What happens in a lesson?
Lessons last 40-45 minutes, and do not involve undressing (other than taking your shoes off), or wearing special clothes. I use a combination of verbal explanation and instruction and gentle manual guidance to help you release unnecessary muscular tensions as you stand, sit, walk, and make other everyday movements. Through this, you will become aware of your habitual patterns of movement and tension, and so become able to choose to move in a different, lighter way – to move with ease and poise. Pain and discomfort typically diminish or are eliminated completely once habitual tension patterns are addressed in this way.
With time and practice, you will be able to apply what you have learnt in Alexander lessons to whatever activity you undertake – from rock-climbing to meditation!
How many lessons will I need?
This is an impossible question for me to answer – although entirely understandable for you to ask it! The answer depends on where you start from and what you want to achieve – and on how committed you are to exploring what Alexander Technique has to offer.
As a very general guide, most people find that after 6-10 weekly lessons they are able to start to apply what they have learnt in their daily life. Many also find that having learnt that much, they want to learn more and even to accelerate their learning, and so they keep having lessons.
Isn’t this just another yoga or Pilates?
No – Alexander Technique is fundamentally different from both yoga and Pilates. Where yoga and Pilates both propose a series of exercises or positions for the body, the Alexander Technique is about freeing the body from the unnecessary tension and excess effort that unconsciously limit our capabilities. The freedom achieved through Alexander Technique can be applied to whatever else you wish to do – including Pilates and/or yoga.
A computer analogy: most of us have had the experience of our computer gradually slowing down as it gets older, as a result of unnecessary bits of programming that have accumulated as we use the computer. We don’t know these programs are there and don’t know how to get rid of them, but we still use the computer. Alexander Technique is a bit like the ‘clean-up’ services you can get to strip out the unnecessary bits of programming so that your computer runs more like it did when new – and then you can do whatever you were doing before on your computer more quickly and easily, and without crashes.
Isn’t it all about sitting up straight?
No, definitely not! ‘Sitting up straight’ involves extra muscle tension as we pull ourselves into our idea of good posture. That’s why it’s so hard to maintain – no-one wants to work harder than they are already! The Alexander Technique looks for a free, well-balanced body and an alert and aware mind (the two go together). It is about as far away as anything could be from the idea of sitting or standing up ‘straight’, with pulled-back shoulders and a rigid back. If it takes muscular effort to maintain, it isn’t the Alexander Technique…
What would my doctor say about it?
Many doctors, of all levels and specialisations, are very enthusiastic about the Alexander Technique: they have lessons themselves, and recommend the Technique to their patients when they think it would help them. There is even at least one GP who has trained to teach the Alexander Technique herself. Some medical training courses send their students to look at Alexander Technique teacher training schools as part of their studies.
But while awareness and understanding of the Technique is growing in the medical profession, some doctors still know very little about the Technique, and so are not in a position to recommend it.
Is there any science behind this?
In August 2008, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Rolls Royce of the UK’s medical publications, published the results of a randomised controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons for people with back pain. Two important conclusions were:
“One-to-one lessons in the Alexander Technique from registered teachers have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain”
“24 lessons in the Alexander Technique [led to] an 86% reduction in days in pain compared with the control group”
A video has also been published explaining the study and its results:
Other recent studies have demonstrated benefit to people attending pain clinics, people with Parkinson’s, and in improving functional reach in older women. Ongoing research is looking at the impact of the Technique on neck pain.
As early as the 1970s, Nikolaas Tinbergen, who won the Nobel prize for medicine, devoted about one third of his Nobel lecture to setting out the scientific basis and importance of the Alexander Technique, and to explaining the benefits that he and his wife and daughter had all experienced from lessons in the Technique.
More technical studies have also been done, showing various postural and muscle-tension related benefits arising from lessons in the Alexander Technique.