By Cole Goings
What is Alexander Technique? If you’re like me when I first started working at Alchemy, Center for Healing Therapies, you may not know. In order to better understand it, I interviewed Dr. Rob Falvo, a teacher of Alexander Technique here at Alchemy and head of the percussion department at Appalachian State University.
Rob explained to me that Alexander Technique is based on noticing excess tension so that you can “break the chain of how you normally do things” to let your body move naturally. We all are conditioned and go about our daily lives moving habitually. “How you are conditioned to think is how you move.” While I took notes, Rob pointed out that I was unconsciously raising my right shoulder, thereby putting unnecessary strain on my body. There’s no specific posture when it comes to Alexander Technique, it’s a practice that places emphasis on the process rather than the end result. When you are conscious of the process the end result takes care of itself. Alexander Technique is not a technique at all but rather a way of paying attention, a walking meditation.
I was curious what an Alexander Technique lesson entailed. Rob was kind enough to walk me through one, explaining that it typically begins with a basic understanding of how the body moves naturally and how we typically interfere with it. With an interest in this work, you will change the way you do things thus moving with more ease and lightness. In a lesson, the teacher can place their hands on different areas of the body, for instance, the shoulders, and interfere with the tension that the student is holding thus allowing the shoulder to lengthen out from the body. Afterwards, students have described their shoulders as easier, lighter, longer, and found that they can breathe more fully. Rob demonstrated by taking my arm and lengthening it out from the body, shifting my body into a more upright state, allowing my shoulders to relax themselves into a natural position. Sessions typically start in a chair, eventually transitioning to walking, while some lessons are given on a massage table. Alexander technique is noninvasive and the lesson is completed with the client fully clothed.
Falvo has been taking lessons in Alexander Technique for 24 years and teaching it for 10. I asked him what brought him to Alexander Technique. “Pain did.” He was hurting from all the end-gaining (going for the end result without paying attention to the process) he was doing and all the fear he had while he was performing, teaching music, and living his life. He found that taking Alexander Technique lessons not only relieved the pain but that his mind was more at peace. He found the Alexander Technique as a “life changer”. Rob shared that due to Alexander Technique “life is typically easier.”