Following are some questions I have been asked about the Alexander Technique. I will continue to add to and refine this list as new questions arise, or my thinking on a topic changes. Please write me if you have a question you would like answered!
What do I wear or bring?
Comfortable clothing is always great, but learning and using the Alexander Technique does not require any specific clothing. Wear what you like, or what is appropriate to the activity you are interested in exploring. If you have to wear a special costume or use special equipment, or play an instrument, feel free to bring that along.
Who was Alexander?
The Alexander Technique was developed by F.M. Alexander (1869 - 1955) in the decades straddling the turn of the 20th century. He was an actor, and he had been frequently losing his voice while performing. His discovery -- that the head-spine relationship matters, and that he could choose to do something differently to improve his performance -- inspired the work which we now refer to as the Alexander Technique. His work has been further developed at schools and in private practices all over the world. My teacher, Cathy Madden, was a student of Marjorie Barstow (1899- 1995), who was one of F.M. Alexander’s first group of teacher trainees.
Is it about posture?
Sure, if you think about posture as a celebration of the kinetic orchestra that is your always-moving body. The Alexander Technique champions freedom, movement and change. While there are ways to move that don’t take advantage of the body’s mechanical advantages, there is not one set place we want you to be. You can use the Alexander Technique in any position.
Is it a form of exercise?
Not in and of itself, although it can help make any form of exercise more effective, and possibly easier.
Is it a kind of dance?
More of a "how" than a "what", AT is an integrating process, not a codified set of movements. For my dance friends, it is worth noting that the word “technique” might easily be replaced by the word “process.” You can use the Alexander Technique while you are practicing other techniques.
Is it bodywork, like massage?
No, though your teacher may use their hands. An Alexander Teacher is likely to use their hands to help you learn new paths of movement, but their intention is not to manipulate your muscle tissue. Depending on the school of training, you may be manually guided through pre-defined exercises. I teach in the Barstow tradition, which prioritizes the activities that you do over any predefined set of activities.
Lessons can be held without the use of hands. Even through video-conferencing!
What does it feel like?
It feels different all the time. Our senses register change, and sometimes change can feel pleasurable and sometimes it can feel unusual.
Will you help me stand up straight?
Our design is full of curves, which is what makes us able to move. Sometimes, being trained to stand up straight compromises those curves, and therefore limits our movement. When we call on our underlying coordination and cooperate with our design, we may well look different, or more like ourselves, in a way that pleases us. So no, I will not help you stand up straight, but I will help you discover ways to access that underlying coordination in cooperation with your individual, beautiful design.
What are the benefits?
There are so many possible applications of AT and just as many possible benefits.
Everyone’s experience and use of the Alexander Technique varies, but some reported experiences are: ease of movement, learning new ways to do things, fewer instances of repetitive stress injuries, and renewed intention and energy for the things you love to do.
" … a heightened literacy of choice." This is how I described one fundamental benefit of AT in a chapter I recently contributed to the book, Galvanizing Performance: the Alexander Technique as a catalyst for excellence (edited by Cathy Madden and Kathleen Juhl, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017.) While my chapter specifically addresses AT for choreographic process, the benefit is for all who study. When we learn to see all of the ways we have choice in how we move in response to our environment, thoughts and desires, we have more options in life.