Gemma S. suffered from recurring headaches, usually associated with tension, either from situations or from her own thoughts. When she had her first lesson she proclaimed that it was impossible for her to relax as she had no concept of what that felt like.
To her great surprise, in just one lesson she experienced a release in her arms that was completely new and unexpected and she kept looking at them with wonder, as if she'd not ever noticed them before! Anyone looking from the outside would be hard pressed to sense any difference, and perhaps this is one of the key things about the technique - in order to appreciate what it really does, you have to actually experience it.
Gemma continued for several more lessons, and the improvement in her headaches was convincingly demonstrated around the time of the WOMAD festival in Reading.
She had been driving back to Oxford from somewhere south of Reading and was caught up in the huge traffic jams that happen around that festival. In all she was kept stationary for over four hours. As she sat there with no way of being able to do anything, she decided to think about her Alexander lessons, and practice what she'd been learning. She spent the next four hours doing this, perfectly comfortable. Finally the traffic moved and she was able to make her way home, and upon reaching her house, went straight out again and did some shopping. Here she met a friend to whom she related her recent experience, and the friend looked at her and said 'Are you OK? I would be wrecked after an experience like that!'
Gemma looked at her in surprise and then astonishment. She suddenly realised that her usual headache did not occur. She normally would have had a migraine after just 30 minutes of being stuck in a jam like that!
This story illustrates a key component of the Alexander Technique. Many people would perhaps experience a bad traffic jam and then have a headache - or some other stress related response - and most of these would say: 'the traffic jam gave me a headache'. But how many would be able to perceive the reality of the situation, and say: 'I was stuck in a traffic jam, and then in my response I gave myself a headache.'
Because the former scenario is the most commonly perceived reason for the headache, people don't know they can look deeper. Our society might offer condolences and 'understand'..., after all, everyone 'knows' stress causes headaches...
But in an Alexander Technique context, there is a gentle question that eventually always arises:
'Why am I doing this to my Self?'