What is the Alexander Technique and how can it help?
The Alexander Technique is a method that focuses on developing an awareness of our ability to feel what is happening internally in order to create positive change in how we move, breathe, sit, stand, play an instrument, and engage with the world. It is a way of learning to reorganize and energetically redirect chronic patterns of tension and habits that have unconsciously become a fixed or static part of how we function in everyday life.
Not everyone interested in the AT work is in physical pain. Some people are attracted to AT because they are looking to improve performance and technique, manage performance anxiety, improve posture, or to develop awareness and attention. AT lessons are most frequently taught one-on-one, like a private music lesson, or in a small group setting. During a typical private AT lesson, the teacher uses verbal instructions and a gentle touch to guide the student. Much of the work takes place with a teacher moving the student in and out of the chair and the other part of the lesson is usually with the student lying face up on a massage-like table. A teacher can work with the student walking, singing, dancing, acting, playing an instrument, working at a computer or any range of activities. “Primary attention during lessons is dedicated to helping students improve individual general functioning. For example, there are some students who, when attempting to sit in a chair, brace their bodies and restrict their breathing. During a lesson, AT teachers may explain to students how they are bracing their bodies and then assist them, through words and physical touch, to find ways to direct and redirect the body in order to have an effortless seated and upright posture in virtually any situation.” (Mozeiko, 2011) The same scenario is applied when an AT teacher, who may or may not be trained musicians, works with students who sing, conduct or play an instrument.
Interested in starting Alexander Technique? Here are your next steps:
It is important to be honest with yourself about where you are in order to know what you can realistically achieve with AT lessons.
- Do you experience pain or tension while you sing/play or in the hours/days afterward?
- Does performance anxiety interfere with your performance rather than enhancing it?
- Has anyone every told you that you have poor posture or are you uncomfortable sitting for more than 30-45 minutes?
- Have you reached a plateau in your playing/performance?
- Does movement in performance confound you? Have you ever felt that your movements in performance are disconnected from the music or somehow feel inauthentic?
- Do you have a hard time being still? Do you often regret saying or doing something or do you have a problem with impulse control?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, and you are open to change, you might be a good candidate for AT lessons. If you are interested in lessons you can contact me directly or you can visit the AmSAT website teacher locator link where you can find a teacher in your area.
Once you have found a teacher, I recommend taking a minimum of six lessons. The quality and years of teaching experience of AT teachers can vary dramatically. The price of lessons can vary from $50-$200 for a 45 minute or hour-long lesson. Some teachers can offer a sliding scale to students or musicians, but the cost of lessons is not covered by insurance.
If you do not notice any changes after six lessons, try another teacher. Practice what you learn in the lessons and remember to be patient and remind yourself that you did not start to sing or play professionally after one lesson.
Mozeiko, K. J. (2011). The effects of participation in the Alexander Technique on female violinists and violists: A mixed-methods study. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Boston University.
This blog was written by Kristin Mozeiko
Make sure to check out Issue V of Center Stage Mag to watch our “Sit Down Session” with Kristin Mozeiko on the basics of AT, and read more about her personal journey with pain management and how Alexander Technique can help.