Just reading back over the last blog post, I’m aware that it went out to a number of new clients as well as established clients. Some of the terms in it may be new to you. I would not claim to be able to sum up the Alexander Technique in one blog post but many books tend to talk about 7 key principles of the Technique. If you have not already read Body Learning by Michael Gelb I seem to remember his chapters introduce these principles one by one. Why not get yourself a copy for your bookshelf (lots of second hand ones out there) and have a read. If you have one of my copies of Body Learning and have read it then please, can I have it back?! Thank you!
The 7 principles (in my words) are:
Use affects functioning (affects structure)
In simplest terms, the way we "use" ourselves affects how well we function. When we use ourselves well, everything works better. And obviously the opposite – with bad and worsening use we function less and less well. In the longer term this can also affect our structure, the actual shape our body takes.
We are what we think – the mind affects the body and the body the mind. We are one. Also every bit of the body affects every other bit.
Faulty sensory perception
If we have fallen into habitual bad use, this feels normal to us. When we start to use ourselves better, it can feel strange – we can feel like we are twisting when we are beginning to untwist; a pair of hips that has always been thrust forward can feel like they are being thrust backwards when in fact they are in a neutral position. These are very simple examples, there are many ways in which faulty sensory perception manifests.
Of paramount importance when we begin to learn better use of ourselves is the relationship between the spine and the head. Alexander called this the primary control. We learn to let the head rest freely at the end of a lengthening spine. Notice this is the primary control but not the be all and end all – ultimately we are learning to leave everything alone.
The process by which we learn to choose our reactions to the stimuli which life constantly throws at us. If we react to life by tightening and shortening muscle, we can begin to recognise this so that we can choose not to.
The process of choosing what we actually do want. Alexander’s key directions are to let the head go forward and up, so that the back can lengthen and widen, so that the knees can go forward and away. These are expressed in Alexander’s words, we can be quite artistic and playful in our own directions.
End-gaining vs means-whereby
There is no end to the Technique! As a very lovely AT teacher said to me recently, it is an accompaniment to life. The more we learn to inhibit and leave alone, the more the primary control frees up, the more the directions mean, the more we recognise faulty sensory perception, the better our use becomes, the better we function, and so it continues in a virtuous circle. We can also interpret this principle in how we go about every activity of life – in each activity we can aim to do less “I just want to get to the end of this” and more “how can I do this with better use of myself?”
I do realise that some of these principles require time and experience to fully understand and put into practise. Reading around them helps, and having lessons when we are once again allowed helps even more. I hope this clarifies a little. If there is anything you would like help with, please get in touch.
All the best