Alexander Technique has been classically conveyed through the invention of a form of guided modeling of motion. Not all Alexander Technique teachers teach using this means, (because of a class situation where one-on-one isn’t always possible nor constructive.) But all Alexander Technique teacher can use their hands in this specialized way because they’ve been properly educated.
The quality is a signature lightness of “non-doing.” An Alexander Technique teacher who is properly trained can use their hands to follow you doing whatever motion you’d like to do, while giving you a suggestion of how to prevent your habitual routines that limit freedom from running the show.
What that means is an Alexander Technique teacher can suggests the direction, timing and quality of motion for the student while the two people are linked hands-on. This happens because the teacher demonstrates on themselves what they want the student to also do for themselves.
What actually happens when an Alexander Technique teacher puts hands-on?
The way it works is a very mysterious process. Through training, most Alexander teachers can be an example for their students much better than they can explain what is going on.
What a teacher is actually doing when they put hands-on a student is applying Alexander’s principles to their own coordination. Then, without interfering, managing to put hands-on the student. IT is this “without interfering” that is the tricky part that takes so long to learn.
The student “makes like a sponge” and emulates the ability the teacher has move beyond their own personal limitations in their own thinking and response. The effect is, both people lengthen their own muscles in a sympathetic concourse – they dance together. The person who is more relaxed encourages the person who is less relaxed to free whatever is in their way of moving easier – or at least it usually works that way. Sometimes what happens is the person who has a stronger ability to choose new ways of thinking influences the quality of thought of the person who’s thinking is fuzzy or indistinct.
It’s been said: “Those who do, work at it – and those who don’t – teach it.” But Alexander Technique doesn’t work unless the teacher demonstrates the principles in their own ability to go beyond their own physical, habitual limitations. You’ll know it’s not working as the student because the teacher’s hands will become heavy and you’ll feel as if you’re being “handled” or are having something done “to you.” An Alexander Technique teachers’ hands feel as if you are being guided; they suggest a direction, quality and means – but the student is responsible to initiate or follow.
There hasn’t been an explanation for why this works or what is going on until mirror neurons were discovered in brain research.
This talk on mirror neurons assigns them an emotional and empathic basis. But the sort of brain power that drives the ability to “learn though emulation” is what drives the Alexander Technique.
Can learning the Alexander Technique give a person additional empathy? Many of us who learn it have imagined so. But having any sort of discipline involving awareness develops the ability to be in charge of oneself and the effect a person has on their actions that effect the world. To discover and express one’s hopes, dreams & vision for the constructive, practical effects of one’s beliefs – being able to surpass one’s own personal limitations – this would be a handy skill in anyone’s toolbox.
Many disciplines that offer more control over the various qualities of one’s life give this benefit. The Alexander Technique offers a form of control that includes indefinite freedom to refine, perceive and clear out what is unnecessary. That’s what makes it different. It doesn’t free you up in order to tell you what to do next – it merely frees you to do whatever you want to do next.
An handy ability to have in one’s toolbox of life skills, don’t you think?