I am frequently asked "Just what is the Alexander Technique all about and why should I be interested in taking lessons?" If one is curious about the Technique he or she may study the teachings and writings of Walter Carrington, director of the Constructive Teaching Centre in London and F. M. Alexander's partner. It was during one of Walter's classes a number of years ago that I first heard him use the words - 'Leave yourself alone with the intent of arriving at your proper shape and at your full height'. Of course I was quite familiar with this notion (if not the exact words), as I had enjoyed the experience of countless Alexander lessons and read many books and papers on the subject. But the meaning, the application, the essence of the concept had always been a bit of a muddle. For whatever the reason, Walter's words that particular day rang bright and clear and a new and remarkable pathway abruptly opened.
Learning to leave ourselves alone - precisely what we come to the Alexander Technique to discover. From our very first lessons, we are taught that if we don't interfere, we are perhaps able to realize the best of our physical, mental and emotional resources.
Of course, in order to agree to leave ourselves alone and not hinder our best use, we must be willing to consider the possibility of change. Our habits, our usual reactions to things, are very much a part of us - we've been practicing for a long time. We have come to rely on our habitual way of thinking and conducting our lives without taking much opportunity to consider whether there are useful alternatives. It's here that we might encounter difficulty. Things may have gone along quite well for the most part so what possible reason is there to make the considerable effort to think about change? Perhaps the answer lies in our consideration of ourselves if we ask the question - 'Am I functioning at my best and fulfilling my potential and, if not, how might I get there?'
If one is willing to ask this question, he or she is at the starting gate and ready to get on with the thoughtful process of considering where the winds of change might lead. Alexander called this process 'inhibition' - the decision to not proceed with business as usual. The choice to say 'no' is a difficult one. To abandon our reaction to a particular stimulus such as an order or suggestion, question or demand, to embrace the possibility that saying 'no' is not a fault or a failure, does not respect the normal or familiar pattern for many of us. We are trained and socially expected to respond quickly and certainly; we may feel that we are wrong if we do not. Alexander referred to this as the 'too quick and unthinking reaction'. However, in embarking on the study of the Technique, we are giving ourselves permission to consider our decisions and our methods of dealing with the complexities of our lives. It's risky business as, along the way, we are likely to encounter feelings and understandings not experienced for a very long time. However, with a willingness to experiment and a healthy curiosity, the study of the Alexander Technique becomes a captivating and rewarding experience.
As a teacher and especially as one who trains others to take on the responsibility of teaching, I am firmly committed to 'Leaving ourselves alone' as the foundation of Alexander's work. Without it, without allowing ourselves to touch that wonderful, graceful part of us, nothing else will work well. Armed with the knowledge that with consciousness and motivation we have the ability to do our best, we arrive at the spirit and vigor of the Alexander Technique.