A certified Alexander Technique teacher - approved by the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) - undertakes a 3 year, 1600 hour training before being let loose on the public.
During training a student learns to work on and improve their own ‘use’. Use refers not only to the habitual and characteristic way in which we move and use our body but also to the ways in which we think and feel. Whilst many prospective pupils are attracted to the Alexander Technique by the prospect of physical change, what helps us most in learning this amazing life skill is to allow changes to take place in our thinking and in our reactions to things.
The Alexander Technique can help you to identify what you are doing in any given moment that is harmful and unnecessary. By practising this new awareness you can stop doing those things, release inappropriate tension and move more freely. It can be applied to simple everyday activities like sitting, bending, getting up, lying down, standing, walking or lifting - actions that we may perform many times a day and which, added together, can represent many hours of unconscious, harmful ‘doing’. It can also be tailored to your individual interests and needs; for instance you can apply it to singing or preparing a speech, learning an instrument, running a marathon or doing the gardening or housework.
During a lesson a teacher guides you towards better poise and co-ordination by helping you to become aware of and lose harmful tension patterns - habitual, unconscious responses - that have built up over a lifetime. For example, as you read this, how are you sitting? Are your legs crossed? Are you sitting on one side of your chair because you’re already thinking about putting on the coffee or collecting the kids and hadn’t really planned to be at the computer at all? Are your shoulders up around your ears or your arms tensed over the keyboard? Are you multi-tasking by checking your email on your phone as you read this? Is your mind wandering away from what you read to that call you have to make or what your child or husband said to you last night? Have you actually thought about how you sit at all?!
If we can begin to notice - in a lesson, at home or at work - how easily our mind is distracted away from the present moment and towards a future ‘result’ or past events, then we are beginning to shift towards a mind-set where change can happen. In this way our actions (or ‘doings’) are changed not by striving and insistent effort but by subtle changes in how we approach them.
A note of caution: the Alexander Technique is not a quick fix, therapy or treatment. It is a calming, mindful practice, a way of learning and a way of changing. Alexander called his method a ‘re-education’ of the ‘psycho-physical organism’ and, as with anything of lasting value, it takes time and patience to learn and is rewarding and beneficial to those who give themselves the opportunity to explore it.
Sherborne Alexander Studio