‘Generally we start by just having a look at your general pattern of use, basically how you use yourself in everyday activities,’ says Robert Schubert, an Alexander Technique instructor.
‘If you’re hurting yourself in some even minimal way in those activities, [if] you do that for years you could end up in trouble.’
One common problem that occurs with sitting, Schubert notes, is tightening of the neck and back muscles.
‘You actually don’t need to do that to sit down, that’s just a habit you’ve developed.’
Alexander called these problems ‘misuses of ourselves’.
‘A lot of this back tightening goes on for years and years and years and then people get a sore back and they don’t know why.’
In an example Alexander lesson, Schubert asks me to think about letting my neck release as I sit down—it’s a simple instruction and it’s not hard to do, but how readily does it become habitual?
‘That depends on how much you practise,’ says Schubert.
Musicians and performing artists, Schubert says, make for good Alexander practitioners—they’re used to being aware of their body.
For the rest of us, it can be more challenging, says Schubert. ‘It can feel a little laborious for some people. That’s quite normal, while your body recalibrates along the lines of an improved movement.’
Schubert says that the difficulty with Alexander Technique is not the technique itself, it’s remembering to employ it.
Who is the Alexander Technique for?
Instructors reckon almost everyone can benefit from the Alexander Technique, not just sportspeople and performing artists.
Lucia Walker, a senior instructor, says her clients include a knitting group and a convent. ‘The sisters want help with how they look after themselves, both serving dinner and kneeling to pray and bowing.’
Another instructor, Kazimirs Krasovskis, has worked with belly dancers—which he says was lots of fun—but also people in the course of their everyday jobs. ‘There was a lady who was a funeral director, she was having problems carrying coffins down the stairs.’
Krasovskis himself uses the technique for his own gym sessions, and sees many people exercising in potentially harmful ways.
‘I was amazed at how much people misuse their bodies through straining to lift weights that are possibly too heavy for them.’
If he’s doing shoulder exercises by lifting dumb-bells, Krasovskis has learnt what his bad habits are. ‘I know that I can arch my back unnecessarily, so through knowing that that’s my habit I can do that exercise more efficiently.’
Rosslyn McLeod summarises the basis of the Alexander Technique as ‘use affects function’.