Why Online Lessons are Effective

The Alexander Technique is usually thought of as one-to-one manual hands-on guidance, often perceived as a therapy. But we're called teachers for a reason, and the history of the Technique shows that even the originator, F.M.Alexander, didn't always teach with manual guidance.


An edited transcript is available under the video.

Hi there,  So today I thought we would discuss why online Alexander lessons are effective.

Now, you may be aware that traditionally the Alexander technique is taught in person,

and obviously that there's a long tradition of that, but what many people don't realize is there are other traditions of which online teaching falls into that category.


I am an Alexander Technique teacher, and yes I do teach online, so I'm aware this may seem like a marketing spiel, and I'll just have to live with that, so be it, but I thought you might be interested anyway, and there's obviously some benefits to online teaching. Lockdown having been and gone, thankfully, hopefully, but that provides a good context of why teaching online was quite popular at the time, but it can still be useful, because there's not always a teacher near you.


So where does this all begin? The Alexander technique is traditionally thought as being taught in person one-to-one, usually with a lot of hands-on guidance, but that's not how it started. Alexander himself, of course, worked on himself, I think we should always remember that. The Alexander Technique started by FM Alexander, Frederick Matthias Alexander, working on himself, and obviously he wasn't putting hands on himself. And he always said of his work it was about thinking, he often talked about quickening the conscious mind. So if no one guided him with hands-on guidance, what did he do to improve his own coordination? Or use as we say in the Alexander Technique. How did he achieve that through thinking? That's the question we want to answer, to see if we can reapply that process he applied to himself, to show you how you can apply that process to yourself, and follow in his footsteps. I think one of the advantages of that for me personally, is you really own your own journey that way, I think that's a good thing to feel very empowered by that.


Now, not only did he not put hands on himself, it's claimed by his brother AR Alexander (yes they're known as FM, Frederick Mathias, and AR, Albert Redden) that FM never put hands on him, never taught him through hands-on guidance, only verbally. And then went on to become a well-known teacher in his own right, and in fact AR isn't alone in that because although AR went on to teach, having been taught by his brother verbally, Alexander himself didn't just teach AR verbally, he also taught predominantly verbally until he moved to London. So all his early teaching was pretty much done all verbally, and the interesting thing about that is when he came to London he came with a letter of introduction by  J.W. Steward Mackay, a well-known established surgeon of the time in Australia, and he provided FM with this letter of introduction to London because he was so impressed with his work.  I think he potentially even suggested he go to London and start promoting his work further a field, and  he did that on the basis that Alexander was teaching mostly verbally at the time possibly entirely verbally at the time.


So the Alexander Technique is born out of a verbal tradition actually, not a hands-on tradition. Later on Alexander did go on to develop a hands-on modality for various reasons, and it's fantastic to have both at our disposal, it doesn't have to be one or the other,  pros and cons of both. Maybe I could get into another video on the pros and cons, but at the moment I just want to talk about why why online teaching is effective, and it's effective because it's it's based on how Alexander originally taught.


Later on Marjorie Barstow, who was Alexander's niece and was one of the first trainees on his first training course, she went on to develop group teaching, and was very successful with it,  and although it's not quite the same there is that parallel with group teaching that you can't always be there with a hands on someone, you've got a large group of people. She started researching and looking into this way of teaching around  1971 because she was offered an opportunity to teach a lecture, I think at a drama school, I can stand corrected on that I'm not sure of the exact institution, and obviously she couldn't just work one-to-one, she had a whole class and she was asked to produce a curriculum and do a whole semester. So there's a lot of overlaps there between  group settings and one-to-one verbal or online, because although, yes you can go around and give some a bit of guidance, for the most part you're talking to a group of people, and you're asking that group people to make observations of other people, which is useful in itself. Group settings can be a nice environment to start learning as well because sometimes we can observe things better than others than we see it in ourselves, and we can learn from that. That tradition is well 50 years old,  over 50 years of group teaching that Marjorie Barstow really went out of her way to establish. In fact, FM Alexander had already started doing that, only in small amounts I think, it wasn't his main thing, but we know from Frank Pierce Jones, who was trained by AR, he wrote in one of his books how Alexander gave a group

chat, a group lesson, a mixture of children and adults, and seemed to be quite enjoying the experience, making jokes, and not feeling in any way that he was he was doing a disservice to his clients. It wasn't something he did much of I believe, but he did do it, he didn't frown on the idea if he was prepared to do it himself.


So there are many ways to to teach the Alexander Technique and there are pros and cons for both, and all. So that is why I don't think you should feel you're missing out by having Alexander lessons online. If you have the opportunity to see someone in person it's always wonderful to take the opportunity,  and you can mix it up as well, there's nothing wrong with doing that. I've certainly had clients do that, certainly through lockdown I had clients that started with online lessons and then when lockdown ended we started doing in person lessons, which they love, but because of convenience sometimes we would still do online, because they might have actually been on the other side of town to me. I live in London,  if they're in South London, I'm in North London, sometimes I go let's just do today online, the convenience, that's obviously one of the upsides. I think that pretty much covers what I wanted to say, that basically there's a long tradition of it, it's not a new thing to be teaching online, alright the online mechanism is new but the process of teaching verbally is certainly not new at all,  well  established by the the man himself, Alexander. So don't feel like you're getting short changed by having an online lesson.

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Dr. Joseph Weissenberg (Monday, 09 January 2023 16:52)

    Hi Adrian,
    well said. You are doing a great work in stopping the thinking one approach is better than the other. I appreciate your comments and insights of the Alexander Technique. Keep rolling.

    A very well done view to put the tradition in perspective.
    Best wishes

  • #2

    Adrian Farrell MSTAT (Monday, 09 January 2023 17:23)

    Thanks Joseph, appreciate the feedback and support.

  • #3

    Adrian Farrell MSTAT (Monday, 09 January 2023 19:15)

    A colleague contacted me to point out I had my Marjorie's mixed up. Barstow did pioneer group work, but it was Barlow who was Alexander's niece.