The best way to define it is to have people who study it share their experiences.
Here are some student experiences:
From people who have studied with me:
I asked Joshua for a Skype lesson because I was still having knee pain weeks after a fall down the stairs. I had previously had several Alexander Technique sessions with Joshua and found them useful, so I wondered if it could help with this. Joshua said he didn’t usually focus on recent injuries but more ease in my body could certainly benefit the healing process.
As we worked together, Joshua recognized that I was still holding onto fear from the fall. One of the things I love about working with him is that he can hear one thing I say and move seamlessly into an entirely new level of exploration. Together we discovered that I was actually afraid of the open space of the stairway. Joshua made a few observations and in moments I was standing at the top of my stairs, feeling fine.
After the lesson, I walked casually down the stairs, without tension, for the first time in weeks. And to my surprise, I walked outside my house with ease, and recognized that I had also been tense in that transition from indoors to the open yard. And more ease again inside the large grocery stores! I hadn’t even noticed I had been clinging to the cart since my fall.
It’s so interesting to me that I benefitted from my lesson with Joshua in ways I couldn’t have imagined, gaining so much ease where I was utterly unaware of the tension. Joshua works with knowledge, intelligence, intuition, and compassion. I highly recommend working with Joshua, and discovering an ease you didn’t even know was possible.
--L.H., Morehead City, NC
From people who have studied mainly with other teachers of Alexander's work:
difficult to describe in words all the things that I get from
studying Alexander Technique; here is an attempt:
I've noticed progressively greater sensitivity in how I use my body in everyday activities. These are sensations that were probably always present but remained beneath my awareness in my rushing about to attend to the bustle of modern life. Now, when I'm walking home from the grocery store with a heavy bag, or when I'm driving a car, or when I'm using a computer, or chopping vegetables for a meal, or shoveling snow, etc., I can better receive the feedback from my body about what muscles I'm tensing and where I might be using unnecessary effort. This awareness gives me choice over how to continue. Sometimes the awareness alone allows the body to automatically ease itself into a more effortless way to accomplish the same goal. Or I could consciously try other ways to do the task. Either way, it gives me a greater chance to do what I need to do while avoiding injury.
Studying the technique over a period of a year has been like taking violin lessons. I'm learning to improve how I perform the activities of everyday life with my body as instrument.
--Frank Lee, Electronics Engineer
97% of people with back paincould benefit by learning the Alexander Technique
Jack Stern, spinal neurosurgeon; quoted from: https://www.alexandertechniquebrighton.com/blog/back-surgeon-talks-of-the-benefits-of-the-alexander-technique/
Often I have heard students of the discoveries say, “I didn't know it could be so easy to ___” (whether it was walk, hold up a flute, be in relationship to another human being).
After a learning session in New York City I walked around the buildings feeling confident, feeling I could manage the city and its intensity, easy and safe; another time it felt like I was in rural Massachusetts, out for a stroll in the countryside.
Q: Is this like yoga?
A: Although there may be some similarities, I would say it's essentially different. There are many different kinds of yoga and I don't know most of the specifically, but if “yoga” is defined as a series of poses then this certainly is not that. The Alexander Technique is an altered coordination of the self in whatever activity we are doing, not a specific thing to do. In this way, it takes zero time to apply the Alexander Technique in our lives, whereas it takes time to do yoga.
If you love yoga, you can apply a preferable coordination of yourself in your yoga practice.
If you hate yoga, you may still love the Alexander Technique.
As a person who loves laziness and prefers efficiency, I love that the Alexander Technique takes me no extra time and is a doing-less, a reduction of effort.
Q: Is this posture training?
A: No. We are aiming at improving poise, not fixating on specific postures. Poise means coordinating ourselves in gravity. Many different postures can be appropriate in life, and there's a range of how we coordinate ourselves within any one of these.
Q: Is this mainly for back-pain sufferers?
A: No. It's intended to make everything in life better.
Back pain can go away, on the principle of “if you stop banging your head against the wall it will probably stop hurting,” (as one teacher has put it) although we are not treating the student, only offering education. But the usefulness of the Technique goes way beyond this to include greater access to clarity of thought, emotional resilience, productivity, availability of sensation and awareness of sensation, and heightened performance. Musicians play richer music when using themselves better—as my trainer Debi has said, adding that this is truly why she does the work.
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*shared with permission, of course