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From Strain to Comfort: Robert Rickover’s Approach to Alexander Technique

From Strain to Comfort: Robert Rickover’s Approach to Alexander Technique

In this insightful interview, we sit down with Robert Rickover, a seasoned Alexander Technique teacher with over 40 years of experience. Robert shares his journey from metallurgical engineering and research economics to becoming a renowned expert in the Alexander Technique, and discusses the transformative power of this method for achieving greater ease and efficiency in movement. MysticMag has the pleasure.

Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and share a few details about your professional background?

My name is Robert Rickover. I’m an Alexander Technique teacher living in Omaha, NE. I’ve been teaching for over 40 years. Before that, I was briefly a metallurgical engineer and, for a longer period, a research economist.

For those unfamiliar with it, can you explain what Alexander Technique is and how it works?

The Alexander Technique is a method for learning how to move through life with greater ease and less unnecessary strain. It’s about allowing whatever you do to be more efficient and less likely to cause pain and discomfort. Essentially, it’s a way to improve your overall coordination and reduce unnecessary tension.

The technique is often taught one-on-one, one teacher teaching one student.  Some teachers also teach the Technique to groups. Traditionally, it has been taught in person, but in the last decade or so, there has been a shift, and many instructors, including myself, have been teaching it online. I find teaching online to be a more efficient way to convey the principles of the Alexander Technique to most students.

Can you walk me through a typical or most common Alexander Technique session?

That’s a difficult question because each lesson is tailored to where the student is at that moment. There’s no standard first, second, or third etc. lesson. Generally, at the beginning, I will emphasize a process called Body Mapping. This helps the student learn about key joints and structural aspects of their body. It’s a kind of very simple anatomy, focused on the student’s own body, not anatomy at a distance, the kind of anatomy you learn from a text book. This alone can often create significant changes in the student’s ability to move more easily and have an easier upright posture.

After that initial focus on Body Mapping, the really important thing I teach is how a student can learn to self-direct. My goal is to get the student to look after themselves without my help from me. I’m not interested in fostering dependency on me. I find that most students can achieve this quite quickly – often after 10 or 12 sessions, sometimes even less.

What is Constructive Rest?

Constructive rest is an aspect of the Alexander Technique that’s open for anyone to explore, even if they’re not taking lessons. It’s a position where you lie on the floor, usually on a carpet or yoga mat, with some support under your head. Your knees are elevated relative to your hips, which can be done by bending your legs and placing your feet flat on the floor, or by using something like a roller under your knees to keep them higher than your hips.

This configuration helps take as much compression off your spine as possible, making it a powerful method for alleviating strain. It’s simple, requires almost no equipment, and can make a significant difference. While most Alexander teachers and students use it regularly, you don’t have to be involved in the Alexander Technique to benefit from it.

Interested readers can find more information at AlexanderTechnique.com/constructiverest

You also host a podcast. What can you tell me about that part of your work?

My podcast has been running for about 13 or 14 years now. I wanted to create a way to reach people who might not be inclined to start learning about the Technique with a book or a lengthy article. People don’t have a lot of spare time these days, so I thought a podcast could be something they could listen to while commuting, cleaning the house, or doing other ordinary tasks.

The podcast has been surprisingly popular, with a higher number of downloads that I ever anticipated. So it’s become a great way to introduce people to the Alexander Technique. I also have specialized episodes aimed at musicians and other performers, people in pain, and many other specific groups, so there’s a huge range of topics covered. For anyone interested, I suggest checking out the podcast page, where you can find episodes relevant to your own situation: BodyLearningCast.com.

Can you share a memorable success story?

I think every Alexander teacher has a lot of these stories, so I don’t want to put myself out as having a special ability to magically transform a person. However, I can share one first lesson that still stands out to me. About a year ago, I had a student in Taiwan who is a violinist. She was just starting her professional career and was very talented, but she had a huge amount of pain in her neck and shoulders. It got to the point where she was concerned about continuing the career she had devoted so much work to.

It was also somewhat of an emergency situation since she had a big concert that evening and needed help right away. Normally, we teachers think in terms of longer-term improvements, but I thought, “OK, I’ll see what I can do.” Fortunately, she had a full-length mirror she could stand in front of to observe herself. I asked her to start playing something, and immediately I could see what she was doing that very likely caused her pain. It took a little while for her to see it too. She was hunching her shoulder up when placing the violin on it, and that hunch continued the whole time she was playing. This was causing a lot of strain on her neck.

I got her to practice just placing the violin on her shoulder – nothing else. It took about 15 minutes because her habit was deeply ingrained, but she did learn how to do that. Then, I asked her to place it on her shoulder, leave it there for a few seconds and then play something, doing nothing except move her bowing arm.  She couldn’t believe the difference — it was a huge improvement. It was a simple intervention based on observing what she was doing that’s getting in the way and learning how to stop doing it, which is a key idea in the Alexander Technique.

She went on to have a series of about a dozen lessons over the next few months, but she told me the next day that she had never played more comfortably in a concert.

For more information about the Alexander Technique: AlexanderTechnique.com

For more information about my teaching: AlexanderTechniqueNebraska.com  

We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links. Advertising Disclosure
MysticMag contains reviews that were written by our experts and follow the strict reviewing standards, including ethical standards, that we have adopted. Such standards require that each review will take into consideration independent, honest and professional examination of the reviewer. That being said, we may earn a commission when a user completes an action using our links, at no additional cost to them. On listicle pages, we rank vendors based on a system that prioritizes the reviewer’s examination of each service but also considers feedback received from our readers and our commercial agreements with providers.This site may not review all available service providers, and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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Predrag is a nature and animal lover, fascinated with energy healing and hypnotherapy.