Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Education of FM Alexander

For those robust readers, here is a quote from Aldous Huxley, who took lessons with Alexander.
"It is now possible to conceive of a totally new type of education affecting the entire range of human activity...an education which, by teaching them the proper use of the self, would preserve children and adults from most of the diseases and evil habits that now afflict them...I heartily recommend this latest and, in many ways, most enlightening of Mr. Alexander's books. In the Universal Constant in Living they will find, along with a mass of interesting facts, the ripest wisdom of a man who, setting out fifty years ago to discover a method for restoring his lost voice, has come, by the oldest of indirect roads, to be a quite uniquely important, because uniquely practical, philosopher, educator, and physiologist."
They all tended to write with very long sentences back then, and you can tell, with a little math, that he wrote this comment about Alexander's last book in 1945.
To summarize, I have shared with you the name of one of Alexander's books. Also, I have shared with you another person's comment about how broadly you can apply principles of Alexander's Technique - yes, it's not just for posture, back pain, Morton's Neuroma, or any other specific problem.
Now for a game.
Place your little finger above your top lip, between the lip and the nose. Opposite your finger, at the back end of the head, is the atlas, the first bone in the neck. That's where your head articulates. Now gently, very gently, tip your head left and right and feel the slight movement in the back of your head/neck. As you go through your day, give this area a thought once in a while. See if you can tell what you have been doing there.
And while you are at it, PAUSE!
...to be continued.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Posture Control Checklist

Here it is, 2009, over 100 years since FM Alexander discovered not only the existence of the "primary control," but also how to use it well. But who knows about this in the United States?
When I crossed through customs at London's Heathrow airport in 1989, on my way to complete extra requirements for qualification as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, the attendant recognized the area I was studying. "Oh, it's about the back, right?"
My grateful nod of assent was mostly to indicate I was glad someone who could keep me out of the country had a sense of the noble purpose that drew me. I didn't want to engage him in a discussion of the merits of the long-view as compared with the "myopic view." But the question still remains, "What is Alexander's Technique good for?"
Just two years before this, in 1987, George Goodheart, one of the world's most wise, long-lived and knowledgable chiropractors wrote an article about his observations of Alexander's work on a patient. Her foot condition, Morton's Neuroma, cleared when she was "adopting the Alexander posture." Goodheart's article begins with the statement, "Most of us are familiar with the concepts of Alexander...who felt that the postural center is at the base of the skull."
I want to know who "most of us" really was in 1987.
But more importantly to this blog, we can see here another example of reducing Alexander's work to a thing about posture.
So like the customs guy and Dr. Goodheart, we also want to tend to reduce his work to something about a particular thing. Is it about the back? Is it about the posture? If it's about posture, what happens when you are an actor adopting a poor posture to convey character?
Well, as it turns out, FM Alexander's work is about neither, although you can say all maladies can be affected by his technique. Alexander's work is about how you use yourself in activity.
If you call it remedial education, then it is about unlearning poor habits.
If you call it physical therapy, then it is about engaging postural reflexes in a more efficient way.
Whatever you call it, Alexander challenges us to look at what we are doing with and to ourselves, and then to reconsider.
Next time, we talk about what happens after the pause.