Is it okay if you change? (or, where did Jen go…?)

Back in the mists of time, when I was first starting Alexander Technique lessons, my teacher asked me a question that I have come to think of as absolutely fundamental. “Is it okay if you change?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I answered, actually meaning no, not really. She smiled, and carried on with my first lesson.

And I changed. Sometimes in ways I liked, and often in ways I either didn’t initially like, or in ways that were surprising to me. But I changed. And I keep changing.

Change comes naturally to the peace lily in my teaching room.

Is it okay if you change?

This question is a standard opening question in introductory lessons in the Interactive Teaching Method (my training background), and with good reason. It gives the teacher a very good idea about the current mindset of a new pupil. FM Alexander himself said that fewer than one in a hundred would be interested in his work (UCL p.659, 1997 Irdeat complete edition), and this question lets me know where my new pupil stands. Are they ready to do Alexander’s process? Have they reached a point where they recognise that they are stuck in a habit hole, and that they need a new tool to help them out of it? How scared are they?

Is it okay, really okay, if they change?

Alexander’s work will change you. You will change the way you think, and change the way you move. You will find greater joy in the tiniest of everyday activities. You will have more energy. You will get more done. Occasionally, you will be brought kicking and screaming against the illogicality of one of your most dearly-held beliefs. And it will be okay.

You will change. Positively, definitively.

It isn’t just the student who changes; your teacher changes too. Because the Alexander Technique is a continual process, there is no end point to how far you can change and improve. This is a great thing: it means that there is always something new to learn, and always a new ‘better’ waiting for you.

My own process of change has been steep in the past few years. Since pandemic lockdowns in 2022, I have experienced a massive amount of change, some of which necessitated me stopping blogging in order that I could attend more fully to my own needs. I have changed homes, changed workplaces, changed AT teacher associations, lost some teaching posts and gained others, and watched my son settle himself in an undergraduate course in a new city. Some of that change has been (is) hard and scary. But it has all been worth it, and has all ultimately been positive. I am a better teacher and a better human being for making these changes.

It was okay to change. In fact, it was more than okay. It was necessary, positive, healing, and has led to genuine contentment.

So I can promise you that I understand the full implications of that opening question. I have felt, and continue sometimes to feel, the apprehension that you may have at what change may entail. But I can promise you that change is worth the time and effort.

So. Is it okay if you change?