How Do I Learn?

“As soon as people come with the idea of unlearning instead of learning, you have them in the frame of mind you want.”
F. M. Alexander[1]

“Boiled down, it all comes to inhibiting a particular reaction to a given stimulus. But no one will see it that way. They will see it as getting in and out of a chair the right way. It is nothing of the kind. It is that a pupil decides what he will or will not consent to do.”
F. M. Alexander[2]

You learn the Alexander Technique by having one-to-one lessons with an Alexander Technique teacher.

In the lesson, the teacher uses her hands in a gentle but lively and expansive way to give you the actual experience of an improved co-ordination between the head, neck, back and limbs (the primary control) in simple activities such as standing, sitting, rising from a chair and lying down.

The important thing is not the activity itself, but the opportunity it affords for learning how we habitually interfere with our natural co-ordination in everything we do. To this end, the teacher will also give you verbal feedback and guidance to heighten your conscious awareness of the process.

The pupil’s responsibility is to “leave himself alone”; that is, to let the teacher move him without trying to help – by performing the movement himself – or hinder – by stiffening or collapsing and preventing the teacher from moving him. This is not easy, as it goes against the habit of a lifetime, but it is immensely rewarding, and even fun!

As you begin to grasp the principles underlying the Alexander Technique, you can apply them to whatever you do - from bending to pick up an object from the floor, to a complex skill such as driving a car.

The Alexander Technique can awaken our potential for lifelong learning and growth and our understanding of its principles can be continually refined.

How Many Lessons Do I Need?
We recommend a minimum course of 30 lessons, initially two or more times a week. (Alexander himself used to give his pupils five lessons a week, for six weeks.)

The reason for this is that we are all up against the habit of a lifetime. If the lessons are too far apart we quickly revert back to our old harmful habits and the benefits of the lessons are mitigated.

Also, learning the Alexander Technique takes time. You can compare it in some ways to learning to play a musical instrument. No one would expect to play a musical instrument well without a considerable investment of time. And you are a far more delicate, complex instrument!

What Should I Wear?
Wear comfortable clothing that allows for freedom of movement. Women will probably feel more at ease in trousers rather than a skirt. (Men will probably also feel more at ease in trousers!)

What About Group Classes or Workshops?
Group classes or workshops can be fun and provide you with useful information. However, they can only serve as an introduction to the Alexander Technique. In a group class or workshop, it is impossible for the teacher to give you the individualised, “hands-on” attention that you need. Therefore, if you really want to help yourself and experience the full benefits of the Alexander Technique, there is no substitute for one-to-one lessons.

In this regard, let us finish with a quote from Alexander, who wrote in 1923:

The mass is made up of individuals, and reliable sensory appreciation cannot be given on the mass-teaching principle or by precept or exhortation. This can be done only by individual teaching and individual work. Moreover, people who are massed together are apt to be governed by the "herd instinct," and we need to help man to evolve beyond that influence as soon as possible, and to this end we must have conscious and individual development.[3]

[1] F. M. Alexander, Articles and Lectures ed. Jean M. O. Fischer (London: Mouritz, 1995), p. 198
[2] F. M. Alexander, Articles and Lectures ed. Jean M. O. Fischer (London: Mouritz, 1995), p. 203
[3] F. M. Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923; 3rd edn, London: Mouritz, 2004), p. 97