(Originally published November 2015)
When I tell people I teach the Alexander Technique, they ask questions to help them figure out which category to place it in. "Is it like yoga?" "Oh, that's about posture and breathing." "What kind of exercises do you teach?"
I tell people the Alexander Technique is truly a mind-body method. I can show people how their minds and their thoughts impact their bodies. To begin, I help people observe the effect of the mind at the level of muscle tension, balance and mobility. I can also help people see how their thinking effects other systems, including emotions and physiology.
Without a first hand experience (and even after one) it is often difficult for people to find the language to convey what the work is and how the Alexander Technique helps them.
Here are some of F. M. Alexander's words to help us describe the realm in which the work takes place.
In August of 1934, F. M. Alexander delivered a lecture at The Bedford Training College. Among many amazing things he says during this talk, there are two quotes which I find most thought-provoking and exciting:
"We see people do certain things and without thinking or questioning we copy them. Don't. Don't do it…. Do what I recommended everybody in the world do in my first book. That is, to sit down and think over all the beliefs and ideas they have got and find out where they came from. You would not have many left. After a week's thought, you would throw them overboard."
"You would not think that the matter of belief comes into our sphere. You have all got your ideas of what belief is. Do you know what we have found that belief is? A certain standard of muscle tension."
The Alexander Technique works with belief systems. While it may seem like "bodywork", it is really a process for (among other things) reclaiming awareness, consciousness, and the ability to be truly in the moment, experiencing novelty. We begin with the belief systems of sensation, such as how much muscle contraction I need to perform a certain task.