In a first lesson I like to have plenty of time so the student and I can have a chance to see if we will be comfortable working together.
We start off with a chat where I find out what has brought them to the session. Then I introduce some basic ideas and fundamental concepts in the form of a short talk. We’ll work with these in all future lessons. Next we do a hands-on demonstration lesson where the student gets to experience the lesson processes.
Recently, in a first lesson with a new student I was asked if I could skip the introductory talk and get directly to the bit where I tell them specifically and directly what to correct about their chosen activity.
I couldn’t do that.
Firstly, it’s not what I do.
Secondly it’s not the Alexander Technique.
We don’t simply learn a straight swap of the wrong movement for the right one. We learn a different way to think about and carry out all movement.
It’s the ‘moving method’ we’re relearning – ‘how we move’ more than ‘what we’re doing’.
Part of this includes learning to let go of doing things ‘our way’.
FM Alexander wrote that the major cause of the student’s difficulties is not a problem as such, but the natural result of going about things ‘his way’.
Don Weed writes in ‘Reach Your Dreams’ that even for students who are already accomplished in their own fields of endeavor, “one of the most important ways in which they achieve further success while doing the Alexander Technique is by learning how to let go of doing things ‘their way'”.
It’s new, it’s different and it works.
But only when:-
- We are prepared to change.
- We’re prepared to learn how to stop doing things the way we’ve done them in the past.
- We are prepared to take the time needed to do this.
For a moment, think about learning a new thing. What was the last thing that you learned completely from scratch?
Was it playing the piano, ballroom dancing, drawing and painting, golf, computer programming?
How long have you been learning it?
Have you now learned everything that there is to learn about it?
How long is it going to take before you’re finished?
That was a trick question because we’re never finished learning. There’s always something new to try. But how long was it before you could produce something at the level of a beginner? Or something intermediate, or advanced?
It’s the same situation with learning the Alexander Technique.
The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix.
If you’re experiencing difficulties, lack of achievement or even pain because of how you are directing yourself to make movements it would make sense to learn a different way to direct yourself to make movements. That’s one of the great things you can learn by taking Alexander Technique lessons.
If you’ve been thinking about movement a certain way and moving a certain way for 10 years (or perhaps your whole life), it might take more than 30 minutes to learn a new way to think and move and become accomplished at it.
How long will it take to learn and become accomplished? I don’t know! But that doesn’t matter because you will be on the path of continuous improvement.
A great thing about choosing this path is that when you feel like you’re not doing it very well – even when you feel like you’re seriously sucking at it – you will experience gradual, continuous improvement because the overall trend on the path of continuous improvement is that you are getting better.
If we make the choice to change the way we’ve always done things we’ll be choosing to learn something new. If we’re going to learn something new it would make sense to start at the beginning.
The student I mentioned earlier wanted to skip the beginning.
I understand. And I remember wanting to do that myself. Once I discovered that I wanted to do that with respect to learning the Alexander Technique I noticed that I wanted to do it in many areas of my life.
I wanted to skim through the basics, pick out the things that were directly relevant to my circumstances and apply them immediately. With the Alexander Technique that meant finding out how to stop the pain, discomfort and the lack of mobility that I’d been experiencing since injuring myself.
Basically I wanted to work on this problem in the manner I had been working on things for most of my life. I discovered that that manner was itself causing some of the pain and lack of mobility that I wanted to change – no, actually it was causing a very great deal of it!
Skipping the beginning was part of ‘my way of doing things’, which I had the opportunity, and the choice, to change. I did choose to change it and have experienced massive improvement in mobility, levels of pain and discomfort and clarity of thinking. I’m still learning and still improving.
That experience of ‘being a beginner’ included not knowing how to do something, making mistakes, not understanding, being confused, working things out and succeeding. The process of learning involved doing things over and over whilst gradually getting better.
Learning to apply the processes and principles of the Alexander Technique in everyday and specialised activities takes place over time.
The benefits we experience from this also occur over time.