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Taking it in Turns

As a teacher in training, my 4-day a week 3-hour class consists of work at the chair from the course director, practice on the procedure we’re learning, a table turn from the director or another student, and reading that pertains to our term of study (sometimes a dive into AT history, sometimes a practical application). In my course this happens four days a week, and we have year-round class with breaks between terms (thankfully we have Mondays off so I can go home for an occasional weekend!). The goal is 1600 hours of instruction and practice to qualify for graduation and a national certificate to teach.

The Alexander Technique is a hands-on method of letting students experience length and width in the body or a new way of moving that makes more efficient use of muscles and bones. To facilitate that we study lots of anatomy, particularly the function of muscles and bones working together to move. One of the first things to learn about the Alexander Technique (AT) is the make-up of a lesson: work in a chair and work at the table. We call these “turns”, and in each 40-60-minute lesson a student would have one of each.

During a chair turn the teacher may take a student through several movements: sitting and standing, inclining forward in a sitting or standing position, tipping a chair or rolling a physio ball. These moves are exploratory with the goal of identifying patterns of movement and giving the student an experience of doing movements from positions of mechanical advantage. The table turn is a chance for the student to lie down on a massage table with knees up and feet on the table while the teacher gently lengthens muscles. It’s very relaxing, and students sometimes fall asleep. At the end of a lesson, the student usually reports feeling light, tall, and relieved of tension. The folks at Science Animation (Sci Ani) have just introduced a great video about the Alexander Technique that’s simple to understand and very informative. You can check it out here.

Actually, there’s quite a bit of science behind the Technique, and teachers in training are required to take a rather intense AT Science course with Tim Cacciatore and Patrick Johnson. Along with Rajal Cohen and Ian Lorem, these four scientists do extensive work both studying and publicizing the science behind the Alexander Technique. They share their findings at

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