As Alexander Technique students, we learn to do more, and do it better, by doing less. We learn to focus on a process rather than a goal, decreasing in over-activity as we improve in effectiveness. Rather than trying to do things in our usual way, we are taught to keep from implementing habitual means of achieving them and merely to envision an intention instead – i.e., we learn how to think in such a way that the action will do itself, similar to the way patients are trained to control prosthetic limbs with their thoughts. Rather than trying too hard to attain an end, we learn how to keep our anxiety to perform well from interfering with the outcome.
By implementing the principles of the Technique, we can use self-observation and self-modulation to heighten mental and physical awareness and to better integrate the body and the mind. An Alexander lesson, consisting of 15 minutes of preliminary discussion followed by a 45 minutes-long hands-on session, is an opportunity to experience an improved neuromuscular state. The teacher elicits expansiveness by reducing the student's excessive muscular tension, while providing gentle physical and verbal coaching on how to focus on attaining this state for oneself.
Through a process of mirroring, the student responds with subtle micromovements via unconscious mimicry. We can observe how the mind and body work together as the teacher helps us to sense and release compression in the spine, calming the entire system in the process. This serves as a reference point after the lesson, when we recall the experience on multiple levels, both consciously and unconsciously.
Using focused attention to effect a decompression of the spine as well as concurrent expansiveness in other bodily dimensions, we learn to activate our inherent support system, improving the entire body's dynamic patterns. Many AT students who initially attribute problems with their muscles and joints to structural and/or unchangeable causes can be surprised and encouraged to discover that we can make lasting changes in our pain, muscular tension, posture, and coordination. In this way we come to appreciate how dynamic and malleable the body actually is.
When we invest the time and effort necessary to learn how to make lasting changes in our physical habits, we can acquire the skills to continue our progress in maintaining our health and well-being long after lessons are over. (To get the most out of AT lessons, people should take weekly lessons for at least three months.) As we come to apply this more refined understanding to observation of ourselves and others, we can correct our counterproductive tendencies through increasingly precise self-modulation.
Some people find that, having successfully addressed the issue that first brought them to study the AT, they are interested in continuing lessons, sometimes indefinitely, due to their fascination with the process of removing inner obstructions and achieving personal integrity. Using our increasingly sophisticated skill, we can continue to attain greater expansion and connection both within ourselves and to those around us. In this way, the AT can have a profound effect on our sense of self, bringing us closer to realizing our full potential.