The Education Of An Alexander Teacher

He was already five minutes late to give a free lesson to his chiropractor friend, when his phone rang. The number was not familiar to him but he answered anyway.

The street was busy and noisy and the man’s voice was hard to hear.

Finally, he got the message. His car was blocking the neighbor’s car. Could he move it?

At this time was more than a mile from home.

He gave the neighbor directions to his spare key and the neighbor reluctantly agreed.

Two minutes later, the phone rang again. The neighbor can’t open his car door.

“Just jiggle the handle,” he said.

He was sweating and anxious now. Almost ten minutes late for his appointment and his sloppy parking job had come back to haunt him and to damage his relationship with his neighbor.

“OK, I’m in,” said the neighbor.

He walked into the chiropractor’s office covered in sweat and looking like a lunatic.

“Do you want to clean up?” asked the doctor.

He did. After four small cups of water, he washed his face and was appalled at how the slightest movement of his hair exposed vast swathes of pale scalp.

He came out and sat down as the chirorpractor finished his chicken-soup lunch.

He felt more sweat pouring down his face and wondered if it would look too bad if he made another beeline for the bathroom. He decided to stay seated and to free his neck.

His phone buzzed. He ignored it. A minute later, he checked again. There was an email from his neighbor. He couldn’t start the car. So he put it in neutral and pushed it to the sidewalk so he could get out.

“So how many treatments have you given since you get certified?” asked the chiropractor.

He was taken aback because he didn’t think of them as treatments, but more embarrassingly, he’s only had a few students for the past month.

He decides to include all his lessons with practice students and replies, “About 50.”

Finally, they go to a consulting room and he has the doctor get in and out of a chair. As he does so, his head tips back, almost touching his spine.

“There are more joints in the neck than anywhere in the body,” he says, “and when the neck is tight or compressed, that sends ripples of compression throughout the body. If the neck is compressed, the body can not be free.”

“OK, got it,” says the doctor, and stands up and sits down while trying to hold his head up.

Somehow they move to the table after a few minutes and the chiropractor pulls out this traction and the Alexander teacher lies on it as the doctor says he recommends his patients do this for ten minutes a day.

The Alexander teacher is not happy with the lack of support for his head and he feels it tilting back on to his spine.

They swap place. The Alexander teacher adds a pillow so the doc will have some head support but the doc says this is creating “Forward Head Posture” or FHP.

The Alexander teacher has heard this term before and it sounds like FHP is a bad thing. The chiropractor talks about the ears being over the shoulders and how he feels compression with the degree of head support the Alexander teacher has provided so the Alex man whips out his phone and takes a picture and the chiro whips out a spine model and the Alex man tries to give the doc an experience of the head releasing forward and up but puts too much muscle into it and the doctor complains his lower back tightened up so the Alex man goes back to taking pictures and asking the doc if he thinks this is FHP.

What the doc views as ideal posture (as handed to the Alex man in a brochure), the Alex man sees as the head tilting back and down.

Ten minutes have gone by in an argument and picture taking and the Alexander teacher feels his session spinning out of control.

The chiro says the neck should tilt down 42 degrees.

“I’m all for the natural curves of the spine,” says the Alex man, who simply can not match the doc’s knowledge of anatomy.

The doc talks about dropping the chin and working this muscle and doing this and that.

The Alexander teacher tries to retake control of a lesson that has not gone as expected. He’s never worked with a chiropractor before.

“I just want you to do everything you want to do more easily and efficiently,” he says. “If you want to lie on traction or go swimming or pick lint off the floor, I’d like you to free your neck and to direct your head away from your torso and to think about your torso lengthening and widening, your legs releasing away your torso, your arms lengthening through your fingers.

“As an Alexander teacher, I’m not as interested in the position of anything as I am in the orientation. So let’s try getting in and out of the chair thinking the head forward and up. I know you have some specific positions you want to be in. OK. I just want you to have an upward orientation through your torso.

“So as you start coming down into the chair, I want you to stop. Hang out here. You don’t need to jiggle or to do anything. Just think about the length of your torso from your tailbone to the top of your head. Think about the width across your back.”

The doctor’s knees start hurting after a couple of minutes of this and the Alexander teacher is soon on his way home, tired, sweaty, frustrated but $25 richer (the doc gave him a tip!).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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