Within days of my first Alexander Technique lesson, I was experiencing so many dramatic changes in my body – most spectacularly a gain in height of almost an inch – that I just knew this strange new process was something I was going to pursue as deeply as I possibly could. I scheduled regular lessons and immediately set out to read everything I could find on the topic.
I managed to get a couple of F. Matthias Alexander’s books from the library and prepared to plunge right in. And almost immediately fell soundly asleep!
This happened every time I started reading one of the books.
There was something about Alexander’s writing style and my inability to grasp his ideas that pretty much soured me on his books.
This continued into my 3-year Alexander Technique teacher training course in London. Whenever it was time to discuss “The Books” I’d discretely slip out for a nice cup of tea at a nearby cafe.
After I had been teaching for a few years, I finally read them – aloud to myself, cover to cover, as part of a voice project inspired by my work with the Tomatis listening therapy Method. That turned out to be a valuable exercise on many levels, particularly the discovery of so many gems of wisdom tucked away in unexpected locations.
Still, it didn’t occur to me to recommend the books to my students.
It’s now some 30 odd years later and twice in the past week I’ve been forced to reconsider my position.
First, Jane Avery, a student of the Technique in Nova Scotia, posted a wonderful account of her experiences with Alexander’s work on Face Book, including reading Alexander’s second book, Constructive Conscious Control (CCC) early in her lessons.
Here’s the start of what she wrote:
I remember when I first began my lessons six years ago and, later, embarked on exploring AT literature. Of F.M.’s books, I started with ‘CCC’. Alexander’s words filled me with a new kind of anxiety; not the dreadful variety I’d been used to living with and which had driven me to AT in the first place, but the sort that awakened excitement and possibility. I knew at last, after decades of seeking anchor in superficial pursuits, practices and useless or harmful ‘cures’, that I’d finally found my fit. This was IT for me. It clicked. F.M. and I were kindred spirits, although he was, of course (and remains), so obviously a genius unparalleled. (You can read her entire posting here.)
A day or so after reading this, I did a podcast interview with my friend and colleague John Macy who had recently read through all of Alexander’s books, including two he took with him and read every day while on vacation in Europe. John is definitely a good time kind of guy!
In the interview, I asked if he ever recommends Alexander’s writings to prospective students and he said, “Yes, Use of the Self.” He went on to give several compelling reasons which you can listen to in the interview:
So…whether you’re an Alexander Technique student or teacher who hasn’t explored Alexander’s writings – or have never had any experience with the Technique and would like to learn more about his discoveries – consider taking the time to explore at least some of his writings. Personally, I would recommend starting with Use of the Self. It’s the shortest and most accessible of his books.
And, should you happen to share my earlier narcoleptic reaction from reading them, you can always use them as a safe alternative to sleeping pills.
I’d love to hear about your experience!