Thursday, 16 April 2009

What are the "AT Basics"?

I've been pondering this question for a number of years and I now find myself in a position where I must decide which aspects of AT that I should teach to a beginner.

Call me "old fashioned" if you like, but I believe that, as a provider of a training service, I have a duty of care towards my pupils to ensure that they have at least been introduced to the basics within the first 10 weeks albeit that this might be pushing them along at a relatively fast rate. Only after I have covered the core principles will I slow down and deal with individual aspects in more detail.

A ten-week course currently costs £300 and in this "credit crunch" world, people want to get value for money in the services they buy. Imagine their reaction if after completing a short course, they compare notes with another AT pupil and discover that there are some key things that have not been taught. But what are "the basics" of AT? Here is my attempt at a list. It's not supposed to be exhaustive and it's in no particular order.

  • An overview of the Alexander Technique including a summary of FM Alexander's life, work and discoveries.

  • How to do the daily practice of lying in semi-supine

  • Standing and sitting in a chair: the role of the postural mechanism of the body and how habit interferes with it

  • Inhibition: saying "no" (to habit) in response to stimuli

  • Direction: the "mantra" of allowing the neck to be free so that the head can go forward and up and the back can lengthen and widen, widening across the upper part of the arms and the knees can go forward and away.

  • The role of the ilio-psoas muscles in influencing core tensions

  • Whispered Ah

  • Positions of mechanical advantage with "hands on the back of the chair" as an example

  • Using the wall to inform the process of releasing the knees into bending - a precursor to walking

  • Walking

  • Stooping, crawling and lunging

  • Going up on to the toes

  • The neural control mechanisms of the body: spirals

That's a lot of ground to cover in just 10 weeks but my question is this: which, if any of these things could you leave-out in a short course?

Given that most pupils won't actually tell you how many lessons they are going to take, in what order should these principles be taught?

I fully accept the principle that no two people are the same and therefore a prescriptive system can never be defined that would cover all pupils' needs. We should always stick to principle and deal with the body as a whole and not focus on individual misuses or undue tensions. However, it's my view that customisation of the teaching curriculum to address the pupil's individual needs should only be considered when the basics have been covered.

As usual, I would welcome comments, especially from teachers but also from pupils who have a view on this.