Frequently Asked Questions
Put simply, it’s a sound method for ‘turning your life around’, whatever your starting point.
It’s a method you can use for personal change with the aim of enhancing your life.
For example, if this is you:
* I have postural or movement difficulties
* I have undiagnosable aches and pains
* I have undiagnosable voice problems
* I don’t feel I’m achieving my full potential
* I sometimes feel fed up for no particular reason
* I find it hard to pay attention
* I’m okay, really — and I would like to stay that way
* I’m okay, really — but I’m interested in self-improvement
* I have a demanding job, and I want to stay on the ball
* Sometimes I find coping with friends and family draining
* I’d like to refine my skills
* I’m not happy being angry all the time
The key thing is, if your problem is caused by something you are doing that gets in the way of the end results you seek, then there is an answer.
You can learn to see what you are doing which puts things wrong, and implement a better solution.
That’s it in a nutshell.
More comprehensive details are here.
For more on posture, go here.
Stillness/meditation is covered here.
Backache is addressed here.
Here’s how the Alexander Technique helps with the worry habit.
In both, your teacher works with you to improve your balance and coordination, helping you to use less muscular effort in simple activities like sitting, standing and walking.
As you experience being upright with less effort, you can start to notice how you pull yourself out of shape in all that you do.
Perhaps you tense your shoulders to text a friend, or maybe you grip the steering wheel more than is necessary when you drive.
You may even notice more general patterns of tension that carry over into everything you do, like headaches or a knotted stomach.
In all these cases, the extra effort you apply does not help with what you are doing.
You generate unnecessary tension in your muscles and pull yourself out of shape, all to no advantage.
The insight you gain from Alexander lessons or courses will reveal to you just how much you pull yourself out of shape — and how you can stop.
From here, you can discover better ways to get things done.
You’ll begin to realise how much you rely on habit rather than conscious choice.
If you want to make changes in your life, habit won’t help.
Habit is about staying the same.
Discovering the pattern underlying your habits offers a way forward.
The Alexander Technique allows you to recognise how your habit is to create unnecessary tension in response to what is going on in your life and how none of this effort ever helps you.
It offers a change of outlook that has practical benefits.
Once you see what you are doing to make things difficult for yourself, you can stop it and let it go.
You can change the way you respond to what life brings.
Mastering any skill and putting it into practice takes time.
Learning the Alexander Technique is no different.
It simply takes time to develop the necessary insight and understanding for making the changes you seek.
Once you have this knowledge, it’s yours to keep and to go on developing.
Everyone is different, but if you opt for lessons, a year’s worth of teaching has proved to be a solid foundation for most people.
Ideally, you should have a lesson once a week in order to make steady progress, and the benefits accumulate as you go.
Your rate of progress may be slower if you attend fortnightly, and a lot depends on how much you put an understanding of the principles into practice in your life.
You can have as many or as few Alexander lessons as you wish and your PAAT teacher will give you plenty to think about and apply from week to week.
Courses provide a different pathway to lessons, and bring the benefits of making discoveries as part of a group.
A variety of courses are available, and you can choose depending on your needs and interests.
Through lessons or courses, you discover that the Alexander Technique works because of the way people work.
We’re all unique but we share a common anatomy and physiology, and when we place stress on our working parts by pulling ourselves out of shape, the same broad pattern of unhelpful tension is possible for us all.
In lessons, the teacher uses work with the hands to help you stop pulling yourself out of shape, along with discussion and guidance on how to apply the Technique to your activities.
On courses, there may be minimal or no handwork, but plenty of talks and discussion, and your fellow students are your mirrors to helping you see the broad pattern of our pulling out of shape, and to learn how to stop it.
The teacher leads talks and guides the group towards constructive understanding.
Whether you opt for lessons or courses, the benefits arise from the time you invest in putting what you learn into action.
Words can help you learn a great deal but they don’t always show the whole picture.
This input can help you find out what you do to yourself that takes you out of balance. Then you can work to stop doing it.
We normally take ourselves out of balance by using too much effort. This interferes with the best relationship between all parts of the body.
Until you can see how too much effort underpins all that you do, force of habit dictates that you will go on doing things in the same way.
You need more information about what you are doing in order to help you change things.
In particular, you need more information about yourself as an object in space — where you are in relation to your immediate surroundings, and where all your anatomical parts are in relationship to one another.
We have a sense of knowing where all the parts of us are. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to walk through a doorway without hitting the sides.
Here is the problem: it’s easy to think we have an accurate knowledge about this. But sometimes our knowledge isn’t as complete as we think. It’s just what we have got used to.
Using input from lessons or courses, you can tune in to this personal knowledge in order to make it more accurate. That’s what you are aiming for, accuracy in knowing where you are as an object in space. Accuracy in knowing what the relationships are between the parts of the body.
Then you can stand, sit, walk (and engage in other activities) without disturbing the structural relationship of all of the parts of yourself. In other words, you recognize how everything works as a harmonious, integrated system, and seek to maintain that balance in all that you do.
If you use too much effort in one bit, the system will immediately and automatically make a compensatory effort elsewhere.
Getting input on where and how you use too much effort enables you to do things in a way that does not unbalance that harmonious working of the whole. The more you allow it to work in a balanced way, the more the system itself will automatically work that way – as long as you let it.
In other words, once you’ve learned with this help to distinguish between necessary muscular activity and merely the white noise of unnecessary tension, you can choose to dispense with what doesn’t work.
If you’re up against a lot of demands, this practical knowledge will lighten the load.
When you simply want to be quiet and rest, knowing how to move toward stillness is a real bonus.
Backache can have many causes, and you should always consult your GP about yours.
If you and your GP have checked out there is nothing medically wrong, then it may be that your backache is the result of you going about things in an unhelpful way.
If your symptoms arise from applying your efforts in less than the best way, then unless you learn a new approach, those symptoms will return, again and again.
The way forward here is to change your familiar approach, and the Alexander Technique provides a way for you to do this.
The Alexander Technique isn’t a cure for anything.
It’s a technique for prevention. It helps you to stop hurting yourself.
Let’s say you hurt your back while bending to lift something.
If the Alexander Technique were a cure, you’d have to hurt your back before you could apply it.
Wouldn’t it be better in the first place to fix your way of bending to lift?
Learning a better way of solving problems like these might help you to prevent your backache — not just one time, but every time.
The Alexander Technique is not a form of therapy, and it does not seek to cure backache, but for many people it has therapeutic results.
If your backache does arise from a clinical condition, it is especially important to take care of yourself, and the Technique can help.
It’s important also to bear in mind that aches and pains resulting from unhelpful ways of dealing with everyday problems like lifting demand more than a quick fix because the way you have learned to stand and move has more to do with habit than you may realize.
If you would like to know more, please follow the links below.
To answer this question, it helps to define what we mean by ‘posture’…
Whether we are standing, sitting, walking, running or lying down, there is always our body.
Posture is the relationship of the parts of our body. You could say it is the way we configure ourselves as a very real object in space; it is our postural relationship, or the way we configure the parts of our body.
Our postural relationship is a combination of what is automatic and of what is learnt. That is, we have an automatic mechanism for being upright which underlies all that we do, and we have the way we have found to use that automatic mechanism.
Of course, we configure ourselves in different ways, depending on what we are doing.
So for example, standing requires something different of us to sitting.
Moving between these activities demands still further changes.
Postural relationship is therefore, to a certain extent, dynamic and fluid.
This is a good thing because life demands flexibility.
However, there is a problem.
If we have learnt to use the automatic mechanism with too much muscular effort, we compromise our flexibility.
Joints become stiffened, and we interfere with the best configuration.
(The best configuration of all of the parts of the body is one using minimum effort to stay in balance.)
Worse still, we make a habit of doing things this way.
Muscles we tense unduly for specific activities become muscles we tense unduly for all activities.
Our stiff back and shoulders, braced knees and tense neck then accompany everything we do, even though none of this extra muscular work is needed.
This is not good because unless we are free to adapt ourselves appropriately to what we are doing, everything becomes much harder work and we risk hurting ourselves.
Thinking about posture as a correct ‘position’ is therefore unhelpful because regaining and maintaining flexibility cannot follow from adding more fixity and rigidity.
This is why in the Alexander Technique, posture has nothing to do with standing to attention, chest out, chin up, bottom tucked in, and so on.
In applying the Alexander Technique to daily life, what we seek is a dynamic relationship of all of the parts of the body — co-ordinated, efficient, and working for us rather than against us.
The Technique offers a sound method for adapting yourself effectively to the task immediately to hand by keeping the best postural relationship in whatever you choose to do.