The Alexander Technique and Somatic Education: Bobby Rosenberg

The
Alexander Technique and Somatic Education
By Bobby Rosenberg, Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique
“Surely, I argued, if it is possible for feeling to become untrustworthy as a means of direction, it should also be possible to make it trustworthy again” (F. M. Alexander, 1984/1932, p. 1).
After having observed the poor state of his own functioning, including prob- lems involving the voice, breathing, posture, balance, and body expression, F. M. Alexander (1869-1955) investi- gated and observed that he himself was causing these problems through mus- cular interference—misusing himself. These undue tensions, being habitual, were not immediately evident sensori- ally, in spite of their constant damaging effect. Eventually, his research led him to discover a guidance and control system that organizes the body for op- timum functioning and coordinates the distribution of psychophysical processes by starting with the head and spinal column—the primary control. In nature this mechanism is automati- cally activated in response to a stimu- lus, preparing the organism for action or reaction.
The human being, like other verte- brate animals, relies instinctively and unconsciously upon kinesthesia to co- ordinate the guidance and control sys- tems, affecting such vital aspects as bal-
ance, locomotion, partial movements, voice, breathing, and other physiologi- cal functions like blood circulation and digestion. When the natural conditions are neither defective nor impeded, kinesthesia is the mind-body commu- nication link that helps to assure the most natural and efficient conditions of use and functioning. However, as inefficiency becomes the standard, kinesthesia becomes an unreliable co- ordinator, reporting to the brain that the new (incorrect) conditions are the correct ones, leading to a vicious cycle of misuse and malfunction.
With the development of civiliza- tion, humans have created an un- natural environment and adapted themselves to a sedentary lifestyle with highly developed mental processes, both disintegrators of the natural psy- chophysical unity, which have brought with them a gradual lowering of the standards of use and functioning. Alex- ander presented a hypothesis that in- volves self-direction and guided sensory education, objectives of which are the establishment of a reliable sense regis- ter and the conscious activation of the primary control mechanism as the ba- sis for organically structured use of the self. As he understood the conditions
leading to his own generalized misuse, he reasoned that improvement of his use and functioning was dependent upon the recovery of reliable kinesthet- ic guidance and control. Additionally, he found that this was an impossible task without the recuperation of the primary control mechanism, which he was able to achieve through a long, conscious, and rational process.
The Alexander Technique involves a teacher activating the student’s primary control mechanism so that she does not have to rely upon her unreliable kinesthesia to guide her, the result of which is a recovery of natural and ef- ficient use and functioning. (I have made the arbitrary decision to always refer to the teacher in the mascu-
line and the student in the feminine throughout this paper.) By directing herself consciously and becoming sen- sorially aware of the new conditions, the student rescues what was originally unconscious—sensory guidance. She gradually becomes able to activate
her own primary control, focusing on and analyzing the resultant sensory information, in effect creating a sense register that will guide and assure that the effort needed for any activity is just and efficient.
34 Somatics 2008
The Field of Somatics
“F. Matthias Alexander, father of the Alexander Technique, was the first per- son to take somatic education out of the realm of shamanistic mystery and establish it as a verifiable, pragmatic technique” (Thomas Hanna, 1990-91, p. 4).
Since the times of F. M. Alexander, at the end of the nineteenth century, we have seen a steady growth of prac- tices that invite the individual to par- ticipate in the processes involved in the improvement of her body conditions in the integrated, psychophysical sense. Some of these practices developed into therapeutic methods and others into reeducation systems; still others, like Taiji Quan, yoga, and Zen, were imported from Asia and tailored to the contextual interests and needs of the late 1960s, when the term somatics took on a special significance.
In the traditional sense, “The term somatic refers to the body, as distinct from some other entity, such as the mind. The word comes from the Greek word Σωματικóς (Somatikòs), meaning ‘of the body.’ It has different meanings in various disciplines” (Wikipedia).
To place the term in its contemporary context, I have cited the definitions of somatics and somatic education from the published works of Thomas Hanna: “Somatics is the field which stud-
ies the soma: namely, the body as perceived from within by first-person perception. When a human being is observed from the outside—i.e., from a third-person viewpoint—the phenom- enon of the human body is perceived. But, when this same human being is observed from the first-person view- point of his own proprioceptive senses, a categorically different phenomenon is perceived: the human soma.
“The two distinct viewpoints for ob- serving a human being are built into the very nature of human observation, which is equally capable of being in- ternally self-aware as well as externally aware. The soma, being internally per- ceived, is categorically distinct from a body, not because the subject is differ- ent, but because the mode of viewpoint is different: it is immediate propriocep- tion—a sensory mode that provides unique data.
“Reciprocity between sensing and moving is at the heart of the somatic process. . . . The human is not merely a self-aware soma, passively observing itself (as well as observing its scientific observer), but it is doing something
else simultaneously: it is acting upon it- self: i.e., it is always engaged in the pro- cess of self-regulation” (Hanna, 1986).
And,
“Somatic education is the use of sensory-motor learning to gain greater voluntary control of one’s physiological process. It is ‘somatic’ in the sense that the learning occurs within the individu- al as an internalized process.
“In its purity, somatic education is self-initiated and self-controlled. How- ever, somatic education has emerged during the twentieth century as a pro- cedure whereby this internalized learn- ing process is initiated by a teacher who stimulates and guides the learner through a sensory-motor process of physiological change” (Hanna, 1990- 91, p. 4).
As far as I can tell, Alexander never used the word “somatics,” but his fre- quent references to “kinesthesia,” “sen- sory awareness,” and “feeling” place him squarely in the center of the field of somatics. In this article, my particu- lar interest is in Alexander’s insistence upon the teacher guiding the student in the recovery of a reliable kinesthetic sense, whereby she can begin to rescue the natural and efficient use of herself.
Hanna Somatic Education
Considered by many to be the “father of the somatics movement,” Thomas Hanna created the Somatic Education system based on the observation that “as many as fifty percent of the cases of chronic pain suffered by human beings are caused by sensory-motor amnesia (SMA)—a condition in which the sen- sory-motor neurons of the voluntary cortex have lost some portion of their ability to control all or some of the muscles of the body” (Hanna, 1990-91, p. 7). He suggests that instead of thera- peutic treatment, a reeducation of the voluntary sensory-motor cortex is the most viable means for overcoming this loss.
As movement and postural habits are developed, the body-mind becomes conditioned to repeat the muscular patterns involved until they become unconscious. The habitual feeling, if indeed it is felt at all, fades into the background and is registered as “nor- mal”; one gradually becomes unable to intervene in the means whereby the movement is achieved, and the unconscious use is repeated. If, as most somatic educators agree, these patterns of use are defective, all activity becomes harmful; hence, the need for sensory-
motor education. Hanna’s goal is to overcome SMA
by becoming sensorially aware of the functions that have been lost via sen- sory-motor education. He gives credit to many of his forerunners, particularly to Alexander and Feldenkrais. To the first, he attributes “means whereby,” or teacher guidance to help the student become sensorially aware of uncon- scious involuntary movement patterns while demonstrating the desired mus- cular response. However, even though Hanna, like Feldenkrais, accepts the need for a special focus on the use of the head, neither seems to have placed much importance on what I consider to be the outstanding contribution
of Alexander—the primary control mechanism.
Somatic education is clearly intend- ed as an antidote to the harmful effects of the inefficient use of the human being in modern times. In the 1960s Thomas Hanna, together with many others who had experienced and were exploring the implications of their “body epiphany” (Maupin, 1998), be- gan to use the term “somatics” to refer to the first-person experience of the body, as distinct from the third-person perspective used in medicine and ther- apy. The Alexander Technique, having been developed prior to the concept of somatics, nonetheless is founded upon the realization that the modern-day hu- man being’s sense register has become unreliable, leading to misuse and mal- functioning of the self. One of Alexan- der’s principal concerns is the recovery of this sense register—obviously just an earlier way of expressing what the post- Alexander somatics practitioners call somatic education.
The Role of Sensory Education in the Alexander Technique “The mind has not been taught to reg- ister correctly the tension or, in other words, to gauge accurately the amount of muscular effort required to per- form certain acts, the expenditure of effort always being in excess of what is required”(F. M. Alexander, 1910,
p. 83).
A study of Alexander’s major pub- lications reveals a gradual evolution of what he considers to be his technique. I have focused on his definition of what comprises a lesson, together with a brief theoretical framework—with em- phasis on his particular methodology for guiding the student in her acquisi- tion of a new sensory experience.
VolumeXV Number4 35
His first book, Man’s Supreme In- heritance (1910), includes the previ- ously printed pamphlets, Reeducation of the Kinesthetic Systems Concerned with the Development of Robust Physi- cal Well-being (c. 1908) and Conscious Control (Man’s Supreme Inheritance) in Relation to Human Evolution in Civilization (c. 1908). This compilation of almost 20 years of experience in the development and refinement of his work contains multiple references to “debauched kinesthesia” and presents a clear procedure as to the teaching and learning of his technique, to which he referred at this point as “conscious control.”
What appears here as the “doctrines of antagonistic action and mechani- cal advantage” (Alexander, 1910, p. 186) later evolved into the much more comprehensive and concise concept
of primary control. The inference of a coordinating factor in the human psychophysical organism is paramount to his theoretical structure, and the deterioration of use and functioning in modern human beings leads logically to the need for reeducation:
“By this process of reeducation an effective installation is made of the re- flex muscular systems involved through the creation of an intelligent directive power on the part of the individual, thus removing a crude and useless kinesthesis, which must be regarded as either debauched or deformed, and establishing one of valid and unfailing function” (p. 187).
As for the causes of the deteriora- tion previously mentioned, it is clearly due to the processes that have evolved in our civilization, including the con- stant effect of sedentarism on school children.
“The Kinesthetic Systems concerned
with correct and healthy bodily move- ments and postures have become de- moralized by the habits engendered in the schoolroom through the restraint enforced at a time when natural activity should have been encouraged and sci- entifically directed, and in the crouch- ing positions necessitated by useless and irrational deskwork” (p. 198).
Then, he presents a precise defini- tion of his technique, which I have paraphrased and presented as five dis- tinct but interacting aspects.
1. Active participation: The student must have a clear understanding of her own misuse, as demonstrated by the teacher, and willingness to participate in the process of recovering her good use.
2. Inhibition: The teacher must teach the student to understand the er- roneous ideas that result in her misuse, be they conscious or unconscious. He must teach the student to eradicate these preconceived ideas and inhibit her habitual way of directing her ac- tions.
3. Self-direction: The student must learn to consciously send the correct mental orders and distinguish between giving an order and carrying it out in her habitual way.
4. Attention to the process: The teacher must teach the student that, in order to overcome her habitual man- ner of doing things, it is important to consider the means more than the ends.
5. Guided sensory education: When the student has practiced her mental orders, the teacher must guide the change, bringing about the use of mus- cles in a coordinated and non-habitual way (Alexander, c. 1908, pp. 16-19).
Alexander considered his second major work, Constructive Conscious
Bobby Rosenberg
Control of the Individual (1923/1985), to be a much clearer representation of his work than MSI. He dedicates a great deal of this book to the develop- ment of his theory regarding sensory appreciation. For an in-depth look at Alexander’s thinking, see “Consider- ation of Three Stages of Man’s Devel- opment in relation to Deterioration of Sensory Appreciation” (1923/1985, pp. 39-53). This pseudo-anthropological discourse gives us an interesting insight to Alexander’s view of the far-reaching influence of his work, and it presents a believable explanation for the state of man’s misuse and malfunctioning in modern times.
Having stated his case that unreli- able sensory appreciation is a universal problem in our age, he introduces his recently discovered method of “expert manipulation”—what would later be called “hands-on” by Alexander teach- ers and other somatics practitioners. At this point, his technique “involves correct manipulation on the part of the teacher in the matter of giving the pupil correct experiences in sensory appreciation, in the spheres of reedu- cation, readjustment and coordina- tion” (1923/1985, p. 122). Describing his teaching technique in updated terminology, he is explicit in the role of the teacher’s hands:
“He (the teacher) tells the pupil that, on receiving the directions or guiding orders, he must not attempt to carry them out; that, on the contrary, he must inhibit the desire to do so in the case of each and every order which is given to him. He must instead proj- ect the guiding orders as given to him whilst his teacher at the same time,
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36 Somatics 2008
by means of manipulation, will make the required readjustments and bring about the necessary coordinations, in this way performing for the pupil the particular movement or movements required, and giving him the new reli- able sensory appreciation and the very best opportunity possible to connect the different guiding orders before attempting to put them into practice” (1923/1985, pp. 152-153).
Lawrence Gold (2006) has com- pared the methodology of Hanna Somatic Education with that of the Alexander Technique, which involves a heightening of kinesthetic awareness and exemplifies the somatic principle that “somas perceive by means of con- trast” (p. 4). Repeated guided dem- onstration by the teacher (including the activation of the primary control mechanism) is the key to learning the new patterns and directing them vol- untarily. Unlike Alexander, where the teacher substitutes a more efficient pat- tern for the student’s inhibited pattern, the sensory magnification in Hanna Somatic Education is brought about by the learner’s contrasting her own ha- bitual level of muscle contraction with controlled contraction and controlled release.
The Use of the Self (1932), which is usually considered to be Alexander’s most lucid and well-written book, contains a detailed description of the evolution of his technique. Presented in a style in which the influence of John Dewey is evident, the first chapter concludes with what has remained the procedure for applying the Alexander Technique to the use of oneself. It contains all of the elements mentioned in Man’s Supreme Inheritance, clearly emphasizing direction, inhibition, and attention to the process. What was ear- lier referred to as “position of mechani- cal advantage” now appears as “primary control.” And, although there is no new reference to the kinesthetic prob- lem, he states quite clearly that “I was indeed suffering from a delusion that is practically universal, the delusion that because we are able to do what we ‘will to do’ in acts that are habitual and involve familiar sensory experiences, we shall be equally successful in doing what we ‘will to do’ in acts which are contrary to our habit and therefore involve sensory experiences that are unfamiliar” (1932/1984, p. 16).
Although no significant changes in his procedure are presented in his last book, The Universal Constant in
Living (1947), there are innumerable references establishing the importance of the primary control. In an “appre- ciation,” American anatomist G. E. Coghill succinctly summarizes the pro- cedure from his scientific perspective:
“The practice of Mr. F. Matthias Al- exander in treating the human body is founded, as I understand it, on three well-established biological principles: (1) that of the integration of the whole organism in the performance of par- ticular functions; (2) that of proprio- ceptive sensitivity as a factor in deter- mining posture; (3) that of the primary importance of posture in determining muscular action. These principles I have established through forty years in anatomical and physiological study of Amblystoma in embryonic and larval stages, and they appear to hold for other vertebrates as well” (cited in Al- exander, 1947, p. xx).
Conclusion
According to my research, a lesson in the Alexander Technique must include active participation on the part of the student, inhibition and direction, at- tention to the process (or what Alexan- der eventually called “means-whereby
versus end-gaining”), and guided sensory education. Practitioners of somatic education, as exemplified in Feldenkrais and Hanna, have always recognized Alexander’s contribution of these “means whereby” as essential to their own work, and thus to poster- ity. What differentiates this technique from other somatic techniques is the causal relationship between faulty sen- sory perception and the deterioration of the primary control mechanism. In the Alexander Technique, the estab- lishment of a reliable sense register
is dependent upon the ability to con- sciously inhibit habitual impulses while directing the activation of the primary control. I consider the following points to be fundamental to guided sensory education in the Alexander Technique: • The activation of the primary con-
trol is basic to all functions of the human being in activity: posture, movement, voice, and breathing (among others).
• The kinesthetic system, which is dependent upon the proper and efficient functioning of the prima- ry control, is the basis for register- ing the amount of tension used to carry out any activity.
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• In modern times, the unnatural qualities of the human being’s activity cause deterioration in the natural efficiency of use and func- tioning, and the mere desire to improve is rarely successful, due to the corresponding deterioration of the sense register that guides all self-controlled processes.
• Education for the conscious activa- tion of the primary control, which brings about an improvement of coordinated use of the psycho- physical self, is a prerequisite for improvement in the use of the parts involved in any activity.
• Sensory education in the Alexan- der Technique should be somatic in nature (a first-person experi- ence) and guided by a person who has consciously learned to reacti- vate the primary control as a basis for efficient and coordinated use of the self in any activity.
Looking at the situation very simply, most people have some somatic sense. People are capable of feeling what they are doing, although it is usually applied to activities in a general movement sense (I can feel that I’m walking, sing- ing, playing a piano, etc.) rather than in the very particular method that Alex- ander and other somatic educators sug- gest (a muscle contracting or lengthen- ing). In the Alexander Technique the teacher guides the student through the activation of the primary control while
performing carefully selected activi- ties with a constant reference to key muscular reactions that are compared and contrasted on a consciously con- structed sense register. These are then used by the student to analyze their effects on her use and functioning. As she recovers her natural and efficient use, she also rescues the reliability of her sensory appreciation.
Somatics, as we know it, began at the end of the nineteenth century in the work of F. M. Alexander, even though most other somatic education systems do not contemplate what I consider
to be the most fundamental aspect of the Alexander Technique—the activa- tion of the primary control and all it implies. In spite of the fact that many Alexander Teachers are reluctant to classify the Alexander Technique as somatic education, its uniqueness is not diminished by recognizing the un- deniable fact that its basic educational process is somatic in nature.
References
Alexander, F. Matthias. (c. 1908). Conscious control (man’s supreme inheritance) in relation to human evolution in civilization. London: Methuen & Co.
Alexander, F. M. (1985). Constructive conscious control of the individual. Downey, CA: Centerline Press.

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Man’s Supreme Inheritance

Alexander’s Constructive Concious Control of the Individual

The Alexander Technique And Music

Several Musicians, including singers, guitar players, violin players, sax players have studied the Alexander Technique, some of them just as they thought there careers might end because of the pain of repetitive strain injuries, and others just because they were looking for a way to free their voice more so they could sing and play with more freedom and creativity.

Personally as a singer, it has been a tremendous help. It’s very easy to get too excited and tense up making music witch can lead to a very soar throat, here is an article you may find interesting if you are interested in improving your voice.

Poise in Performance:
Alexander Technique for Musicians

By Joan Arnold

About 14 years ago, when I was in training to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique, a friend took me to a lovely quartet concert at Carnegie Recital Hall. As we listened to the music, I watched the bodies of the performers fight with their customary tensions – the cello player tightly curving over his cello, the violinists tilting up their instruments, clenched between shoulder and chin. But the violist’s look was different. She was poised in her chair, effortlessly upright. Her short haircut highlighted the delicate forward balance of her head over her spine. Though the music was fast and demanding, her instrument seemed to float in her hands. Her bearing was elegant, her body expressive. When we met the players backstage, I complimented her on her posture. Excitedly she said, “I’ve been studying the Alexander Technique!”

It was a visible example of the difference this mind/body method can make for a musician. Playing music is a complex coordination of body and psyche: sitting, standing, holding an instrument for long hours, managing breath and stress level, attuning to subtleties within a band or ensemble, being receptive and inventive, hardworking and free.

The Alexander Technique is an approach to movement that helps you meet those demands, a reliable way to reduce or eliminate tension, nervousness or pain. People in every profession have used it to prevent or recover from injury, end tension headaches, overcome repetitive strain and a range of disparate problems. A set of guiding principles you keep in mind as you work, it can promote endurance and help you access new reserves of power and expression. The Technique is a means to finding inner balance so that the music can flow, without effort. Today, it is taught and used in many prestigious institutions – the Juilliard School, the Aspen Music Festival, major orchestras – and has helped musicians and singers of every kind, from Yehudi Menuhin to Sting.

Whether you’re playing a string bass or a piccolo, an Alexander lesson is an opportunity to see how you, with your own body type and temperament, interact with your chosen instrument and style. Musicians can bring their instruments to lessons or, when the instrument is less portable, the teacher visits their studio. I spoke with several musicians who have studied with me over the years and have used the Technique to resolve physical problems and access more creative resources.

Kevin Bents now produces albums and writes music for television (for which he’s won an Emmy), but when he came for lessons 12 years ago, he was primarily a sideman, playing keyboards in clubs and on the road. “The age-old thing with me,” he says now, “is that my terrible ‘jazz’ posture was affecting my playing.” While studying classical piano in college, he recalls struggling with difficult Beethoven passages. “I would freeze up in my forearms. I felt I had this weird problem I carried around that no one was going to be able to do anything about.”
When he came for lessons, Kevin’s posture was typical of many musicians who curve over their instruments. His neck tension pulled his chin forward and created some compression in his spine. Though this common posture may look cool or easygoing, it’s really the result of muscular over-activity. Learning to free his neck and release downward pressure on the spine enabled him to sit more comfortably upright at the piano, with less tension in his shoulders, arms and hands. After two years of study, he says, “I felt a lot better. At that time, I was playing regularly at a club, and the carriage of my whole upper torso shifted appreciably. A lot of physical issues I had with the piano cleared up. I felt able to relax more as I was playing. Things that had been difficult for me became easier.”

He also acquired a new way to solve problems. “One of the biggest lessons I learned,” he says, “was the notion of intent and direction. Rather than forcing a change, I could progress and achieve goals through a process.”

The Alexander process is comprised of three interlocking skills: 1) body awareness, 2) the ability to undo excess tension and 3) the use of thought rather than muscular resolve to engender more efficient movement. The teacher promotes these skills with a unique touch that elicits awareness, muscular release and the body’s capacity to find its own inherent balance. Young kids begin with ideal posture: they effortlessly support a large head on a little neck; their spines are long, their joints flexible. Acquired tension habits suppress this natural postural support system, and the teacher’s role is to re-awaken it – through soothing touch, adept observation and coaching in specific skills that help you promote freedom in all of life’s daily activities.

“I can remember walking home and feeling very light,” says Randy Reinhart, a freelance jazz and swing trumpeter for 30 years. After his first Alexander lesson, he found, “It was easier to walk. When I got to my front door, my wife said, ‘Wow, you look so tall!’ ” Though he would like to study more, he has been able to apply the fundamentals he learned in three sessions. “I travel a lot, doing around five gigs a week,” he says. “Holding the trumpet in the same position for four to six hours can be a very tense thing.” While playing, he now keeps in mind that his shoulders can be released, his legs grounded and his torso buoyant. Efficient movement distributes effort throughout the body and, rather than having his shoulders do all the work, his improved alignment creates a better support for holding the horn.

David Weintraub came for a specific problem. He couldn’t get through a two-hour rehearsal without nagging lower back pain. He plays with two bands for 10 to 15 hours a week and supports himself by writing, which requires hours of sitting at a computer. Now 28, he writes songs and plays rock and roll on electric guitar. “My tendency is to bend forward a lot when I play,” he says. What he gleaned from the Alexander session to which he brought his guitar was “the concept of not crouching over and focusing too hard on what I’m doing. I let myself float back and up, let the guitar hang instead of forcing it into some position I’m used to.”

After six months of study, he now can balance himself to relieve pressure on his lower back. “It used to be a big deal for me to stand and watch a band for an hour. Now that’s no problem at all. And I can stand with the guitar through a rehearsal or a performance. If I’m tired and have been at the computer all day, then I’ll have a little bit of pinch or pain, but I know how to come out of it. I can leave a rehearsal feeling no worse than when I went in, which is a major improvement.”
Pain and tension are the ultimate distraction. A more comfortable body is a freer vessel for the creative spark. Bents has observed how the degree of physical comfort on one’s instrument can actually determine the course of a musician’s career. “I’ve always loved to explore and shift between musical styles,” he says. “But when posture and movement interfere, a physical block can become a creative block. It’s good to create within limits, but much better to be the one in charge of setting the limits.” As the Alexander Technique helped him unravel his own restrictions, he says, “My range and abilities on piano expanded and gave me more creative tools to work with.” He continues to apply what he learned to singing and guitar.

He describes playing as “an act of physical coordination with a musical outcome,” and says his expanded range gave him more freedom to improvise. “The lesson for me was: you’re more tied to the body than you think. Ideas I wouldn’t have come up with just presented themselves. When you’re improvising, half the time you’re really trying out a new physical move. What if I do this with my wrist instead of something else? What if I go for this gob of notes up here that I’ve never tried? Now I do it because I feel able to. Then, lo and behold, something new comes out and you grow.”

The Technique is a kind of alphabet of movement and function. Once you learn more about the body’s logic, you have a new lens through which to view how it can work best in a variety of situations – at the gym, in yoga, aikido or running, in rehearsals or on stage. All musicians manage the constant interplay between control and abandon. In the melange of failures and breakthroughs that comprise an artist’s life, the Alexander Technique is a way to regain poise, clear the system for fuller expression, to keep your body free and comfortable, and to keep playing music a joy.

The Alexander Technique and Golf

The Alexander Technique and Golf

By Leland Vall

In the December 18, 2000 issue of Golf Plus, a Sports Illustrated supplement, there appeared a story about Jeff Jullian, a 39 year-old PGA golfer who “gave himself back his career” using an “unusual” method called the Alexander Technique. Jullian’s neck and back were in constant pain, causing him to lose his tour card, until he took lessons in the Technique, which he credits not only for alleviating his pain, but also rejuvenating his career.

While the Alexander Technique is not well known among golfers, this is not the first time golf and the Technique have been associated. As far back as 1920, John Duncan Dunn, a member of the famous golf family of the same name, course architect, instructor, and author of many golf books including Natural Golf, wrote a long article in The Golfers Magazine extolling the virtues of the Alexander Technique and its value to the golfer. More recently, Neil Holman, a British golfer, co-authored a book about using the Alexander Technique to improve your game.

So what is it? The Alexander Technique is a 100 year-old method for understanding how to use your body. Not an exercise, it is a different way of thinking and challenging habitual body use. Its theory is that general habits of body use, good or bad, influence how well or poorly you execute any activity. Alexander teachers observe students during everyday activities like sitting, standing and walking. They are trained to recognize unnecessary tension and, through verbal explanation and hands on guidance, teach their students how to avoid this tension. The student can then use this information to improve their body use during any activity.

Studies have shown that the Alexander Technique improves posture and breathing,reduces tension, and improves many chronic conditions like back and neck pain and repetitive strain injury. Its adherents also say that it improves grace and general ease in movement.

Dr. Jack Stern, MD of the Neurosurgical Group of Westchester adds the following: “The Alexander Technique stresses unification in an era of greater and greater medical specialization. Its educational system teaches people how to best use their bodies in ordinary action to avoid or reduce unnecessary stress and pain. It enables clients to get better faster and stay better longer.”

F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian,developed the Technique because he was suffering from chronic laryngitis. On the advice of doctors Alexander rested his voice. This worked – but only until he started using his voice again at which point his hoarseness would return. Through a period of self-observation, Alexander realized that he was causing his own problem because of the way he was using his voice and his whole body in general.

By becoming aware of and preventing unconscious habits of tension as he spoke, Alexander was able to cure himself. Convinced of the value of his work, he moved to England in 1904 where he taught his Technique to thousands of people, including the philosopher John Dewey, the novelist Aldous Huxley and the playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Today musicians and other performing artists use the Alexander Technique extensively. It is part of the required curriculum at Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music. Its use by athletes has been increasing, especially with swimmers, equestrians and, apparently, golfers, including the aforementioned PGA tour member, Jeff Julian.

Notes:

Vigeland, Carl: “The Alexander Technique: The Answer to A Stress Test”, Sports Illustrated, Vol. 93, Issue 25, page G21, Dec. 18, 2000.

* * *

About the author: Leland Vall is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique with a practice in Long Island and Manhattan. He is editor of the AmSAT News, the official newsletter of the American Society for the Alexander Technique, and a board member of the American Center for the Alexander Technique, the oldest Alexander teacher training facility in the United States. His website address is http://www.freeyourneck.com.

Learning from Tiger Woods describes some parallels between Tiger and F. M. Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique

Click here to read an article:
The Alexander Technique and Sports Performance

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What is the Alexander Technique

I found this on a website called “The Complete Guide To The Alexander Technique)

http://www.alexandertechnique.com/at.htm (this is there web site)

 

It’s a very basic definition, It will probably change later as I’ll probably come up with my own copy as I put my site together, I would really like for you to have a good idea what is.

 

What is the Alexander Technique?
What are the Benefits of Lessons or Classes?

“The Alexander technique is a way of learning how you can get rid of harmful tension in your body.” Although certainly not a full definition of the Alexander Technique, this is a good start.*

“The Alexander Technique is a way of learning to move mindfully through life. The Alexander process shines a light on inefficient habits of movement and patterns of accumulated tension, which interferes with our innate ability to move easily and according to how we are designed. It’s a simple yet powerful approach that offers the opportunity to take charge of one’s own learning and healing process, because it’s not a series of passive treatments but an active exploration that changes the way one thinks and responds in activity. It produces a skill set that can be applied in every situation. Lessons leave one feeling lighter, freer, and more grounded.”

“The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body. The Alexander Technique is a method which helps a person discover a new balance in the body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities…”

 

 

Before

Before

The best way to explain the Alexander Technique is to show the cause and effects of better use.  This is a picture of me with my shoulders rounded my head too far over the front of my spine. This posture that is all too familiar to me most of the time, causes a lot of pressure on my neck and spine that doesn’t necessarily have to be happening. I believe that doing this over and over again is the reason I recently had to spend several weeks recovering from a pinched nerve were I was not able to move my left arm at all and when I did it was very painful

It is very easy for this kind of posture to become a habit for many people, responses from every thing from emotional distress to poorly designed chairs make it feel normal, and even comfortable, the truth is it causes all sorts of problems later on in life, and it just doesn’t that good.

After

After

After inhibiting the old pattern of use, I use the Alexander directions of neck free head forward and up back lengthening and widening, moving the head forward of the spine and lifting up takes pressure off the vertebra and takes pressure off the disks in the neck, It makes me lighter and makes moving less of a strain. in this way the healing process was made easier when it came to the pinched nerve in my neck. Notice too that I’m taller, If you look at where the top of my head is in the first picture, it’s a good three inches shorter.

Alexander Technique British Medical Journal Back Pain Study

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