Alexander Technique Teaching Styles and Specialties
The basic principles (see Key Alexander Technique Concepts) developed by F. Matthias Alexander continue to form the basis for Alexander Technique teaching today. Following Alexander’s death in 1955, some of the teachers he had trained established their own training courses. Not surprisingly, some important differences in teaching styles have emerged reflecting these teachers’ approaches to conveying the basic principles of the Technique.
Degree of emphasis on verbal instruction vs hands-on guidance
Some teachers rely heavily on hands-on guidance for the first few lessons so that new students can have repeated experiences of sitting, standing and moving with greater ease before they undertake the more challenging process of learning how to achieve this on their own. This approach has the advantage of showing the student what is possible at an early stage of learning and making it easier for him or her to direct (See Alexander Technique Terms) later on.
Other teachers feel it is important to encourage students to assume responsibility for making changes in themselves as quickly as possible, sometimes starting with the first lesson. While they will use their hands to reinforce what they are asking their student to do, they generally use them more sparingly to avoid dependency on the part of their students.
Narrow vs wide range of activities used during a lesson
Many teachers use a few simple activities –sitting, standing, getting in and out of a chair are common examples - as the framework for their lessons. They believe the skills a student learns to do these simple activities well – that is without creating harmful, habitual tension patterns - will naturally carry over to whatever else a student does. This approach stems in large part from Alexander’s discovery that an individual’s mis-use patterns tend to appear in everything they do and so effective teaching can take place using only a few simple activities as the framework of a lesson.
Other teachers have no hesitation in working with their students in a very wide range of activities, determined in large part by the student’s own work and leisure activities. They will work with a student using a computer, running, lifting weights, playing a musical instrument, chopping vegetables – pretty much anything the student wants to work on. These teachers believe that the carry over of self-directing skills from activities like standing up from a chair and walking to, say, singing or ice skating, does not always take place on its own and, further, that some activities pose specific challenges that have to be specifically addressed.
Amount of table work in a typical lesson
Some teachers who do not use table work, or use it very sparingly, often only in early lessons or if a student is suffering from physical or emotional pain and is in no condition to direct themselves in movement. A few teachers use table work almost exclusively. Most teachers fall somewhere in the middle, often devoting a portion of each lesson to table work while the rest of the lesson is spent working with movement.
Individual lessons vs group classes
The majority of teachers work primarily with individual students. They believe that a lot of hands-on work is important for effective teaching and that it is impossible to do this with a group of students. These teachers may occasionally offer an introductory class or series of classes, but they tend to see these as being useful for introductory purposes only.
A smaller, but growing, number of teachers work with individuals in group classes. They believe the key concepts of the Alexander Technique can be readily conveyed in this kind of setting and, indeed, that it offers a number of significant advantages. For example, they believe that students benefit tremendously from observing changes as they take place in other members of the group.
Alexander primarily taught individual lessons, although he also worked with groups when the opportunity presented itself. His teacher training course, like all training courses today, was carried out in a group setting.
Variations in scope of practice
Most Alexander Technique teachers work with a very wide variety of students. Some teachers find that the majority of their students group such as musicians if, for example, they happen to teach near a musical conservatory. Some teachers have a background in field such as physical therapy, the martial arts, or one of the performing arts, and this influences the kinds of students they see.
Some teachers work only with a particular group of individuals such as musicians, dancers, actors, runners or swimmers. A few teachers work primarily with children.