How to Learn the Alexander Technique? Contrast and Hone.

My blog today has a culinary theme, or at least a culinary metaphor. It should be pretty clear from my other blogs that the Alexander Technique is all about learning. But people tend to have very rigid ideas about what learning means. Usually, it’s being told a fact and memorising it. Or maybe being shown the right way to do something, and then doing it that way.

Both are good learning techniques, but very limited. I don’t want to be restricted that much, and I don’t want my students to be restricted either.

So, where to look for other models of learning? Well, how about the world of brewers, vintners and olive oil producers? (that was what you were thinking, wasn’t it??) It seems that(*):

“Brewers and vintners learn by exposure, gradually honing their focus and deepening their awareness. By sniffing and contrasting batches and ingredients, they learn to speak a language of flavour…

Proficiency builds with exposure and practice. (Though not quickly; the average training period for a sensory panellist is sixty hours)…

The people who work with olives and olive oil, most of whom performed supernaturally well on the ranking… tests, were occasionally stumped by some of the most common and, to me, obvious aromas… Those aren’t important flavours in the day-to-day of the olive world, so there’s no reason for her to know them.”

Key ingredients of this recipe (sorry, taking a metaphor a bit too far there):-

• Gradually honing and deepening
• Focus
• Contrasting
• Learning to speak a new language of expertise
• Making something new and unusual increasingly important in your day-to-day world.

Have a guess where else you might find these same ingredients. Ok, not sniffing, and regretfully no alcohol. But the other elements are all there in the Alexander Technique. Focusing on movement, actions and activities. Contrasting the different decisions you make, and the results of those decisions. Honing your thinking by repeating tiny steps many times. Making this process increasingly important in your day-to-day world.

(*) All quotes are from “Gulp, Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” by Mary Roach, pages 17 and 24. It’s a fascinating book if you’re not squeamish.
Photo by Supermariolxpt via

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in Alexander thinking, everyday life, improvement, learning

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