What happens in a lesson?
Alexander work combines verbal instruction with gentle touch. We may work with you lying down on a table for part of the lesson, so women might prefer to wear trousers, but normal clothing is fine.
Simplicity is important, so we look at very basic everyday activities, such as standing, sitting and walking in order to see clearly what is going on and work on your movement habits. We can also work on more specialised activities, especially if you experience difficulty with them, such as playing instruments, working at the computer, running – you name it.
Most people feel great after a lesson; aligned, light and floating on air. For me, Alexander work makes me feel at home in my own skin. But the lesson is just the beginning, the real journey starts as you take your new skills back into everyday life and start to reap the benefits.
How many lessons would I need?
We live in an age of mass-produced, one-size-fits-all solutions. The Alexander Technique resolutely bucks that trend. Like a pair of hand-made shoes, it is highly individual and specific. So there is no general answer to this question. It depends on you.
Also, the Technique is a skill that you learn, not a treatment or therapy. Think of it like learning a language or a musical instrument. Do you just want a basic grounding, or to be fluent?
There is one general point though. It’s best to have lessons once a week, and at first more frequently if time and budget permit.
Alexander Technique – that’s like pilates and yoga, isn’t it?
Although the principles of the Technique can be applied to both yoga and pilates, Alexander work is fundamentally different from both.
Yoga and pilates offer a series of exercises, sequences or positions for the body. The Alexander Technique is a way of freeing the body from tension and excessive effort so that this freedom can be carried into any activity: yoga, pilates, or just waiting for a bus. An analogy, for the technically-minded, is that the Alexander Technique is like the operating system on your computer, yoga or pilates are the individual programmes.
Isn’t it all about posture – shoulders back, sit up straight, that sort of thing?
The word ‘posture’ has some unfortunate connotations of ballerinas or Sergeant Majors. Posture is part but not all of Alexander work. For us, good posture is a free, well-balanced body and an alert mind. It couldn’t be further away from the idea of stiff, ram-rod backs and tense, pulled-back shoulders. Alexander work creates effortless equilibrium, not extra tension and holding. If it’s hard work, it’s not good posture.
This is all very well, but what do doctors and scientists think about Alexander Technique?
In 2008, a major study published by the British Medical Journal showed the Alexander Technique produced significant long-term benefit for low back pain. This was a scientific randomised controlled trial. You can watch a video produced about the trial.
Other recent research has demonstrated the usefulness of the Technique for dealing with the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, and for improving functional reach in older women. Your GP may refer you for Alexander Technique lessons, and some private medical insurance companies now reimburse the cost of physician-referred lessons too.