An important question when considering lessons, here are some things to keep in mind to help you make a more informed decision as you consider developing your own Alexander Technique practice.
Your Personal Goals Matter
The truth is that ‘how many Alexander Technique lessons’ largely depends on three factors:
Your own personal goals
The condition you are in when you start
Your practice of the material between lessons
These three factors all greatly influence how many lessons you may need to attain the result you’re hoping to achieve.
A First Lesson
Because the Alexander Technique is understood and communicated through direct kinaesthetic experience (our sense of body positions and tensions) it’s quite common that between 1-3 lessons with hands on guidance truly help people experience and clarify if the Alexander Technique if right for them. It can also help them determine if they’ve found a teacher that is a great match for their learning style and needs.
One thing to keep in mind is that it’s simply not possible to learn the whole Alexander Technique in one lesson. Instead, a first lesson can provide you with an embodied experience to help you decide if the Alexander Technique is a direction or skill you truly want to learn more about and have in your life. It can also be a simply fascinating and rewarding experience.
A common misunderstanding when considering the number of lessons is to view the Alexander Technique as a treatment instead of an education and practice.
When we think of treatment we think, ‘how many treatment sessions do I need to cure my problem’. For example, will it take ten physiotherapy sessions to cure my knee pain?
Education is different from treatment in that it’s about learning something new; and learning the Alexander Technique is similar to learning any new a skill. For example, it may take 10 lessons to learn how to play a basic song on the piano, or to learn a few conversational sentences in a foreign language, but this really depends on how much you practice in between lessons, if you have any previous background in the material or not, and to what level you want to perform at.
So is the Alexander Technique a treatment or an education? On the continuum of treatment and education - Alexander Technique lesson falls on the side of education.
Still, the truth is that the Alexander Technique is an education and practice with ‘therapeutic’ side benefits. Learning follows an educational approach; self-knowledge and skill development are always the main focus of any lesson (you learn how to organize your movements, posture, attention, and self-organization in action). The therapeutic benefits are a distinct by-product that show up indirectly as a part of the learning and growth process. For most people, these therapeutic benefits are the motivation for taking lessons. Often, as your skill in the Alexander Technique develops and you’ve worked past your the issue that brought the person to lessons, then the motivation for learning comes from performance enhancement, or from wanting to move towards personal transformation.
To use an analogy, learning the Alexander Technique is more similar to the piano example above than to the physiotherapy one. To learn the very basics may be all you want or need and so may only require a basic course of lesson (see below); while to gain more mastery of the instrument would require a whole different level of practice and commitment.
Specific Conditions: Back pain, Neck Pain, Parkinson’s, and Anxiety
One area where a guidelines exist on how many lessons to consider is back pain; research suggests that positive results have lasted over one year for people who took 24 Alexander Technique lessons. 6 lessons with consistent exercises (non-Alexander technique exercises) also had positive results for persons with back pain, but the results for 6 lessons didn’t show the same retention over time. For reductions in neck pain and associated disability 12 lessons have demonstrated positive results.
Students take lessons for a variety of other reasons that commonly include (to name just a few): Posture related concerns, anxiety and/or performance anxiety, stress management, and self-management strategies to assist with Parkinson’s. For these challenges a first lessons, then a basic course of lessons (see below) is recommended.
Side note: As a teacher I would caution potential students of falling into the limiting trap of viewing the Alexander technique as a treatment in which you go and have 24 sessions to cure your back pain. This approach greatly limits the benefits you can gain as it interferes with a focus on the learning process. Instead, try a couple lessons to see if you feel the technique is something you want to learn and incorporate in your life at this time. If it’s not for you then no problem, you can invest your time and energy somewhere else that might benefit you more at this time. If it is for you then great, dive in and develop your personal Alexander practice!
Over the years many students, through a basic course of lesson and self-application, have developed their own personal Alexander Technique practice. They’ve integrated the Alexander Technique into their everyday life and professional activities - and have resolved the issues that brought them to lessons in the first place while further enhance their own lives in the process. Learning is not rocket science, it’s real self-motivation and practice.
Here are some basic guidelines shared between many teachers:
A basic course of around 30 lesson provides most practicing students with the ability to practice the Alexander Technique with significant independence.
Depending on the condition they are in, 12 lessons can provide many people with a general introduction. This means that you’ll have experienced the Alexander Technique enough to generally know what it’s about, and will have started to develop some tools to integrate it into your life. If you’re highly self-motivated and practicing the technique in your life then you may have also started to make some real and significant changes for yourself in this time.
Most students report a frequency of 1 lessons per week a minimum for consistent learning during their course of lessons. When out more than a week most beginning students don’t seem to be able to keep their development going in an effective way. The general rule seems to be that in the beginning increased frequency can help with retention; later, increased space between the lessons can help facilitate independent application/ practice.
Students wanting to go even further, or those continuing to find benefit often continue beyond a basic course of lessons or do periodic ‘refresher’ lessons or mini-intensive. This is particularly the case for performers or people who travel for work.
The Teacher, and The Teacher-Student Relationship Matters
Over the years the Alexander Technique has seen a few branches of teaching styles in regards to how the technique is thought about and communicated to students. Some teachers are able to teach in different ‘styles’ to accommodate their students, whereas other teachers have a particular approach they find most beneficial. What’s important here is that when considering lessons you:
Learn with a certified teacher - regardless of ‘style’ this means they share the base level appropriate training and follow a professional code of conduct.
You enjoy working with and learning from this person. A great student-teacher relationship can make a large different in the rate of learning and retention. I always recommended taking at least a first lesson with a teacher to ensure you’re a great match before diving in.
Basic Guidelines To Make a More Informed Decision
To summarize, here are a few guidelines to help you make a more informed decision about your learning.
The number of lessons depends on your goals, how much you apply the Technique between lessons, the condition you are in when you first start, and how far you would like to take it.
People commonly take lessons for health related issues, performance enhancement, or personal transformation. The approach to all three is similar in that in all cases you learn to practice the Alexander Technique in your life and the benefits and specific goals follow as an indirect result of the practice.
1-3 lessons are recommended to start. Committing to this can help you determine if the Alexander Technique is right for you at this time and ensure you’re teacher is a great match for your learning style.
A basic course of 30 lesson can provide practicing students with the ability to practice the Alexander Technique with greater independence.
24 lessons is recommended to help with back related concerns with longterm positive outcomes.
An course of 12 lessons can provide you with a basic introduction, and (if you are a person who already exercises regularly) some basic skill to better self-manage issues associated with back and/or neck pain.
Most students report a frequency of 1-2 lessons/ week minimum for consistent learning during their course of lessons. In the beginning increased frequency can help with retention; later, increased space between the lessons can help facilitate independent application/ practice.
The story is that students of F.M. Alexander (the founder of the technique) used to take 30 lessons for 30 days straight to get right to it - they would then take refreshers or build from there as needed.
It’s common for students to continue to take lessons after their original concern has been resolved because they enjoy it and continue see benefits in other areas of their lives.
Consider speaking with your teacher to create a plan to start your learning, and remember that how many lessons you take is always ultimately up to you.
Learning the Alexander Technique can be a truly rewarding and life changing experience. Remember, the real lesson always starts when you leave the teacher’s studio and walk back into your life - it’s the your personal practice that drip by drip can make a truly incredible wave of positive change.