Wednesday, September 13, 2006
People write to me and ask how they could learn Alexander Technique on their own. You can always learn some on your own, but it is much faster to use an Alexander teacher, or any teacher, for that matter. By working with the Alexander principles, you can improve your own ability to observe yourself. The going will be slow - so be patient and persistent with yourself because habits can be fast, tricky and insidious.
In addition to some of the other resources mentioned on the alextech list, I've got some resources on my website that might be useful to the two of you. In particular, see "ideas" about what some of the principles are and how they work may be of use.
Alexander Technique Simplified
Without a teacher, you may not be able to figure out what to do about what you notice about yourself - your situation if you haven't had any example of where to go to create a new possibility. Knowing that, you can experiment.
Generally, when working by yourself without a teacher, you want to avoid crafting more habits, (even if you think they are "better" ones.) Instead, just subtract what you can perceive you may be doing that could be unnecessary. These changes might involve moving, but try to detour adjusting yourself to where you think is a "good" place for your body to be. Instead let yourself move, allow or discover where you might want to go to move away from what you know you don't want. If you have a sucess, go back to the steps that got you there - rather than trying to recreate or re-live the success.
The other problem without a teacher is deciding on how you're going to measure success. Sometimes you can be doing better, but because of an inability to sense differences that might create an improvement, you get stuck. Principles of AT suggest a new possibility: Measure the results of your experimenting by asking yourself, "is what I just did easier?" The reason this question is best is because what is new and easier can feel a little strange when you have gotten used to overdoing. Since you want to reduce what is unnecessary, less and less overdoing is what you want, so you want to get ready for feeling odd and ask yourself if this sort of odd is easier.
For what to use for experimentation, use the tiniest preparations of movement, as what you do when you begin to lift your instrument to play or as you being to think about moving. Create a definite starting point. Learn to describe what is happening rather than to decide whether you "like" the results or not.
Let the activity, or a mirror, or a recording, or another perceptual cross reference tell you what you are really doing. Such as on the flute, the quality of the start of the sound or how the pads' sound as they go up and down, or the new angle, etc. Or in walking, the sound of your feet, notice where your eyes are in relation to your stomach, etc.
When I began to study Alexander Technique, I was working a very repetitive manufacturing job that I could only do for five hours a day before exhaustion made me stop. Taking a five minute break every hour by merely laying down semi-supine, (whether I needed it or not,) immediately improved my ability to work to seven or eight hours. So taking a regular five-minute break is something you can do right away that may help you. In fact, just moving directly from semi-supine into holding your flute or doing whatever activity you want to improve may give you some valuable information about how you don't have to curl yourself up. (For those who don't know, semi-supine means laying on your back with your knees up. Or you can lie with your feet supported on a chair while your back is a flat surface.)
Perhaps you both may also learn a bit from an encyclopedia article I wrote on Alexander Technique? on Wikipedia...
Take it easy!