What happens during an Alexander lesson?
The Alexander technique shows people how they are misusing themselves and how they can stop their harmful habits and prevent their misuse both during activity and at rest. It is a form of one-to-one re-education where the client, or ‘student’ or ‘pupil’, is taught to how to prevent their recurrent habits of misuse and reaction and learns a new more efficient way of using themselves. Lessons begin by helping to bring about changes in the habitual ways we hold our bodies and move, but with practise and experience, this process can be applied across diverse areas of our lives.
In an Alexander lesson, information about use is conveyed to the student by the Alexander teacher's manual hands-on adjustment and involves the teacher teaching the student to stop (or ‘inhibit’) their old habits and to ‘direct’ themselves – and particularly the relationship of their head, neck and back – in a new, more balanced way. Alexander’s primary directions are a sequence of words that build up a new body grammar or mental pattern to give an improved use of the self:
'To let the neck be free [of unnecessary tension], to let the head go forward and up [not back and down], to let the back lengthen and widen, altogether, one after the other.'
The student learns to associate this new mental pattern with the new muscular use taught by the teacher's hands-on adjustment and to project this new pattern themselves to bring about a new improved use of their body, not only during lessons but also in situations in everyday life.
What not to expect
For a start, students don’t have to remove their clothes. Special clothing is also not required, although as table work is generally part of the lesson, women usually feel more comfortable wearing trousers, rather than a skirt.
Alexander lessons are not painful and there is nothing physically aggressive about the work. Rather, it is a process of allowing the student to stop the relentless ‘doing’ of daily life, to redirect themselves in a way that brings about more ease, and to allow tension and the harmful habits that were responsible for it to undo – at a pace that suits them individually.
Find out how the Alexander technique was developed and learn more about how it works.
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