Improvisationally Applied Alexander Technique

As teachers of Alexander Technique, it is very deceptive for us to take for granted the assumptions implicit in the teaching environments in which we originally learned. It is sometimes after we graduate and begin to teach beginners that these assumptions come to light. Obviously, it pays big to examine assumptions, making what we have to offer clearer and easier to understand for us and all our students.

Alexander Technique is most commonly misunderstood because of it is meant to be improvisationally applied. There are no forms or prescriptive exercises that constitute what A.T. is.

For example, Tai Chi or Yoga have certain specific motions that someone can point to that can be considered to constitute the discipline that are practiced and perfected over time. Alexander Technique does not (with one exception, the Whispered Ahh.)

After some examples, a beginning pupil of A.T. can very easily misunderstand that what they are being shown is a prescriptive form of perfect posture or complex body of “correct” movements that are supposed to be remembered, copied or learned. This problematic misunderstanding is reinforced by an A.T. custom; the one activity in particular taught in teacher training schools that many teachers fall back on when they are left to choose an activity as an example. This action is most often rising and sitting in a chair. This choice of activity was possibly so routinely made because the space available in which lessons were historically taught was often limited in the UK where A.T. originated.

I must agree that exclusively using “chair work” certainly would understandably give a learner that first mistaken impression that A.T. is “sit up straight school.” This is why I feel that if chair work is selected, it’s very important to also work with another activity of specific interest to the student, preferably chosen by the student. If the activity is chosen by the teacher, then the logic and criteria used for choosing a specific action should be explained to the student(s).

In theory, A.T. is meant to be used as a way of initiating motion and applying experimentation while doing any form of movement the user believes may benefit from bringing some attention and freedom to it. While it doesn’t matter which motion is selected, I believe two categories of actions should always be selected from; the first, a most global, routine and common action. The second selection should be another action that is meaningful and valuable to the particular student who is learning it.