Written by Jennifer Roig-Francoli
Here is a condensed version of how to practice the Alexander Technique (AT), as I see it right now. This is what I teach on a daily basis. Having a teacher is virtually essential to understand in-depth what I am going to write, because what is required is a full-person, visceral understanding--beyond analytical or intellectual. A teacher's hands can convey all of what is written here through one simple touch, in one short moment of time.
If someone were to ask me: "Well, what can I 'do' when my legs and feet are not in a helpful place?" I might answer the following.
First, AT is NOT about finding a "right" position of body parts. There is no right or wrong posture. It is about freedom of movement. An acrobat, for instance, or an actor, needs to be able to have his/her body parts in any position, with total freedom and excellent mind-body coordination.
In order to achieve such coordination, no matter what position you are in, you can...
stop/ observe / inhibit / allow / direct
All of those concepts overlap, and ultimately occur together.
- notice where the body parts (legs, feet, etc.) actually are right now
- do not judge whether it's a helpful/not-helpful, right/wrong, or good/bad place
- simply accept where they are; allow them to be there
- notice any feelings or desires that are present in you (physical tensions anywhere in the body, emotions such as irritation or frustration or hopelessness, etc.)
- notice the direction(s) you are presently going in, without doing anything to change it (them)
- recognize the force of habit (the habit being: the unconscious direction(s)/feelings/desires that are operating in you, particularly the desire for things to be other than they actually are right now)
- realize that the way you are holding yourself includes doing something unnecessary or unhelpful for the chosen task (any task; for instance, sitting in a chair); something which misdirects energy and causes you to be less than optimally balanced; something that prevents natural, flowing inner movement and graceful coordination; something which impedes natural, spontaneous breathing (you do not have to know the specifics of what you are doing!! you are noticing a general, overall, total-person pattern; we go from the general to the specific, not the reverse)
- refuse to react to what you are observing and continue to observe
- allow feelings (psychophysical--both physical and mental/emotional) to be present, rising up to the brain
- refuse to instinctively act/do something to alter the state you are in by moving mindlessly, which would be indulging the habitual pattern
- instead of "doing" something immediately to change the present conditions, which would be the habitual response, a reactive and automatic response, notice that you are presented with a choice
- once you recognize that you are "in habit" (simply by being human!!), you are presented with the following choice, because you have intelligence and free will. You can:
- continue doing the same thing(s), going in the same direction(s); or
- do something different
- if you choose #2, the something different will necessarily be "non-doing", since the old thing is "doing"; for something new to occur, you will first need to stop the old pattern
- THEN, should you wish your body to actually MOVE through space, you can:
- continue to inhibit/stop/practice “non-doing”; continue to not interfere with movement
- direct yourself into movement: think constructive thoughts which will direct yourself into expansion, directing yourself to extend outwards into space
- that means that you should
- (a) know where you are in space;
- (b) know where you want to go (have a clear intention--a goal);
- (c) create the necessary conditions in yourself to be moved there, from within, from your center;
- (d) release into movement, allowing it to "do itself".
- the necessary conditions for free movement include: a free neck, the head leading forward and up, spine/torso lengthening and widening, free joints (especially hip joints), so that the neural messages from the brain can travel freely through the neck and spine and then out to the limbs to move the body.
All of the above, of course, may seem to be impossible to achieve, because it seems complex. In fact, it is extremely simple.
All of the above can be accomplished in a split second, once the skill has been understood and internalized. It is called a technique, because it is a skill, and any skill needs to be practiced. However, the potential for this skill is natural to man. As Alexander said, it is “man's supreme inheritance”; that of “constructive conscious control” of the individual. It is about stopping our interference with what is innate and natural to us. When we stop interfering, “the right thing does itself”, and everything becomes full of grace and ease. Effortless.