Richard: “I wanted to be a doctor first, then a teacher.”
“I couldn’t do the chemistry to become a doctor. I took a few years out to travel. I got a job as a driving instructor. Ended up doing it ten years. I got incredible back problems sitting in the car all day. I just happened to bump into an Alexander teacher and he offered to help me.”
“My father used to say half-jokingly, if you want a day off work, just say you have back problems, because nobody can say you have or have not. And even if you have, nobody can do anything about it.
“That turned out to be the case when I got back problems. At one stage, I couldn’t work with it. I tried pretty much everything. The orthopedic surgeon wanted to operate and take the three lower discs out. My father said don’t. The physio made everything worse. Then it was the chiropractor and osteopath. I tried about 50 different therapists, including metamorphic technique, reflexology, massage. Nothing sorted the problem out.
“Then when I did the Alexander Technique, they looked at how I was sitting and found I was sitting way over to the left, because that’s what you do when you teach people to drive. When I realized that and corrected my sitting, the pain started to leave. Within three months, I was pain free.”
Luke: “How were you able to make a living from the Alexander Technique?”
Richard: “I was trained in Devon, in the UK. There were maybe 8,000 people there and there were about 35 teachers because there was a big training school of 36 people.
“So I came out and everyone said, you’ll have to move away. You’ll never get any work here. I didn’t want to move away at that point. So I just went around to every single adult education center in the vicinity, about 12 places, and they all said, yeah, we would like an evening class.
“Within two months, I was working more than full-time.”
Luke: “How did you learn to teach group classes?”
Richard: “I soon learned that you can’t just get somebody up and teach them the Alexander Technique in front of a room full of people. That just doesn’t work. I divided people into fives and had them watch how each one of them would get up from a chair. And then show them how much the head was going back and the shoulders were coming up. And then gave them a demonstration of how to get up for themselves without the head going back. They were impressed and a lot of their neck and back problems started going away.
“Another session I would teach them lying down in semi-supine. Another session we would go through breathing and I’d do the whispered ah. A lot of people who came for a six week course started coming for individual lessons. I saw the adult education not as teaching them the Technique but as advertising and showing them the possibilities of what the Technique could do.”
“I don’t use jargon. I don’t use words like ‘inhibition’ and ‘direction’ and ‘primary control’ because people don’t really connect with them. It’s like a computer expert talking to a layman about gigabytes and the rest of it.
“People are talking about posture. In the Alexander world, we don’t like to use that word because it’s just physical, but you do have to talk their language and use words like ‘posture’ but then explain that posture is much more than physical, it’s also emotional and mental.”
Luke: “So how did you come to start a teacher training course?”
Richard: “I’d been teaching for ten years. I saw a lot of teachers coming out of the training courses without the confidence to go out there and teach. They were just using Alexander jargon and confusing people. I wanted to do something different. I felt that the teacher training courses hadn’t changed that much since Alexander taught his own course. While I’m quite conservative and I want to keep the principles Alexander taught alive, I wanted to teach people in a more modern way. Pretty much everybody I taught is out there teaching.”
“Because of all the problems out there in the Alexander world, I’m organizing an international conference on how to promote yourself and to teach better.”