Sometimes I can feel quite guilty about giving Alexander Technique lessons. People come to me for a lesson in how to apply the technique for themselves, to receive the hands-on guidance that enables them to come up more to their full height and stature, to become more centred, better balanced, to breathe more easily, to be more agile and move without stiffness and pain; they come for sessions to benefit themselves and they believe quite rightly that I am here for them. But actually I am here for my own physical, emotional and health benefits, as I benefit from every session I give as well as enjoying the satisfaction of helping others. This is all aside from any business considerations.
When someone decides to train as a teacher of the Alexander Technique one of the main reasons will be that they want more of a full-time involvement and to immerse themselves in a method that helps them feel better for themselves. Yes, we want to help others; to provide a service that helps others enjoy a better quality of life, but we can achieve those objectives by doing any form of personal service; we do not need to do Alexander Technique.
I remember one client (or pupil if I am to be more correct in referring to people who come for sessions) asking me, "Have you ever had this done to you? It feels great." I was surprised at first that she may think that I might have become a qualified teacher of this technique involving 3 years of full-time training without ever having experienced a lesson for myself. But I quickly appreciated what she said for her simple implication that she was 'having a good time' and enjoying the process of freeing up and growing in stature; where she experienced the process of walking, standing and sitting as being more effortless than she had previously known. I was most grateful for her feedback!
It is not widely known that in order for a teacher of the Alexander Technique to help bring about postural change in a client which involves them loosening, lengthening and widening in stature, that we must actually be 'doing' this for ourselves first! It is only by thinking in the right way so I release unnecessary tensions and lengthen in my own posture that this quality becomes suggested via my hands-on guidance. The stronger my own thought and wish for myself to to loosen and expand in stature the greater is the stimulus in my hands that communicates the desired quality to another. All the intellectual knowledge and understanding about the Alexander Technique one can get from books etc stand for nothing when it comes to giving sessions to others if it is not being applied by the teacher him or herself at the very same time. The more I apply the technique for myself, the greater benefits are experienced by my clients. This is why I like to be very busy because I do my best work when I am so active, while naturally avoiding over-doing it as exhaustion can be quite detrimental. It is a delicate balance. Trainee Alexander Teachers are told that when they are giving hands-on lessons in this technique, if they are starting to feel tired, they should have stopped 10 minutes ago!
The hands-on guidance that we give during Alexander Technique lessons is not a mechanical pushing or pulling, nor is it massage with our hands, but a sensitive and thoughtful process. It is through our awareness as teachers and clear mental thinking can we bring about changes in ourselves and in others. When the experience is repeated and when the 'pupil' learns to think correctly, the new way of standing, moving etc becomes more ingrained and permanent and they learn to maintain it for themselves.
So you can see, if I am working on a client or indeed many clients during the day by giving them Alexander Technique lessons, I am actually doing it for myself first and foremost. It is only by applying the principles myself do I have anything to offer others. So if my clients walk out after our session feeling calmer, freer, taller and as though they are lighter than air, how do you think I feel after seeing a great many clients throughout the day? By 7.00pm I may be a little tired but if I have been applying myself well to this technique, it will not be from standing all day or by physical or mental exhaustion as the technique I use helps me sustain myself throughout the day. If I've been working well, I walk out feeling better and healthier than I walked in.
Maybe now you see how I may at times feel a little guilty? I have such a good day!
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882 American essayist, poet and philosopher