Alexander went through a process of exploration in which he found the cornerstone of the AT. He realized that he caused his own issue. He describes this process of discovery on his third book, ‘The Use of the Self’ (1932).
During an Alexander Technique three year training course, students read and discuss Alexander’s four books: Man’s Supreme Inheritance (1910), Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923), The Use of the Self (1932) and The Universal Constant in Living (1941). This careful theoretical study and hands-on experience enable the future teachers to acquire competence with AT.
Besides Alexander’s books, there are many other books from a variety of practitioners, allowing the correlation of their ideas with AT’s concepts. In the book, Spacious Body - Explorations in Somatic Ontology, Jeffrey Maitland says, “At a very fundamental level, we are our bodies. The body is not a thing that we somehow mysteriously inhabit, like a ghost in a machine. The body is the living shape or form of the self”1. Another good reference is from Carola Speads. She says about her approach, “There are an educational and a therapeutic component on my method because ‘the effect of the work is on the total person - not just the person’s body’”2. What Maitland and Speads describe is congruent with the AT concept of ‘Unit of Self’, that is, understanding individuals as an integrated organism. The physical and mental entities are one and in correlation with each other.
When Don Hanlon Johnson and Doug Moorhead describe embodiment practices and body-oriented psychotherapies in their books, they are describing something similar with the AT. According to them, “People find (in these practices) nurturance for the never-ending work of personal and social transformation”3. This kind of therapeutic work is intended to bring deeper engagement, consciousness, presence and development to our physical-emotional-mental-spiritual states4.
People come to the Alexander Technique with different goals. Some seek to ameliorate their physical pain (e.g. neck, back, shoulder, hip); others come to resolve conflicts. Some seek to improve their posture; others come to make sense of losses.
The Alexander Technique is the action or process of discovering what we are doing with ourselves that is causing or contributing to our pain and state of mind. In this process, we get more responsible for our present conditions and more involved in finding out new possibilities of using ourselves in everyday activities.
Therefore, the primary goal should be openness to self-discovery, in order to have a specific result. However, you might be asking, “Will the AT process help me to get rid of my pain?” Yes, the AT will help you if you stick to the process. There is much scientific research supporting its benefits. If you would like to overcome personal challenges, the AT can help you as well. There are many accounts of successful personal attempts to deal with emotional and mental issues.
However, it is important to highlight that the AT is a long-term process ‘made by a continual treading’5. It is not a fast-food service, i.e. ‘get what you need in 6 sessions’. The emphasis of the AT process is always on the learning process, rather than on the teaching technique. It ‘involves a dynamic tendency toward health and wholeness, encouraging autonomy and responsibility’6.
Whatever your goal when you take AT lessons, the key is to remember that the Alexander Technique is not about making corrections, but about making discoveries. And these discoveries will lead you to the desired results.
2 Speads, Carola. Coming to our Senses. Bone, Breath & Gesture-Practices of Embodiment. Page:28
3 Johnson, Don Hanlon. Body-Making. Groundworks-Narratives of Embodiment. Page:3
4 Moorhead, Doug. The Experience of Safety in Somatic Psychotherapy. The Body in Psychotherapy-Inquiries in Somatic Psychology. Page: 128
5 Google definition of Path
6 Behnke, Elizabeth A.. Piecing Together. Bone, Breath & Gesture-Practices of Embodiment. Page:325