Welcome to my Alexander Technique Website. There are many of us out there with as many approaches to explaining this wonderful Technique. I would like to make this site as interactive as possible in order to provide you with some useful direction in your pursuit of balance. Feel free to email me with your questions. I will either answer you privately or post a response if I think it useful to the masses.
WHAT IS THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE?
Let’s start by clearing up a few common misconceptions:
This work is not about correcting your posture. But I promise you that the result of applying this technique will result in improved posture.
This work will not provide you with a “to-do” list, or a series of exercises. It’s more about learning how to undo- or, rather, not reinforce patterns of movement and thinking that have enslaved you for a lifetime.
WOW! What do I mean by that?
We all have habitual ways of doing things. The way we approach answering our cellphone or driving in traffic all has our personal signature on it. It is this core pattern that we want to recognize so that we can choose whether or not to reinforce it. There’s a wonderful lecture about the nature of response patterns that I find extremely useful in explaining this work: Patrick Haggard – Neuroscience of Human Will | Video on PBS & NPR Forum Network
The work of Benjamin Libet (referenced in the previous link) demonstrates that before we are even conscious of a response, our brain exhibits electrical activity preparing to respond. Wow! As Libet says, it means we have free won’t rather than free will. We can choose not to follow through with the response underway. But we cannot choose not to respond. I find this very forgiving. It’s as though we are not responsible for the initial response. But once we become conscious of it, we have a choice.
This is where Alexander’s inhibition comes in. And if you want to understand how Alexander’s work differs from all the other modalities out there, this is a basic difference. Alexander asked us to inhibit or intercept that habitual response and replace it with one that is reasoned rather than familiar. And this reasoned response grows out of his discovery of a primary mechanism.
What’s the Primary Mechanism?
Whenever we respond to anything, the primary movement involves our balancing mechanism at the base of the skull. Your occipital muscles are responsible for your moment by moment balance. This is part of your vestibular system (see: Chapter 9 – Vestibular Functions)
I like to think of it as being similar to another part of the vestibular system, the middle ear. No one expects that the fluid in the middle ear is static or positional. Yet when we talk about postural muscles everyone wants to know if they are in the right position. Impossible. These deep movements adjust on a moment by moment basis to keep you in balance as you move throughout your day. For whatever reason, we have learned to interfere with this mechanism and make life difficult for ourselves. What we really need to do is get out of the way so our system can function as it should. When I say “for whatever reason,” I don’t mean to be flippant. But I am more interested in what we do rather than why we do it. Recognizing what we do allows us to make choices. We may make many observations or assumptions along the way about why we do what we do, but the choice to change really comes from the awarness of what we are up to.
What’s amazing about this mechanism is that whatever imbalances you might have ANYWHERE in your system, these will be reflected in this balancing mechanism at your occiput.
Yes, this does mean that if you have tendonitis in your arms or discomfort in your gait, I will be very interested in your head/neck relationship. But it’s more interesting than that! The relationship of your head to the rest of you is itself a reflection of you- of your relationship to the task at hand. So do not mistake my interest in this part of your physical being for my expectation that a physical change will solve life’s problems. This is about your relationship to what you do–your complete response to the task at hand–not just your “physical” response. Have I gotten your attention? Welcome to the world of The Alexander Technique!