Alexander Technique Wiki

F. M. Alexander concluded that the orientation of the head in relation to the body determines the quality and successful response of how all other intended bodily motion may occur. The head is a steering key to bodily movement.

With the goal to substitute new improvements to develop his vocal skills, Alexander observed his problems with voice loss starting in a backward and downward movement of his head. Putting the head back or down creates unecessary tension that affects the entire body and its' quality of movement. This habitual movement was similar to the movement a turtle can make, in the motion of retracting the head towards the shell.

Curious to begin action in another way, Alexander observed that once the pattern went into action, it was very difficult to influence. So he decided to make a change with the first motion that initiated action. He traced the origin of motion to a head movement. He wondered if he could solve his voice loss problem by moving in the opposite direction from his habitual preparation to speak. In Alexander's case, this opposite direction of improvement was slightly away from the body and tipping slightly forward, which he described as "Forward and Up." This sort of movement counteracts what is now known as a startle reflex.

After coming up with some issues carrying his intentions into action, Alexander found eventually that he could counteract his habit of pulling his head down into his neck. Starting the action in this new way alleviated the pressure on his voice. Counteracting habitual self-imposed limitations in this very physical way provided Alexander insights about the nature of quality of motion related to suspended goals.

The eventual success of Alexander's hypothesis and the commonality of observing this same pattern in other people led him to establish his observations about the importance of the head as an axiom about movement initiation. The head moving away from the body allows the whole body to expand in length. Inspired by Rudolph Magnus idea of central control in animals, Alexander called this principle primary control. Primary control works - whether for good or ill.

Later, other Alexander Technique teachers used additional tems to encourage and mark the importance of this head movement. Alexander's first graduate of this first training course, Marj Barstow, originated the phrase: "the head moves, and the body follows."

Most of our habits interfere by superceding the primary control response as a "special exception." The teacher helps the student to become aware of these routine interfering patterns in order to inhibit them and regain control against automated habitual responses.

The other special action Alexander found helped to undo the coercive power of routines was to "Direct." This special term of "Directing" means to suggest the thought of a constructive means without overtly performing the action. Through experimentation, Alexander discovered the fact that movement preparation occurs long before the person is aware they are about to move. Directing uses the thought of primary control. The suggestion of thinking about primary control while moving achieves many advantages. Most important, this 'Directing" allows a minimal tonus of the neck musculature, so that the head balances freely on top of the spine, (rather than being kept in a certain position.) This freedom of balance allows the torso and spine to respond by slightly expanding.