It can give you…
I could go on.
The Alexander Technique is an educational process that conveys psychophysical concepts via the simultaneous use of words, touch, and movement. It was created by F.M. Alexander (1869–1955) in response to laryngitis that, he eventually discovered, he caused himself by using excessive tension while speaking and reciting. The technique has been passed down from person to person since Alexander founded his original training program, in 1931. That it has survived across seven generations of teachers is a testament to its efficacy.
The Alexander Technique accommodates many styles of teaching and different emphases among teachers. However, certain principles and vocabulary underly every lesson and workshop.
Here are three of the most important concepts:
Our experience of what is happening, while it is happening, includes the delicate intertwining of proprioception (internal sensations) and perception (external sensory information). Awareness takes no effort and is often delightful in itself.
Inhibition as F.M. Alexander used the term is an aspect of our intelligence essential to survival, creativity, and skill-acquisition. The act of pausing to consider ones response to a stimulus of some kind is a natural part of life. Entrenched habits of excessive tension in response to stimuli are ALSO, unfortunately, a part of life. To have new, more coordinated movement, we need to develop our capacity to stop responding in a habitual manner. In essence, you cannot have a new experience if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. Alexander proposed that this inhibitory process (sometimes referred to as impulse control) is an activity of the brain that precedes other action. Once a particular habit of thought or automatic reaction has been consciously experienced – in other words, felt physically, for example my tendency to pull in my chin and lift my chest – it can be inhibited quickly and easily, allowing for new action and thus new experience. It is one of our most underutilized skills. I call it a superpower!
Direction is in its essence relational: it involves spatial orientation and requires freedom in the relationship of head to spine. The body expands to support our upward orientation to the ground. In order to go up, we need to stop pulling down. You cannot make yourself expand via rigid tension, but if you have a clear, expansive spatial intention it will be naturally carried out in your movement. You donʻt have to know what every single muscle is doing – in fact, if you think that way, it will probably make your movement clumsier and less effective.
Accurate, consistent, verbal and kinesthetic feedback from a second person expert, (an Alexander teacher) can help you identify familiar but harmful habits and learn to let go of them. This takes tremendous skill on the part of the teacher, however, which is why teacher-training in Alexander Technique involves a minimum of three years.
If you are not in the New York area, visit AmSAT for a directory of Alexander Technique teachers across the United States and an online bookstore for literature on the technique.