What to expect and other FAQ's
How do Whole Bodied services work and how is the Alexander Technique taught?
The core service that Whole Bodied offers to individuals are one-to-one lessons in the Alexander Technique. Over a course of these lessons, you will be introduced to concepts and practices that expand your awareness of the functioning of your nervous system, muscular system and skeletal system. You'll learn to restore optimal poise, balance and ease in overall functioning. As you progress in your study, you'll find that what you're learning applies to all areas of your life. Just as study and practice in a new language enables you to understand and speak the language easily without thinking, so does study of the Alexander Technique result in the principles being applied in the activities of your life on an ongoing basis.
Free introductory group classes are available monthly, and for a limited time we are also offering free one-on-one consultations. Specialty group classes are sometimes available.
For more about the Whole Bodied approach, click here.
What happens in a lesson?
Lessons are taught in a low-tech environment with a chair and bodywork table, or outside or on location at a workplace, sports activity, etc. We will always begin with a conversation about your goals, problems and questions as well as how your lessons are progressing. Your teacher will instruct you with verbal and manual hands-on guidance to approach movement differently, helping you to observe how your body is working. You will learn to recognize habit patterns that may be interfering with ease and flexibility and you'll learn how to discontinue them. No special clothing is needed -- normal street attire is appropriate, and you remain clothed at all times, with the option to be either barefoot or in socks.
There are generally two parts to a lesson: activity work and table work. During activity work, we will look at the activities of your every day life (like sitting, standing, walking, speaking and reaching, as well as the activities special to your life, like running, playing basketball, performing Shakespeare or working at a computer), learning how to perform those activities with greater ease and efficiency. During table work, you will have the opportunity to more easily experience the body's muscles in a neutral state while you lay down on a lightly padded table, on your back with your knees bent. Here, your teacher will help you recognize and release any unnecessary tension you may be holding, promoting an enlivened sensory awareness and quieting the nervous system. You are an active participant: your eyes are open and conversation takes place.
Throughout both activity and table work, you will learn about yourself in both a conceptual and embodied way. We will attend to the dynamic pattern in your entire body. In every part of a lesson, our goal is to help you sense what you do to yourself -- as you do it. In between sessions, you will practice this on your own.
What is expected of me?
You are an active participant throughout the whole experience of a lesson, and between lessons it is your responsibility to practice what you learn. It's important to realize that an Alexander Teacher is not doing things to you, but instead with you. An Alexander Teacher never forces your body, instead making gentle suggestions with words and hands to which you may consent. This has the amazing implication that everything that happens in a lesson is ultimately powered by you and your thinking, even if it feels like things are happening in your body as though by magic. In short, you are responsible for yourself, which is both incredible and difficult.
Because the Alexander Technique is a technique for life, do not feel like you have to show up to a lesson in perfect condition. Life includes stress, injury and negative emotion as well as ease, health and joy. If you show up with whatever capacity is available to you on a particular day, you will be doing your part in learning. If you are contagiously ill, we will work with you to reschedule.
What should I expect of the experience?
For a full list of the benefits of Alexander Technique lessons, click here. In addition to those, there are a few things you should expect.
First, you should not experience discomfort or pain in lessons beyond what you may already be experiencing. If you do, please tell your teacher so that adjustments can be made.
You may, however, feel weird. Strange feelings in a lesson are not only normal but they are welcomed, because when something feels odd it means that you are experiencing yourself in the absence of your habit. One consequence of habits is that our nervous systems become used to them, and can over time provide faulty sensory perception about them. Part of lessons is re-tuning that perception so you can more accurately sense yourself.
In general, you will leave your lessons feeling lighter, more free, more grounded, less tense, more alert, and sometimes taller. It is not uncommon (but not universal) for students to experience emotional responses that seem to come from nowhere, such as anger or sadness; this is normal, usually fleeting, and lessons are a safe space to experience feeling. It is also not uncommon (but not universal) for students to experience sudden changes in sensation, such as seeing or hearing more clearly, or to experience momentary light-headedness and other passing sensations. Remember that you can always talk to your teacher if you are concerned about something you are experiencing.
Is this bodywork, physical therapy, or mental health counseling? Is it an exercise regimen?
In short, no. The Alexander Technique is fundamentally an educationally method taught by a certified teacher. Although the Alexander Technique often has therapeutic benefits, these occur as a byproduct of genuine learning about yourself. Although hands are used, they are gentle, "listening" hands that provide information and suggestion of direction rather than manipulation of the tissues. It's also worth noting that although your posture will no doubt improve with lessons, the Alexander Technique is concerned with dynamic movement and use of your body, not with rigid, static positions. The Alexander Technique is also not an exercise regimen (although it can certainly be applied to one to ensure safety and ease).
If you are coming to lessons primarily motivated by a medical condition, you may wish to consent to coordination of care with your physician, which will allow us to keep them informed of your progress in lessons and them to keep us informed of changes in your condition.
If physical or mental problems emerge in the course of lessons that are outside our professional scope, we will offer you a referral and discuss if continuing lessons alongside other professional services makes sense for you.
How do I know that an Alexander Technique teacher knows what they are doing?
For information about evidence supporting the Alexander Technique itself, click here.
Alexander Technique in the United States should be taught by a teacher certified by the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT), which follows the international standards of the profession. These teachers have completed 1,600 or more hours of training over a minimum of three years in an AmSAT-approved training program which maintains a five-to-one student/teacher ratio. They are trained in careful visual and kinesthetic observation to be able to determine the source of movement problems, and are also trained to be able to communicate lightness and expansion of movement through the kinesthetic sense using their hands. They learn teaching skills that encourage learning in a non-judgmental, supportive atmosphere. They also study anatomy, the writings of F.M. Alexander (the originator of the technique), and literature and research by scholars of the Alexander Technique and related fields. Teachers often bring other special expertise into their lessons as well (such as how Graeson brings in his training as both an anthropologist and a stage improviser). To maintain membership in AmSAT, teachers must also earn continuing education credit.
How long are lessons and what is the cost?
Lessons at Whole Bodied are 50 minutes scheduled in one hour blocks. Whole Bodied offers lessons for $95 per along with discounted packages of lessons. To see our current offerings, click here. Medical insurance in the United States does not generally reimburse for Alexander Technique lessons, but you may choose to inquire into yours. Your Healthcare Flexible Spending Account may also be an option to pay for your lessons with pre-tax dollars.
Whole Bodied is committed to serving people regardless of their ability to pay, especially students, teachers and members of marginalized groups (such as LGBTQ people, people of color, people with disability, etc.). If you would like to take lessons but are unable to afford them, a sliding scale can be discussed.
How long will it be before I see results? Do benefits wear off when I stop?
Each lesson will bring new insights you can apply immediately. After your first lesson, you will have a good sense of if the Alexander Technique is a fit for you. Within the first 6-10 lessons, you will probably notice that what you are experiencing in your Alexander Technique lessons is carrying over into your daily life. (A British Medical Journal study found significant, lasting relief from chronic back pain after only 6 lessons.) As you continue and your understanding grows, you will be able to apply what you've learned to a wider range of activities. Instead of a quick fix with a fleeting effect, lessons result in gradual and long-lasting change that you can carry through the rest of your life.
How long should I take lessons to get the full benefit?
Most people find a series of twenty to thirty lessons, once or twice a week for three to six months, to be what's needed for it to become incorporated into daily life. Like learning a musical instrument or a foreign language, time is needed to fully integrate new skills. That said, people often find benefit in fewer or more lessons and are encouraged to take lessons according to their own tastes. You can always take a break and return to lessons, even years later.
Where can I read more about the Alexander Technique?
The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique is a very comprehensive website dedicated to information and links about the Alexander Technique. The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique is the original governing body of teachers of the technique founded in the United Kingdom, and the American Society for the Alexander Technique is the United States affiliated-society. Both have good resources to explore.
If you are looking for an introductory book, we recommend Body Learning by Michael Gelb or How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live by Missy Vineyard. (Full disclosure, these are Amazon affiliate links which support Whole Bodied.)