Activate You! Alexander Technique Teacher Jennifer Mackerras Interviewed

Jennifer Mackerras writes the popular Alexander blog Activate You.

She’s from Armidale, Australia and now lives in Bristol, England. She has a PhD in Drama.

Here are some highlights:

Jennifer: “Most students when they walk through the door want to be given things to do to make whatever it is that hurts to stop hurting. What I want to do is to teach them the Alexander Technique, which will give them the tools to stop doing the things that caused the hurt in the first place. It’s a matter of finding the intersection between those two points.”

Luke: “I was shocked in my first lessons when my teacher [Julia Caulder] asked me, what are you thinking about? I was not thinking my directions. I was shocked that she could tell.”

Jennifer: “I learned early on that I shouldn’t teach friends. Friendship is a different transaction from a teacher-student transaction. It’s a different relationship. Some people don’t make the transition so easily.”

“I also learned early on to not give cut-price lessons. They’re either full-price or they’re free. When you cut the price of the lesson, you’re giving the message that you don’t need to take it so seriously because you’re not paying much for it. We are professional dealing with psycho-physical unity. We have undergone training. We know what we’re doing.”

“What I do is not medicine and is not related to medicine. The Alexander Technique does not cure anything.”

Jennifer blogs:

It is a common experience of Alexander technique students to feel more ‘alive’ after a lesson. They often report feeling more awake, more alert, lighter, and somehow more able to concentrate on tasks. So why does this happen?

The secret lies in the stuff we do to ourselves – unnecessary muscular activity.

FM Alexander noticed in himself, and subsequently in others, that it was something that he was doing in the way he went about activities that was causing his problems – the problems that led him to create the work we call the Alexander Technique. He noticed defects in the way he was using himself.

And in his first book, Alexander noted that when defects in the poise of the body are present, “the condition thus evidenced is the result of an undue rigidity of parts of the muscular mechanisms … Which are forced to perform duties other than those intended by nature.” In other words, if we are experiencing problems, it is likely that some of our muscles are working far too hard, and probably in ways that they are not designed to do.

So it makes sense that if we are using more muscular activity than we need, and using the wrong muscles anyway, that we would start to feel fatigued.

This is why feeling an increase in energy is a common experience in Alexander Technique lessons. Students not only decrease the work done by their muscles, but they work out for themselves (with the teacher’s assistance) the most effective way of carrying out the activity they are working on. They work out which muscles they need to use, and then experience using just those muscles, doing just the right amount of work.

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