WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?
A one-on-one session with a qualified teacher usually lasts half to three-quarters of an hour. A combination of gentle hands-on guidance and verbal communication heightens your awareness of those habits that cause unnecessary tension. Your teacher also addresses individual needs. After a brief discussion on your personal history and any health or postural issues, she or he helps you to recognise in a more conscious way how you stand, sit and walk, and how this ‘poor use’, in Alexander’s words, leads to poor coordination that produces symptoms such as neck, shoulder and backache, hypertension, headaches, depression and many other conditions.
No physical manipulation or bodywork technique is involved. Removal of clothing is unnecessary, although loose-fitting, non-restrictive clothes do help. While you lie on a firm surface or massage table, the teacher makes very soft, gentle adjustments to your body and limbs to relax muscles, release joints and lengthen the spine. She may gently lift your arm, lightly lengthening and rotating it to ease tension before replacing it, then softly adjust your hip, or your leg. All the while, she talks to you, communicating what she senses, inviting you to experience the various sensations, any feelings of ease or release. To you her adjustments may feel subtle; many people are initially disbelieving that the gentle manoeuvres could have any effect – only to be astonished a day or two later at the physical benefits.
Your teacher will take you through the simplest daily activities – breathing, bending, sitting, standing, lifting objects and walking – making you intensely aware of what the position of ease feels like versus the position of effort or restriction. FM Alexander is famous for saying, ‘Let the neck be free to let the head be forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen.’
Your teacher, by allowing you to experience a restrictive, then a non-restrictive movement, helps you to recognise that precise instant of sliding into a ‘bad’ habit, to which you learn to consciously say ‘No’ and willingly correct it. You develop the ability to change ingrained habits on a long-term basis, and this also permeates into other areas of your life. Thus Alexander Technique is a self-empowering method based on a teacher/student relationship rather than a therapist/client one.
‘Instead of feeling one’s body to be an aggregation of ill-fitting parts full of friction and dead weights pulling this way and that… the body becomes a coordinated and living whole, composed of well-fitting and truly articulated parts.’ ~ Sir Staf- ford Cripps, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, UK.