7 Key Principles
I thought I’d use the blog to go over the 7 principles of Alexander’s Technique. Many of you will have heard me address these principles in bits in the lessons, but unless you have done extensive reading on the Technique it’s unlikely you’ll have been introduced to them all. And it helps to know what they are!
Principle Number 1: Use affects Functioning
This is the overriding principle really – to understand it you need to understand what Alexander meant by “Use”. He was working in a completely new field and so needed to come up with new vocabulary. Alexander’s term “Use” refers to the way an individual uses their mind and mechanical body. So “bad use” in Alexandrian terms would be someone who doesn’t allow their mind to be in the present moment, tightens and shortens muscle, and has moved a long way from natural coordination and balance. A person with better use would be able to bring their mind to the present moment in order to use the mechanisms of bone, muscle and connective tissue in a balanced and coordinated way.
It’s a bit like talking about how we drive a car – if you constantly drove your car with the hand brake on, or in first gear down the motorway, then you would be misusing its mechanisms and the car would start to function badly.
So it is with us – if we misuse our mechanisms we start to function badly – we suffer from excess tension in our muscles, we ache, we get short of breath, we get anxious and stressed, etc etc.
Modern medicine unfortunately does not recognise this concept of Use, and so a person who is misusing themselves will continue to function badly.
The concept of habit is also wrapped up in this principle. No-one starts off with the intention of misusing themselves – every healthy 2 or 3 year old will use themselves beautifully. However over time we start to develop habits of misuse which we develop
bit by tiny bit, until they are so much a part of us that we can no longer see them. A person who was told constantly to stand up straight as a child frequently ends up locked into faulty patterns of use.
And so it is with coming out of patterns of misuse – it happens gradually. We cannot ditch patterns of misuse which we have developed over 10, 30, 50 years overnight. Learning to use ourselves well is a skill, a very finely tuned and meticulous skill, involving both mind and body. You would not expect to be able to learn a skill involving such as synchronised swimming or figure skating overnight – so you cannot come out of patterns of misuse overnight. It takes time. But it’s worth it!