North Bay Alexander Technique

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lessons should I take?

There are no specific number of required lessons (either minimum or maximum). However, the more one expects to see progress (in the way he knows or would currently imagine), the less likely any changes are to occur. One suggested guideline might be to take a series of lessons before making a decision as to whether or not they seem helpful. Consider the possibility of allowing the lessons to soak in over a reasonably long period of time. Many students, once they see the (unanticipated) benefits of lessons, tend to take them for years. Remember when we set a fixed limit and have a fixed expectation of a specific outcome, we are not leaving much room for anything else (particularly new experiences or the unexpected).

How long will it be until I see progress in myself?

When a student begins taking lessons, it is not unusual for expectations to arise. The difficult part is that if we anticipate a desired change, we may not see much else because we narrow the number of possibilities. By allowing one's self to be open (and acknowlege, but not become attached to expectations), the greatest possibility of observing something new will most likely occur. The key is that the changes we may observe may not be what we initially expected (because our viewpoint changes-if we allow it to change).

How soon will my pain go away?

The Alexander Technique does not offer any guarantees. Students who allow themselves to be at ease and to NOT become focused on an END result (pre-determined outcome) will most likely get more out the experience of lessons. In my own experience, the back pain I was suffering when I took my first lessons disappeared fairly quickly and has not returned since. This is probably fairly unusual (I would imagine). Other issues I discovered (about myeslf) along the way, which I could not clearly identify initially, have taken longer to work themselves out. Many of those previously unseen/unnoticed issues are still works in progress. One thing we can draw comfort from is that we have the opportunity to learn to minimize our interference with what has already worked its way into our system. In other words, we can learn NOT to further exacerbate our current condition (whatever that is) by not continuing to add to it.

Are there any exercises I can do between lessons?

Alexander was asked this question frequently. He refused to give "exercises" as one might normally think of them. In my opinion, the most useful "exercise" is to think about yourself whenever it occurs to you to do so (during daily activities), not make judgements about what is going on, but just notice what you are able to notice about yourself (thoughts and actions). If you feel compelled to "do" something, lie down on the floor with a book under your head with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor for 5-10 min. (or longer-perhaps until the need to "do" something subsides). This is commonly called "semi-supine" or "constructive rest".

Can I continue to do the activities I have been?

Absolutely. But, keep in mind that, at least temporarily, backing-off your current level of involvement in (or intensity toward) an activity may be extremely helpful in addressing the issues that arise within that activity (or at other times). Without allowing ourselves a break from activities, we may not be able to get as clear picture of what is actually going on (what we are "doing" in conjunction with those activities) that has contributed to our difficulties.

Should I bring my musical instrument to a lesson?

Many Alexander Teachers have students perform activities during their lessons as a starting point for hands-on work. My personal feeling is that an Alexander lesson should not be about teaching activities or performing. Why? because this is most likely what brought us to where we are (encountering difficulties and seeking help). A student can learn to perform activities from practically anyone. What makes the Alexander Technique unique is the possibility of NOT doing activities in the way we normally would (and seeing what happens when we exercise that choice). I feel that it is possible for a musician (artist, etc.) to make progress on their instrument without addressing that particular activity DIRECTLY (in the way one knows). During my 5 year involvement in the teacher training course at NCCAT, I NEVER worked directly on the activity of playing my instrument with my teacher. However, how I went about playing my instrument was completely restructured during that time. I did give myself the opportunity to back-off my daily practice time considerably, although I did not completely abandon practicing or performing since it was my primary means of income and earning tuition during my training. Still, the changes that took place were clearly observable to me and others physically, auditorily and internally. How? This is not an easy question to answer, especially since the changes that occurred happened so gradually, I didn't clearly identify them as they were happening nor did I specifically "order" anything to happen. Somehow, by beginning to leave myself alone, allowing myself to be at ease and by not trying to do too much, my nervous system sorted out what it did not need and I gradually began to stop interfering with my built-in coordination. Changes occured indirectly and unexpectedly over a long period (many changes are still in progress since I am a dynamic, non-static being). Am I finished? Certainly not. I have only scratched the surface. Each person's journey is unique. Some students choose to completely stop an activity while taking Alexander lessons. Some do not. I can't make that decision for anyone. Alexander work is about exercising choice. Everyone is free to make their own decisions.

What guarantees do I have that this will work?

None. If a student is willing and open to new ideas and experiences, the closest thing to a guarantee would be one of the "unexpected".

How do I recapture that feeling I had during my lesson?

It is probably best to just let these feelings and wishes go. Unfortunately, we can't recreate any experience once it has occured. If we have a nice feeling from a table "turn" for instance, leave it and move on. If we are clinging to the past, we may miss an opportunity to learn something new in the present. Keep in mind that the "feeling" was a result of many factors that lead up to that experience. One of these was the fact that a teacher had their hands on us and was guiding us. If we are alone, we obviously can't recreate that (especially since any guidance was based on what was occuring in a given moment). We are dynamic creatures. Alexander favored the idea that our "feelings" are not completely accurate (particulary when we are first beginning lessons). Therefore, we can't trust them completely. The "feelings" that we have are fleeting. The one constant for us is our ability to return to our thinking and guiding principles (inhibition and direction). That part of us has the best chance of being consistent if we allow it.

What should I do if my legs get shakey or if I feel wobbly during a lesson (or after)?

Although this may be disorienting, try not to panic. Barring any medical condition (which I am not qualified to diagnose or treat), the nervous system is most likely working out its own new sense of balance as we "let go" of unnecessary tension. These manifestations and unexpected occurances are quite common. In my opinion, waiting it out and allowing it to run its own course without reacting or trying to do anything about it (directly-in our normal way of "clamping down") might be a possibility to consider.

What should I wear to a lesson?

Whatever you feel comfortable wearing is fine. We are not doing anyting that one would not normally do in the course of daily life and casual, light activity. Tight pants are generally not the best idea.

What goes on in an Alexander Lesson?

I teach in a more traditional fashion than many Alexander Technique Teachers (in the United States) choose to teach. For me, a lesson is comprised of primarily two parts: "chair work" (standing and sitting) and "table work" (laying down). These two basic activities are things that everyone does every day in their life. By calling our attention to HOW we are going about these simple activities, we open up the possibility of learning something useful about ourselves that we may not have previously noticed. Working with a teacher also generally involves two important aspects: student-teacher "dialogue" (in the form of informal conversation which may include ideas about a variety of subjects relating to the Alexander Technique or NOT-which may serve as a distraction if the teacher senses the student is tense) and "hands-on" work (which involves a teacher placing his hands on a student's head, neck, back, arms and legs to gently and unobtrusively act as reminders and guide movement).

Why do Alexander Teachers refer to meetings with students as "lessons" rather than "treatments"?

Although the idea of being "treated" might be familiar in a different context (eg: dr. visit, chiropractic, massage, etc.), in the context of this work, we should not be waiting to be "done" to (acted upon) by a practitioner. Our intention should be to learn about ourselves. This is based on the fact that there is an exchange between student and teacher. This makes it possible for both participants to learn.

Why do Alexander Teachers refer to clients as "students" rather than "patients"?

See above. As teachers, we are not "treating" or acting upon someone in order to fix or cure a specific symptom. This is a learning environment with a dynamic and active exchange between student and teacher. One party has simply been practicing a little longer than the other. Fundamentally, the job of student and teacher is the same: to think about one's self in order to leave one's self alone (not interfere with one's built in energetic response to gravity etc.).

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