A Short introduction to the Alexander Technique
by Patricia Hayward.
It all starts in childhood: from our earliest years, we create and develop patterns of movements and patterns of thinking, and we start the process of creating our life habits of actions and reactions. In the beginning, we learn how to move and do things by copying our parents, our brothers or sisters, our friends; this information is stored in our brains, at a subconscious level, and then becomes programs and patterns of muscle use. Those programs activate themselves in an automatic way the moment we decide to do something.
But together with the use, from our actions we also get the misuse, we learn to act or react quickly and unconsciously to anything and this unthinking reaction turns into habits which are very difficult to stop.
Then we start school, and things get worse; suddenly we must stay still for long hours in inadequate chairs, listening to someone who teaches us how to behave and how things should be done, and to get results at any cost.
Then the unity of our being is disturbed; while the mind is stuffed with notions, the inner mechanism of our body is interfered with. We lose our natural balance and coordination, and our habits of use and thinking becomes more and more fixed.
It's a loss from which usually we are not able to recover, and the result is that our lives are deeply distorted, we became less free in our choices, since we tend to judge things only and exclusively with our feelings, which are mostly untrue. It is what Alexander called wrong sensory appreciation, that guides us through life, in making decisions and in judging others as well as ourselves.
"We get into the habit of performing a certain act in a certain way, and we experience a certain feeling in connection with it which we recognize as right" (1)
The Alexander Technique works in the re-education of the use of body and mind; it helps us to deal with reactions to everyday days events, allowing the organism to work without interference.
As Alexander's students we are guided by a gentle touch of the hand of an Alexander teacher, which gives us a fresh sense of lightness in movement.
The basic principle and the main difference with other kinds of methods is that we don't learn to do right, we learn to stop doing wrong.
Students learn to undo patterns of habitual tensions, applying what F.M Alexander called "Inhibition", the ability to pause, to take time, to say 'No' to habitual reactions. This is what gives us the opportunity to prevent ourselves doing the wrong thing and giving us the space where a new choice can be made.
Once we know what we don't want to happen the next step is to know in which direction we wish to go. That's DIRECTIONS.
Directions in the Alexander Technique are a series of orders or instructions repeated and projected mentally that F.M. devised in order to prevent interference with the primary control, the relationship between the head, neck and spine which organizes the reflex of posture and movement.
The primary Alexander directions or instructions are to allow:
- the neck to be free
- the head to go forward and up
- and the back to lengthen and widen
By repeating these orders, we are sending messages from the brain to specific parts or our body, resetting and changing the old patterns habits with new information.
"So the Alexander Directions or set of statements replace old programs of muscle control (by inhibiting) and enable new programs to be laid down (by directing)" (2)
The Alexander Technique is a long learning process through which we can learn how to change the way we are using our whole self.
In the beginning it takes a considerable amount of time to understand what we are doing wrong; then when we start to change and to realize that our sensations, upon which we have been based all our experiences are false, sometimes we are taken by a sense of insecurity, we may be feel lost.
The good thing is that it's just a phase, as we continue to grow into the process, inhibiting and consciously directing, we finally get what we were looking for: a natural and easy coordination between mind feelings and body.
(1) F.M Alexander, "C.C.C. of the individual"
(2) David Garlic, "The lost Six sense"