Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Online Alexander Technique Classes - Are They Worth It?


Alexander Technique & Touch

Hands on...Hands off

The Alexander Technique often is associated not with the actual principles behind it, but with the skilled, gentle touch a teacher traditionally uses in Alexander classes to clarify the Technique's ideas for students. Yet historical records suggest that Frederick Matthias Alexander did not incorporate much touch regularly with pupils until approximately 10 years into his teaching career.


Until COVID-19 created an enormous need for Alexander lessons to exist virtually, most instructors (like me) avoided teaching online. We feared blurring the line between Alexander Technique and distinct modalities like Somatics, movement therapy, exercise, Bodywork, and alternative healing traditions. Without experiencing someone in 3-D, without access to the information that touch affords both teacher and student, we feared lowering our own professional standards and practices, confusing students about "how to do it," diluting the work, and negating what the Alexander Technique has to offer as its own Field. We simultaneously acknowledged that many people don't have access to an Alexander teacher due to geographic location, resources, or disabilities.



What is the Alexander Technique?

How is the Alexander Technique Learned?


The Alexander Technique is as much a high-level mindfulness practice as it is about the body. It is something you learn (like the way you learn to play an instrument) and is best learned in a series of 1:1 lessons with a certified Alexander teacher. I've found that Small Group lessons can be effective if taken in conjunction with private lessons. I write about how to choose a teacher and what to expect from your first lesson in another blog post.


One of my jobs as an Alexander teacher is to encourage students to experientially understand and take on what we do in class as a self-development practice that they can put to use at any time and any place they choose. Educator John Dewey calls the Alexander Technique "Thinking in Activity." We always are in activity, but not always "thinking:" we are not always aware of ourselves or accurately aware of our actions. For a student (in-person or otherwise) to transform their Alexander class experience into the personal Life-skill and tool it was intended to be, they must commit to applying what they learn in Alexander class to their real life between lessons. They must apply it without the help of a teacher's hands. They must take responsibility for themselves.


Bottom line: you can be guided toward self-actualization and autonomy, but it's important to understand that no one can learn those goodies FOR you.


During my 3 years of training to become a certified Alexander Technique teacher, my instructors typically used touch to teach me. Their touch was invaluable in communicating what they observed and wanted me to learn. And it was reassuring and felt good! But random Friday mornings they'd also tough-love it, either talking us trainees through procedures (no touch) or challenging us to talk each other through them.


Those Master teachers were guiding me to prove to myself that Mr. Alexander's ideas worked (period!), and that while an instructor's hands could illuminate learning how to apply the Technique to myself and help me progress, I needn't rely on their touch. In fact, to depend on touch from a hierarchical source actually was to disempower both myself and the Alexander Technique itself.


Once I became a teacher in 2006, I'd take some in-person private students through the "talk without touch" challenge during their classes. With only my voice guiding them, they experienced first-hand the power they had to help themselves by pausing and re-thinking how they reacted in movement.

To this day, my pupils are delighted and surprised by their own competence when the metaphoric training wheels come off.



The Benefits of Online Alexander Technique Lessons


One benefit to virtual lessons is that it's crystal clear to students that they're engaging in an active Self-study/ educational process (not a passive therapeutic one), and that it's up to them to explore, practice, and improve using F. Matthias Alexander's discoveries themselves. Another benefit is the use of Zoom and its perks. Zoom allows us to record your lesson (if you wish), which means you can review and practice with your lesson as often as you like. During sessions, I screen-share anatomy illustrations, short videos about movement, and other visuals to help you better understand how the body works and facilitate your learning and improvement. Students enjoy being able to see in-the-moment changes as they apply my verbal guidance to the activities we examine. Afterward, I email the recorded session plus supplementary material. People get a kick out of comparing previous lesson videos to recent ones, observing their own progress.



Whether teaching in-person or online, Alexander Technique teachers are excellent observers of human movement and reaction, so much of my work involves teaching people: 

  • how to observe themselves, heighten their Awareness, & sustain it

  • how to say "no" to or pause during their own reactions (physical-emotional-intellectual) 

  • how to re-direct out of their reactions to find ease & balance

  • how to practice what they learn in class

  • how to refine the way they use their bodies in every-day movement in order to feel & function better 

  • how to constructively direct themselves out of harmful patterns of posture/ movement/ thought (even in the moment)

Conclusion

There is no substitute on Earth for intelligent, caring, thoughtful human touch. It also is easy to become overly-dependent on the feel of a teacher's hands and lose sight of the fact that Alexander Technique work is a personal practice. F.M. Alexander used touch (and talk and writing) to communicate his Technique for the last 40 years of his career. And I absolutely want you to try in-person lessons as soon as you are able. 2-D has its limitations and challenges.


Until then, quality online Alexander Technique lessons can offer students empowering support in the Covid here-and-now, as well as provide you the opportunity for new insight, connection, experience, and development. On Zoom, we'll explore ways to improve how you move, function, and feel by waking up your awarenesses, using your mental capacities and F.M. Alexander's ideas.


I currently offer in-person lessons, observing NY State Guidelines for Health and Safety, as well as online Alexander lessons)

The Alexander Technique works, if you work it.

Hands On

Hands Off


What have your experiences with online vs. in-person lessons been? Good, Bad, Indifferent?

Drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you! info@NYAlexanderTechnique.com

(347) 220 3660

41 Union Square W
New York, NY 10003
USA