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An Alexander Technique lesson is instruction about how to release excess physical tension and restore natural coordination and balance.

In a typical lesson my teacher, Jano Cohen, gently guides me to sit or stand or move so that I am holding my body easily, without stress to my muscles. She uses a light touch of her hand that suggests to my body what muscles need to relax and what positions I am holding that need to be shifted.

It is very subtle and if it weren't for the dramatic difference as I release pain and tension, I would think that not much was happening. While I am standing or walking, Jano lightly touches the body part that needs to widen or lengthen or reposition in some way.

As she guides my body with her hands, she uses words to guide me as well. It amazes me. When I think the words, "I wish my neck to be free," my neck in fact becomes more free.

During the first half of a typical lesson, I am active. We might review how I hold my body when I walk or stand or when I get out of a chair. Jano is teaching and I am actively learning and relearning how to be with my body.

For the second part of the lesson, I am on a massage table and Jano works on muscles that didn't fully release in the active part of the lesson. I just relax and receive while Jano works.

When it's all over I feel relaxed, but focused, not spacey the way I often feel after a massage. And I have information that I can use every day to improve the way I use my body so that I feel freer and more comfortable in my body. Once Jano gave me a lesson in my house and helped me improve on the way my chair was adjusted, so my neck isn't strained when I sit at my computer.

Here are some typical words that most Alexander teachers use during a lesson:
    I wish my neck to be free
    So my head may move forward and up, so that
    My spine may lengthen, and
    My back lengthen and widen, so that
    My arms may lengthen and free, and
    My legs may lengthen and free, so that
    My neck may be free.

The following is an excerpt from a manual that will be published by my teacher, Jano Cohen, in the near future:
I wish my head to lead and my whole body to follow before, during and after the initiation of movement.
I may take up my full space/become my true size.
My occipital/atlas joint may free so that my spine may lengthen sequentially all the way to my coccyx
My jaw is an appendage to my head, and when at rest (centered, not in flexion, extension or rotation) in an upright position is in front of the first few vertebrae of the neck.
My jaw may release forward and down on its simple rounded joint as my head moves forward and up.
50% of my weight may be on my heels and 50% on the balls of my feet
My height may truly divide into two equal parts at my hip joints, not at the waist (which doesn't exist), so that bending forward from the hips happens by a rolling of the pelvis over the heads of the femurs.
I wish to inhibit the urge to lean back or forward with my upper or lower torso (or push the ribs forward or backward) - even if this changes my experience of center or balance.

Jano Cohen teaches in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. You can contact her at janocohen@juno.com

To receive names of Alexander teachers near you, contact:

American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT)
129 West 67th Street, New York, NY 10023. Phone: 212-799-0468

American Society of the Alexander Technique (ASAT)
Phone: 800-473-0620

Alexander Technique International
1692 Massachusetts Avenue, Third Floor, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
phone: 617-497-2242, toll-free: 888-321-0856

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