Alexander Technique Lessons for Individuals and Groups

AMS offers lessons both for people who live locally to Ferreirola, as well as attracting many people who live further afield. Most local people choose to have a lesson either weekly or fortnightly. For those who come from further afield, it is more normal to have a few lessons over the course of a few days, or arrange a Personal Programme or come to a Summer Course.

People visiting La Alpujarra find it an ideal opportunity to try Alexander Technique, without having to sign up for a course of lessons.

Most people choose to have an individual lesson, but it can be of enormous value to work in a group. Together the group can learn from and support each other

Length of Lessons and Prices

Lessons can be taken individually, in groups, or in introductory workshops:

Individual Lessons

The price and length of lesson depends largely on the pupil's financial situation. For those who consider themselves in the well-paid category, a 45-minute individual lesson will cost 35 euros.

Shorter, cheaper lessons are available for those less well off. The shortest individual lesson offered is half an hour, and the maximum length, usually 'Alexander applied in activity', will be an hour.

Lessons for Groups and Introductory workshops

Cat normally recommends a maximum of 5 or 6 students for an Introductory workshop, and 2 or 3 pupils for ongoing weekly or fortnightly group classes. Each pupil usually pays 15 euros

Contact Cat Jary for details and to arrange individual or group lessons, a Personal Programme, or to reserve a place on a Summer Course.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander technique is a simple and practical method for learning to move more freely and easily, just as nature intended. It is a process of re-educating the mind and body to release excess tension and let go of unhelpful habits and, in so doing, discover a new balance in the body.

As a result, we can not only move more freely, with less pain or discomfort, but also feel much lighter, breathe more gently, feel more relaxed, sleep better, and have more energy for life. The technique is, in fact, a powerful tool for personal change.

The Alexander Technique is not a treatment, nor is it a therapy, nor is it a “quick fix”. Rather, it is a way to become gradually aware of the muscular tension we have built up in our bodies over years of stressful living. This tension often starts in childhood, and in later life can cause pain, illness, and injury; releasing it helps us make the most of who we are.

Who is the Alexander Technique for?

The technique is for anyone experiencing pain, tension, discomfort or difficulty in moving, but also for anyone who wants to feel less stressed and more comfortable in their body, or simply wants to get more out of life.

The technique can, for example, help you if:

  • You suffer from common ailments such as arthritis, migraines, hypertension, sciatica, insomnia, or breathing problems
  • You are anxious, have panic attacks, or even are depressed
  • You have back ache or stiff neck and shoulders
  • You have repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome
  • You become uncomfortable when sitting at your computer for long periods
  • You are experiencing pain after having had surgery or injury
  • You are a singer, musician, actor, dancer or athlete and feel you are not performing at your full potential, or want to avoid injury, or improve your coordination, balance and spontaneity

What Happens in a Lesson?

In an Alexander lesson, we explore the following principles of the Technique, as described by F.M. Alexander. What these principles mean in practice for each individual pupil will become clear, as will the terms themselves if you are not familiar with them.

  • Stimulus and reaction
  • Awareness
  • Force of habit
  • Psychophysical unity
  • Faulty sensory perception
  • End-gaining versus means-whereby (attending to the process)
  • Inhibition and prevention of the habitual reaction

Stimulus and Reaction

"You are not here to do exercises or to learn to do something right, but to get able to meet a stimulus that always puts you wrong and learn to deal with it." F.M. Alexander

During the sessions, a combination of observation (on the part of the teacher), awareness and inhibition will be worked with in order to help the student identify their habit, recognize when they start functioning according to their habitual way, and give them an experience of doing things without totally resorting to the usual habit. In Alexander Technique a teacher’s hands are in contact with the pupil’s body, initially preventing the pupil resorting to the usual option, or doing anything else instead.

Frequently pupils arrive, knowing what it is that they are doing to themselves. However, their method of solving this problem is to do the opposite, which after time doesn’t work either. Alexander offers a different alternative. Alexander teaches us to ‘stay with’ the original habit, not react to it or ‘correct’ it and then, by not reacting, wait, to see what other possibilities emerge. Later on, the teacher’s hands provide more a reminder framework of reference, as the pupil begins to apply what they have learnt.

In Alexander lessons, there is nothing to ‘get right’. By working with simple everyday activities, pupils become more aware of their psycho-physical habits and tendencies whilst standing, walking, talking, moving. Alexander Technique does not teach the student how to do these ‘properly’, but to present these activities as the stimulus, that then reveal teach the ‘self-method’ that the student has created and is employing in order to do any of these things. This ‘self-method’, usually based on faulty perceptions, automatic responses, familiarity and habits, will be gently challenged and explored.

By not re-enforcing these psychophysical habits, the muscular-skeletal system, the nervous system and the thought processes start to function together in a freer, easier and more effective and coordinated way, instead of building conflict, anxiety and associated tensions between these systems. As lessons progress, the pupil is able to carry on developing this process for themselves.

Alexander Applied in Activity

Many pupils find it extremely valuable to develop their Alexander work by applying it to a particular activity in their life, such as playing an instrument, operating a computer, driving or gardening.

At AMS, the majority of pupils who want to apply the Technique in activity are performers. Below explains Cat Jary’s process of working, using working with music and instruments as the chosen activity. However, it could just as easily be describing the process applied to any activity whatsoever.

The sessions will consist of:

  • Discussions about relevant topics such as physical problems being experienced with the instrument, performance anxiety, background about FM Alexander and the Technique
  • Practical Classic Alexander lessons: understanding faulty sensory perception, stimulus and reaction, end-gaining, awareness and inhibition
  • Practical Alexander work, as outlined above, applied to playing the instrument
  • Suggestions about how to apply this in one’s practice routine
  • Understanding how awareness of oneself in normal daily activities can help to reduce the force of habits associated with skilled activities
  • For many musicians an instrument provides a huge stimulus, which a musician can end up reacting to in all manner of ways, few of which are often helpful in achieving the desired result. Frequently they lead to discomfort, pain, doubt, anxiety and frustration.

Alexander Applied to Playing Instruments

Here is the chance to explore deep-rooted habits and reactions to instruments, often based on fears and anxiety which can result in physical pain and tension, and low confidence.

Initially the level of stimulus with the instrument will be reduced to a level where the nervous and muscular systems of the student are not overly activated, ie instead of playing a full concerto, the student will be asked to play a few notes. This will reveal how the student ‘uses’ themselves at the instrument, both mentally and physically, which starts to explain to the student what they are doing to themselves which could be contributing to the problem. This echoes Alexander’s own self-exploration, as described in his book ‘Use of the Self’, where he starts to ask the all-important question: ‘What is it that I am doing to myself that is causing this problem?’

By reducing the level of stimulus with the instrument in this way, the student has the opportunity to recognize what their reactions are to it, what their anxieties are, and how the nervous and muscular systems are affected. Gradually, as each new level of stimulus is introduced to the student, they develop the tools in themselves to not enter their usual pathways and reactions, and to learn to inhibit these familiar responses. After that, this work progresses at a pace where the student can cope with the next level of stimulus without the habitual reactions taking over.

By not re-enforcing the habits, the muscular-skeletal system, the nervous system and the thought processes start to function together in a freer, easier and more effective and coordinated way. Instead of building the usual conflict and tension between these systems, musicians experience improved physical coordination, mental clarity and focus, and their general level of confidence grows. As the musicians become freer, the music begins to flow, touching both musician and listener at a much deeper level.