Alexander Technique is a Learned Skill,
which can be used to bring relief and improved function and mobility to many painful and debilitating conditions including long-term progressive issues. It can help in raising performance in every field of human endeavour. Assisted be a teacher, Alexander Technique helps to re-educate the human brain as to how it operates the whole human self. Unlike other interventions that seek to alter how we think and respond in the world, AT utilises the responses in the body as the initial access portal. The body can reveal what the mind is up to and is more often easier to observe. In industrial western society there is an almost universal problem that has been created by our way of living and our adaptation to technology that causes us to unnecessarily mis-coordinate, weaken, and pre-dispose ourselves to pain, injury and illness. AT is able to re-educate the corrupted process and restore more efficient movement and function on the physical level, while facilitating clearer, calmer thinking in the development of what would be described as a ‘constructive conscious control’ of the individual, the ability to use conscious thought to beneficially influence the human whole. It sounds farfetched to say its’ benefits are almost limitless, but think on. If something is going on in secret to upset our self-healing and functional potential, then, if you can get that sorted, everything else has to improve. So it begins by finding out what is actually happening, not just what we think is happening. There is a gap between our perception of who we are, what we think and what we do compared to what actually happens. AT helps us to discover the nature of that gap and to bridge it.
What is the problem?
Simply put; the problem is that we have learned to cross-wire the startle pattern, the fight or flight response into all our movements, which gets compounded by habitual adaptive behaviour, injury and duress. This has a number of negative effects on our functioning and well being. It compromises the muscular elasticity needed for the spine to work as it should, and consequently all the structures joined to it. It causes the discrete holding of harmful tensions which compromise the working of all internal structures and systems. It causes a build up of unwanted adrenaline and cortisol which raises our level of stress. Sure there are lots of things that help to reduce stress and help the body. The burning question is what happens to you when you are under duress..? “Can you retain those desirable qualities while you argue with your boss for a pay rise?” Through the practice of the Alexander Technique this does become possible.
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How is it taught?
Learning the Alexander Technique may be broken down into three strands when you come for your lessons. Cognitive: That is when you chat, ask questions; listen to explanations very much as you would in most learning forums, though this is usually carried out one-to-one with AT. Experimental: Where we try out the ideas and principles of the work, while observing our responses in practical situations like walking, rising / sitting, squatting, and much more, activity becoming more complex as the pupil progresses. Phenomenological: This one takes some explaining. Neuroscientists have gone some way towards understanding this. We know for instance that the way we put hands on our pupils stimulates the movement centres in the brain. The pupil is mentally active at this point in directing movement to happen, but inhibiting any impulse to do anything at all in a muscular way. It has the desired effect but there is as yet, no full scientific explanation of this phenomenon, even though Alexander teachers have been doing it since the man himself gave the first lesson in 1894. What we know empirically is that information transfers during this process. For example, if you present me (or any other AT teacher) with an averagely friendly cat, dog or horse, and I place my hands on it and think to myself the instruction for my back to lengthen, the creatures back will do what I have asked of myself, it gets longer. So we know through touch that the living swap information, even if we dont know in what language. My pupils respond to me similarly. It is why AT teachers train for so long in order to minimize their own unwanted tensions and to be able to block their own interferences from translating to the pupil. Between the instruction and hands-on input from the teacher, and the practise carried out by the pupil, the skill develops into a robust process which the pupil puts to work to improve their life in whatever field and in any activity they chose to do. What is being asked is to raise awareness, self-observe, and intervene in the response to whatever stimulus using a clearly directed, structured thought process; structured to replicate the best functional human state; the same as with nature in us, and any other creature that has a spine, when the conditions are right. So the Technique can be used to heighten performance or to help fix a huge amount of health problems. The joy being that you learn to do this for yourself. The purpose of your teacher is to get you around a determined defence process that has based all that it knows on a learned error. While it remains in place and unchallenged, the good thing will always seem like a wrong thing to you. For the self employed this work has the added value of being tax-deductable. When you stop doing the thing that is wrong, the thing that is right does itself! F.M.Alexander