When I first embarked on my training as an Alexander Technique teacher, I was feeling reasonably confident. I thought I understood the work pretty well, and thought that I would be ready to go forth into the world and teach in a few weeks – I knew that the training was three years, but I didn’t think that I had that much to learn. How wrong I was!

After a few weeks of training, which incidentally I loved, I found myself on occasion completely unable to rise from a chair into standing with the aid of teacher. Given that I have known how to stand up for many years, this was not a good development. I was trying very hard to allow the teacher to guide me into standing without using my legs to push, and though I followed the instructions I found that the harder I tried, the less likely I was to succeed.  

In my head I would be thinking, “the chair is too low” or “my feet are too far away from me” or “I’m far too heavy, there’s no way I can stand from here”, and to my horror I found that I was right, I couldn’t. So then I started observing other students very carefully to see what they did to rise so seemingly effortlessly from sitting to standing, and when I tried out what I thought I had observed in them, I failed miserably.  

This was becoming a bit of an embarrassment, and a source of great frustration to me, and one day I was relating my tales of woe to a teacher who I generally worked well with, when suddenly and effortlessly I found myself rising to standing. I realised then, in a flash,that I had been “trying too hard” and thinking too little. I had been trying to copy something, while having no faith whatsoever that it was possible, and I had prevented the very thing I needed - to think about my directions for my neck to be free, and for my head to lead the movement, and I had instead been stuck in thoughts that made free movement impossible.

Painful though this experience was, I learned an important lesson; in fact several. I learned that we have to trust the teacher if we are to learn anything; that certainty that something won’t work becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; that it is possible to try very hard to do something in a completely inefficient and inappropriate way; and that something new could only be learnt by relinquishing control. My early arrogance was followed by a hard-earned humility which was the beginning of my learning something from the training. When I look back, I see my training as a long beginning of a lesson in self-knowledge – often painful, and humiliating at times, but ultimately so very valuable.