Overview: What Is Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique teaches how to undo unnecessary tension and collapse in the body in order to restore the body’s natural ease and vitality in both movement and in poise. It teaches an understanding of the body as a whole, instead of parts, which restores the overall well-being and organization of the body. As we develop into adulthood, we form habits that tamper with our natural coordination of the body. We collapse the body and give into gravity. The Alexander Technique works to break physical and mental habits that interfere with this natural coordination, to consciously restore ourselves to a better functioning of the body as a whole, psycho-physical self.
Though commonly known for its use amongst singers, actors, and other performers, the Alexander Technique is a wonderful tool for anyone to cultivate mindfulness of the body in all activities of life, whether sitting at a computer, mowing the lawn, golfing, practicing yoga, playing the violin, doing the laundry, etc. It can also be an excellent preventative and curative treatment for physical ailments such as chronic back pain; repetitive use injuries; vocal and respiratory issues; joint stiffness and pain; and many other ailments in the body. (See Benefits for more details).
The 5 Principles
To consciously bring about change and to develop a better use of the body, the pupil learns the following 5
principles, which taken together, are the foundation of the Alexander Technique:
We all have subconscious habits that we carry out in our daily lives that impact how we carry out our daily lives…we just may not be aware of what those are…
We have the conscious choice to inhibit and stop ourselves from doing these negative habits.
We must become aware that our self-perception is rooted in habitual understanding, and therefore what feels right may actually be wrong, and what feels wrong may in reality be right.
In choosing to not-do the negative habit, we replace the activity with conscious directions for an overall better use of the self: Allow the neck to be free; for the head to release forward-and-away from the spine; for the back to lengthen and widen; feet to the ground to oppose gravity.
The Primary Control is the dynamic relationship of the head-neck-back- feet in opposition to gravity and it is Alexander’s most important discovery. The PC is the innate master reflex within the body that allows the entire body to be in a state of lightness, freedom, expansion, and upward direction, instead of the heavy collapse and downward direction of giving in to gravity. The PC is the most efficient and natural relationship between the parts of the body (head-neck-back-feet) that effects the functioning of the body as one integrated whole. When the PC is functioning well, as it does when we are very young children, this relationship is fluid, alive, and maintains the structural integrity of the forces of opposition within the body. When the PC is not functioning well, we get heaviness, fatigue, pain, tension, and collapse in the body. Only a select few adults are able to maintain a high-functioning PC into adulthood (Muhammad Ali and Picasso are examples), but the wonderful journey that we embark upon taking lessons in the Alexander Technique allows us to learn a means-whereby to bring about a better use of the Primary Control. We get to dive in and explore our particular psycho-physical habits and through learning the technique, are empowered with the most amazing gift of conscious control, mind-body awareness, and the freedom to become the masters of ourselves once again.