When I meet someone for the first time there is often a moment when they ask me, ” So, what is it that you do? ”
When I tell them that I’m an Alexander Technique teacher they usually ask, “What’s the Alexander Technique?”
In the last few years I’ve started to refer to this as ‘The Question’.
Why do I find it so difficult to give a satisfactory answer? How can it be so hard to put into words the most interesting and exciting thing that I’ve ever encountered?
I think that there are three reasons why I find it hard.
The first reason is that my understanding of the Alexander Technique is evolving and so my answer to the question keeps changing.
This is no surprise.
In my time as a student of Alexander’s work many of my ideas and beliefs have been challenged and have continued to change. As they change, so does my definition of the Alexander Technique.
It is a characteristic of ITM Alexander Technique lessons that they offer students (including me) the opportunity to have their unhelpful ideas and beliefs challenged.
This is usually done through movement, with the student working on an activity that they would like to do better.
If the student decides to change a limiting idea that their teacher has challenged then the effect can sometimes be far reaching. In the process their whole idea of what the Alexander Technique is can also change.
The second reason for my difficulties in describing what I do is that the Alexander Technique seems to defy categorisation.
For instance, I started the Alexander Technique because of long-standing RSI symptoms. I thought that I had a medical problem, and I had been seeking a medical solution unsuccessfully for a number of years.
At that time I believed that the Alexander Technique was another medical option that I could try.
As I began to apply Alexander’s principles and changed some of my erroneous ideas about movement my symptoms disappeared.
My RSI problem had gone and yet I don’t now believe that the Alexander Technique belongs in the ‘medical’ category.
I now believe that my earlier search for a medical solution had been unsuccessful because I didn’t have a medical condition.
I was simply moving in accordance with unhelpful ideas and experiencing unnecessary physical strain as a consequence. My poorly conceived and inefficient movement behaviours had become harmful enough to generate symptoms that seemed ‘medical’.
As soon as I changed my unhelpful ideas, and the resulting behaviours, my general condition improved.
It looked like a medical solution but in reality I was just thinking differently and moving better.
The third reason that I find the Alexander Technique hard to describe is perhaps the most important.
Alexander himself summed it up.
He never called what he did the ‘Alexander Technique’. He used to refer to it as “the work”. He once wrote in a letter, “How can you name a thing that is so comprehensive?”
I find the Alexander Technique hard to describe because nothing I say ever seems to be complete enough to do it justice!
What I have learnt to do whenever I’m asked to define Alexander’s ‘work’ is to answer the question afresh each time. I take what I know and believe about the work and I give the best answer that I can give today.
So what is today’s answer?
The Alexander Technique is a set of principles and processes that anyone can use to help them move or perform more easily and effectively so that they can achieve more of their potential.
And that is good enough for today!