We use the action of sitting and standing in order to explore the precise way in which we coordinate ourselves in movement. F.M Alexander chose this movement partly because it involves the whole body but more importantly because we do this so many times a day it illustrates our habits excellently. We are interested in the subtleties of this movement and especially the way in which we move our head in relation to our necks and backs. This was found by Alexander, and late corroborated by scientists, to govern the efficient workings of the whole body. The way in which we carry out this simple movement offers a neuro-muscular template of how we coordinate ourselves in all of our activities. Unlike when we move habitually, which will inevitably involve unnecessary tension, we are making the movement consciously and we can control precisely which part moves, to what degree and when. In this way new movement patterns are established, creating lengthening in the musculature rather than contraction. Balance is restored, coordination improved and the musculature becomes responsive and supportive rather than tight and restrictive. A surprising amount of change can take place just by moving in this non-habitual way. The pupil takes away from the lessons an understanding of how the new movement was brought about so that they can practice the principles in all of their activities.

I think table work is a really important part of lessons. It is an opportunity for us to rest our spines and with the help of the teachers hands, let go of much more tension than in standing. It is also a chance for the pupils to practise sending the new messages to their bodies that ask for release and freedom. We practice making these new neurological connections in this simple environment so that we know we can apply them effectively in our every day lives. When we become upright again the difference is marked, people describe feeling taller, free-er, more open, “..as if everything’s in the right place”. Pupils are encouraged to lie down every day in this way.

The Technique is taught through a mixture of gentle hands on work and verbal instruction.The teacher places their hands on the pupil in order to gain information about the degree to which their balance and coordination is being affected by excessive levels of tension in the musculature. The teacher will then encourage the pupil to think about “release and lengthening”, in a specific and structured way, and these conscious messages replace the usual subconscious ones which have resulted in tension and holding. We are accessing the natural connection between mind and body that we use continually without realising it in every action that we make. In this way we are addressing the problem of excess tension at its’ source, ie in the nervous system.

Pupils often have specific activities they’d like to work on or situations that have arisen that they’d like to discuss. The lesson will be a mixture of all of these approaches in response to the individual’s needs on that day. We are learning a skill, the skill of how to “use ourselves well”. This means how we use our minds and bodies so that we are able to respond physically and mentally with spontaneity, control and freedom.

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How the Technique is Taught

The person is encouraged not to respond in their usual way to the stimulus of the idea of standing or sitting as shown in these pictures, but to release any unnecessary tension to allow the body’s natural support mechanisms to function.