. We get a new sensation of using our musculature in a more co-ordinated way, so we lengthen and widen in stature as we move. During the lesson we perform a variety of different activities while maintaining this free upright poise. We do movements such as standing, walking, sitting, bending, writing at a desk or using a keyboard and this new experience gets into the nervous system and subconscious. It helps to change our ‘default’. Importantly we also learn to think correctly for ourselves so we can maintain this quality. There is no such thing as a correct position but there is a correct ‘direction’ to be sought that enables fluid movement, poise and improved health.
It can feel a little unusual at first and it’s common to experience a very pleasant sensation of lightness, freedom in the joints and expansiveness of stature. If you haven’t experienced it, get a teacher of the Alexander Technique to show you. It feels great. Come with the knowledge that you will be participating in helping yourself, and this sets you up to look after yourself, from a posture point of view, for the rest of your life.