Alexander Self-Study Made Even Easier

Four ways you can teach yourself or leverage the lessons you're getting from teachers

by Joshua Myrvaagnes

I want to get the most out of Alexander lessons I can. I am very lazy, or impatient, so I want the most bang I can get for my buck. Here are some things that I've found really work well. Note--I've been as succinct as possible to save you time; you may want to reread these therefore if they don't immediately seem clear. I didn't waste words repeating myself. You can skip to roman numeral “I” if you want to get straight to the instructions.

I want to state that I am not a this time a trained Alexander Teacher (I'm thinking about training, for full disclosure, and I've had a two-week intensive and a weekend along with one year of weekly lessons and reading). I’m only an avid student. What I've written here is based on my own experience and limited by whatever flaws I have in my kinesthetic sense. Yet I think that it may be rather useful in some ways to students coming from a fellow student. (Alexander Teachers are a self-selecting group of people, who know how to communicate what they do really well to other people like themselves--other Alexander Teachers--and I have frequently heard them ponder how best to communicate what they do to the rest of the world. Also, I've heard that a disproportionate number of teachers at a recent conference were primarily kinesthetic learners, but you, the student, may be more visually or auditorily oriented. As a fellow non-kinesthetic learner what I've found may be helpful to others like me.)

I - Do What He Did--Then What Freud Did

1 Set up two mirrors as so you can see the side of your head and your neck (or as Alexander did, if you can). (I have a mirror over the sink on the left wall of my bathroom, and one on the inside of the bathroom door. by opening the bathroom door about 45 degrees I can see my side.)

2 Stand there and observe your use while talking to yourself. Say whatever you are feeling, or whatever you want to say, free-associating, out loud. (Note--the difference with what Alexander did is simply the verbal content; Alexander practiced reciting, but in this exercise the activity is simply free-associating).

My observations: I’ve gotten a lot of relief and observed many releases in my legs, hips, fingers, shoulders. It has really corrected my kinesthetic perception. Seeing myself in reflection has helped me calibrate my kinesthetic sense. One time, I became suddenly aware of something I'd been thinking frequently yet not quite noticing I'd been thinking, and what a drag it had been to keep thinking it. It was a great relief. Overall, it's felt MUCH better than sitting meditation with eyes open or closed.

I say it's "easier" than practicing recitation because I did not have a desire to practice reciting something, so to do so would have been more doing relative to what I would be doing anyway, rather than the same. For Alexander it was not since recitation was what he did anyway. Talking is something I do do. Reciting is a big stimulus; the thought "I'm going to recite now" has very different mental and emotional content from the thought "I'm going to say something now," partly because money and reputation are on the line with reciting.

II - Have your friend give you a bad Alexander lesson, and turn it into a good one

1 have my friend or another willing person put hands on me.

Note--this only gives me some release because I know (and my body's habits know) how to absorb direction from having had many lessons from trained teachers, and because I've read about the work. I doubt it would give much benefit otherwise.

Directions: I tell the person, "Put your hands on me and pay attention to what's happening in your own body-mind." I may need to remind the person to be aware of her/his own use. I get some things to release in ways I really want to.

III - Write Longhand

Another is writing longhand--if I focus on my use while writing, I can get some profound releases, and much much greater awareness of my kinesthetic sense. It's important to slow down enough to be able to feel the sensation of the pen moving along the page. If I'm journaling to process feelings and feel better, then it makes sense that the means whereby be consistent with this--and writing slowly, or with good use, is much more consistent with this goal than rushing. I may end up writing fewer words but feeling better--mission accomplished.

IV - Ride the Subway

The subway is your Alexander teacher too—especially when you can't find a seat and you're being rocked as you stand: you're receiving stimuli you can inhibit in response to, while observing your reflection in the windows. This gives calibrating feedback. Note--the shocks of a slowing subway car are almost always much too large to be really “useful” stimulus. When your teacher does that thing where she/he moves your standing position a bit forward or a bit back and your legs release into the floor, it's a much, much smaller motion than the train. But nevertheless, in the given circumstances, you have the option to practice thinking rather than being reactive. In a sense, the conductor of the train is giving you your lesson, and although she/he is not trained in the Technique, if you've had lessons you can to some degree turn a bad Alexander lesson into a better one.

This may need more explanation in another article.

I value an Alexander lesson, even from a teacher beginning her/his practice, at $200/hour or higher. If you use these tools, I'd estimate you're giving yourself $40/hour in value for the first three, $20/hour for the subway. I don’t believe too strongly in putting a number on things like this, but if I had to those are the numbers I’d put.


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