Two things I’ve read recently about the Technique have struck me. The first was the report by the British Medical Journal that:
“Six lessons followed by exercise were about 70% as effective as 24 lessons.”
The other was the claim by Alexander Teacher, Jeff Hall, that:
“We are selling benefits that exist so far up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that there is a very limited number of people who will ever be attracted to it.”
In my view, the chief benefits of the Technique can be summed up as:
1. Lessening of pain or discomfort
2. Increased awareness of self
Virtually everyone who contacts me is looking for a lessening of existing pain or discomfort. Very few express any immediate interest in increasing their awareness of self.
Naturally, after even a few lessons, an increase in awareness is inevitable, as it is that that hopefully leads to a lessening of their pain or discomfort. Most people, in my experience, accept the need for this modest increase in awareness, but don’t become enthused to the point of wanting to continue lessons for its sake alone.
However, for some, increased awareness of self, once the initial pain or discomfort has lessened, becomes the prime focus for their continued interest. This was certainly the case for me. I presume it’s true for most people who go on to become teachers.
I imagine those who benefited from 6 lessons in the BMA survey, but were unable to gain much more after 24, found their awareness didn’t take long to increase to the point that they were able to stop doing what had previously caused them pain or discomfort, but that they lacked the motivation to continue beyond that point.
Considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which he expressed in the form of a pyramid, avoidance of pain or discomfort would be found close to the base, in the sections marked ‘physiological’ or ‘safety’; whereas increased awareness – as the primary focus of attention – would probably be restricted to the apex, marked ‘self actualisation’.
Clearly, as Jeff says, we are selling a benefit that ‘exists far up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’; but we’re also selling another benefit that is at the other end of his scale, which asks far less from a student in terms of time, money and application, and is, in most cases, far more relevant to their immediate needs.
Traditionally, the Technique has been marketed as a tool for awareness, with the likelihood this would help ease discomfort. It might make more sense if it was phrased the other way around, emphasising the benefit to be gained rather than the means of gaining it.
If we accept the BMA report, it is clearly unnecessary for everyone to have ‘a course’ of 24 lessons – or more – before they are able to benefit from the Technique. What we teach has a reputation for being an expensive and long drawn out process that requires a great deal of hands on work in order to be learned. Although this may be the case for those who want to explore the subject in depth, it is off-putting and unhelpful to those who don’t. If diminishing returns sets in fairly early on, and the BMA result suggests this is the case, why do we persist in emphasising otherwise?