What makes the Alexander technique different from other modalities or disciplines?
The Alexander technique is different from other therapies or hands-on modalities. Below are some of its points of difference.
The Alexander technique is not a therapy. The person receiving the hands-on work is not a passive recipient or ‘patient’ left none the wiser about how to stop themselves getting into a state of tension or pain again. Hence a client, or ‘pupil’ or ‘student’, comes for ‘lessons’, not treatments.
Alexander technique lessons are taught one to one.
The technique has a history of teaching demonstrating ongoing, fundamental change in students and now also has evidence-based research confirming that a course of 24 individual lessons offers long-term benefits, bringing about pain relief, improvements in quality of life, and behavioural change. (Find out more about the Alexander technique and scientific and medical research.)
The Alexander technique does not involve exercises or manipulation.
As a mind–body (or ‘psychophysical’) re-education in the ‘use of the self’, the Alexander technique is not just ‘body work’ as the mind and mindfulness are very much involved.
While some people refer to the Alexander technique as ‘a movement re-education’ or ‘postural retraining’, it involves so much more than this. At its heart, the Alexander technique is more concerned with stopping habit than movement. FM Alexander himself said, 'My technique is based on inhibition, the inhibition of undesirable, unwanted responses to stimuli, and hence it is primarily a technique for the development of the control of human reaction.'
Alexander lessons cultivate conscious and mindful 'thinking in activity' through Alexander’s practical principles of inhibition (stopping) and direction-sending, leading to more conscious, considered responses – and freedom in thought and action moment by moment – rather than repeating potentially harmful unconscious habitual actions and responses. (Alexander’s principles are practically demonstrated within a lesson.)
Alexander lessons teach clients or pupils to self-work with increasing awareness and mindfulness in a course of lessons through applying Alexander’s principles of inhibition and direction so that they are increasingly ready to meet stimuli that have previously put them wrong in daily life activities and interactions.
The hands-on work received by the client or pupil within a lesson is unique to the Alexander technique and is highly skilled.
In Alexander lessons, the teacher uses their hands-on work to help the pupil to stop (or ‘inhibit’) their old habits and to learn ‘direct’ their body – and particularly the relationship between their head, neck and back (so preventing the physical startle pattern and fight–flight–fright stress response) – in a new, more balanced way as they meet varying stimuli.
Due to the unique nature of the hands-on work in the Alexander technique, the teacher must be in a balanced state themselves before putting their hands on a client or pupil and instructing them. As a result, Alexander teachers undergo a more comprehensive training than most other hands-on modalities:
Alexander teacher training consists of 1600 hours of full-time continuous training over 3 years. The teacher/trainee ratio in teacher training is 1:5 and the training consists of 80% practical work in order to acquire the required hands-on skills.
On completion of teacher training, practising teachers also involve themselves in continuing professional development to ensure they continue improve their hands-on skills and understanding of Alexander work throughout their careers.
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