If my student is in pain, I’ll typically have him lie down and I’ll use my hands and my questions to help him notice patterns of unnecessary tension and to let them go. From there, we’ll go on to look at how he performs routine tasks of life such as lifting, walking, and sitting to see how he can do these things more elegantly and efficiently. My emphasis is not on getting things done but in noticing how we go about doing things. How do you lift that pen? How do you grip your steering wheel? How do you type? How do you project your voice across a room? How do you lift those barbells?
My work primarily consists of helping the student to become aware of needless compression. Once he realizes how he’s scrunching himself, it is relatively easy to show him how to take up his full space in the world.
Some of my lessons take place in a chair. We’ll learn how the stimuli of folding and unfolding the limbs getting up and down distorts their head-neck-back relationship. Many people hold their breath when they stand up and sit down. Often they go into a modified version of the startle pattern, compressing their necks and tipping their heads back, shortening and tightening their torso during this common activity. Some students bend their knees only when they absolutely have to, preferring to compress themselves and then collapse into the chair. To stand, they often have to rock forward and push themselves up. The older people get, the more these simple tasks become difficult.
Without becoming aware of our patterns of needless tension, most of us become trapped in our habits of compression.
I want my students to notice what they’re doing to themselves and to stop doing the things that are hurting them. For most of us, if we stop injuring ourselves and pulling down, we naturally float up and do the right thing.
Alexander Technique is less about learning new things than about unlearning bad habits.
Most transformational systems build upon your present state. By contrast, Alexander Technique subtracts your harmful habits.
I like to have my students walk and to bring their attention to not just themselves but to everything around them. Many people tip to one side an inch or two. I help them to become aware of their tension patterns and to move more gracefully.
For most people, graceful movement leads to graceful thinking and to graceful feeling and to graceful relationships with themselves and with others. How many people do you know who are contorted in their movements but are still easy to be around?
Most of my students are actors. I like to watch as they do their thing and then I offer suggestions on how they can do their thing more easily. I don’t need to know anything about throwing a javelin or playing an oboe to be able to spot patterns of needless tension and to help a student release them.
I also teach via Skype.
• How many lessons will I need?
Most people can learn the basics of the Technique in about five lessons. Becoming proficient usually takes dozens of lessons. Some people don’t make permanent changes without at least 30 lessons. Learning the Technique is like learning a foreign language. You can master the alphabet and a few phrases in a handful of lessons but fluency takes more study.
• How much does a lesson cost?
I charge $100 for a 45-minute lesson.
I have a 24-hour cancellation policy.
If I come to you for the lesson, I charge extra.
• What should I wear?
• Where can you take a lesson?
I can teach anywhere.
• Will it hurt?
I’ve never heard of anyone getting hurt in an Alexander lesson. Alexander teachers have liability insurance premiums under $200 a year because our work is gentle and safe.
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