Basic Concepts of the Alexander Technique

How you use yourself, the overall general balance and coordination of the organism that is the human body, determines what you can do and how you do it. There is no isolated movement or thought process in the human, everything happens on an integrated neuro-mechanical framework that must balance, support, control and compensate for any activity.  For most people, most of the time, integration and balancing is done subconsciously and patterns that arise to organize and control this are habits – programs that run immediately once a decision is made to accomplish a movement or thinking task. But if those habitual programs are based on incorrect information, or a person has sustained changes in the physical structure of the body without updating the underlying control programs, difficulty will inevitably ensue.

Photo by Philippe Ramakers http://www.freeimages.com

Photo by Philippe Ramakers http://www.freeimages.com

One hundred and twenty years ago, F.M. Alexander faced these problems when he experienced difficulties with his voice.  He solved them by discovering how to consciously evaluate, recalibrate, and re-educate himself on how to use his whole body in every activity. With careful observation and personal experimentation Alexander determined that before intentional movement most people tended to engage in preparations and motions that did nothing to assist the action at hand and actually created significantly more bodily tension than was necessary. He realized that these phenomena degraded a person’s ability to accurately and consistently move and function at optimal performance.  According to Alexander, the degradation arose from a lack of knowledge regarding how to correctly use the underlying mechanisms of the body to control overall coordination.  Alexander developed a means for correcting these problems using discussion, demonstration and guided movement in order to teach people how to consciously change their initial responses to the movement stimulus. Additionally, the individual followed a rational decision process in a manner that would allow them to make their movements more accurate and precise by exercising conscious control over the underlying tensional balance in the body’s structure. This process is now known as the Alexander Technique.