(Much of the following has been taken from Chapter 4, “The Alexander Lesson” in Fitness Without Stress by Robert Rickover. Links to additional descriptions of the Alexander teaching process and to photos and a video of an Alexander Techniqiue lesson can be found at the bottom to the page.)
You can also listen to a growing number of podcast interviews by senior teachers about how they approach teaching a first Alexander Technique lesson.
When I speak to new pupils on the telephone before their first lesson, I find they often have questions about what will go on during the lesson and about the teaching process itself.
What Not to Expect
For a start, you don’t remove your clothes. Nor is any kind of special clothing required – though as table work often forms part of the lesson, women pupils usually feel more comfortable wearing slacks, or jeans, rather than a skirt.
Alexander lessons are not painful. There is nothing physically aggressive about the work. On the contrary, it is a process of allowing the pupil to release tension and the harmful habits that were responsible for it – at the pace that suits him or her, individually.
What Does the Teacher Do?
During the lesson your teacher will be observing your posture and movement patterns. She will also supplement the visual information in a very important way by using her hands, gently placing them on your neck, shoulders, back and so on. The teacher is using her hands in order to get more refined information about your patterns of breathing and moving.
To help her with this, she will probably ask you to perform some simple movements – perhaps walking, or standing up or sitting down in a chair – while her hands are kept in easy contact with your body.
At the same time that the teacher’s hands are gathering information, they will also be conveying information to you. The teacher’s hands will gently guide your body to encourage a release of restrictive muscular tension.
Naturally, teachers vary somewhat in their approaches to teaching. Just like any other group of professionals, there are variations due to differences in personality and style of training. Some teachers may talk and explain more at first; others prefer to spend most of the time during the first lessons simply helping you to get a new experience of ease and flexibility. Similarly, some teachers emphasize a few, fairly basic movements, allowing the effect to carry over into all your activities, while others prefer to work with you in a wide variety of applications.
How Long Are Lessons – And How Many Will I Need?
A lesson usually lasts between thirty and forty-five minutes. It will probably take a few lessons for you and your teacher to get an idea of how quickly you will make progress. As with learning other new skills, a lot depends on how far you want to take it. The majority of students come for a few months, taking between twenty and forty lessons during that period and then, perhaps, come back for refresher lessons, or groups of lessons, from time to time.
At the start, pupils are usually urged to come for lessons fairly frequently, perhaps two or three times a week if that’s at all possible. This is because the new approach to movement, and to thinking about movement, which they are learning, is a bit unfamiliar at first and may need a little extra help to become established. Later on in the process, pupils often find they can continue to progress quite well with lessons spaced a week or more apart.
One of the best answers to the question “How long does it take to learn the Alexander Technique?” can be found here.
What About Group Work?
Some Alexander teachers have found that by working with individuals in a group setting, they can help far more people than would ever have been possible with individual lessons. Group work is as old as the Alexander Technique itself and experience has shown that under the right circumstances, it can be a very effective way of teaching.
What about Distance Learning?
In the past few years, a growing number of teachers have started experimenting with using Skype, Zoom, and other video distance learning platforms. Many of them have found it to be surprisingly effective despite the absence of hands-on work. Some have argued that it can be more effective that traditional lessons because it is clear right from the start that it’s a teaching process – not a therapy of any kind – and that it’s up to the student to experiment on their own between sessions. You can learn more about this development at the Alexander Technique Distance Learning Facebook page. You can also learn more and find a list of teachers who teach this way here.
Further Helpful Resources:
- Alexander Technique teachers describe typical first lessons (podcasts)
- What are some of the differences in Alexander Technique teaching styles? (MP3 conversation)
- Another excellent description of Alexander lessons can be found at Principles of the Alexander Technique – Chapter Four, “An Alexander Technique Lesson”
- Another excellent description of the teaching process can be found by clicking here: Teaching the Alexander Technique
- Pitfalls: The Disadvantages of the Alexander Technique explores some of the challenges involved in taking lessons.