helping myself

The Alexander Technique is commonly known as a technique for building up the back. However, the way in which it relates to building up the back is virtually unknown. It is based on how the Technique perceives the person as a whole (any separation between the physical and the mental being artificial) and on the connection between building up the back and fostering free and independent thought.

The Technique was developed by a person of extraordinarily courageous, independent thinking. Being free of prejudice constitutes the cornerstone of the Technique. Alexander, who developed the Technique, feared the human tendency to blindly follow charismatic leaders of any kind. He was particularly interested in how people can simply and effectively practice and foster free choice, and take more responsibility for their fate –which is probably what led intellectuals like John Dewey, Aldous Huxley and George Bernhard Shaw to learn the Technique.

However, it is not easy being a free person who takes responsibility for his fate and manages to avoid following the herd, if only by taking a step or two aside. In order to be such a person, one needs real courage and a strong back. Yet, contrary to conventional thinking, a strong back is not built by strengthening muscles, neither back muscles nor abdominal muscles. Muscles are not usually an expression of real strength but a façade, which indicates the human tendency to apply undirected, inefficient and unnecessary force. The Technique builds up the back differently: by freeing both back and thought from prejudice and habitual blocks that limit the realization of their full potential.

So, when observers begin to notice a change in the back and mobility of a student of the Technique, they usually don’t realize that this is only the visible tip of a layered, overt and hidden process of self-realization generated by the student via the Technique. Inherent in this learning process, whereby the student re-builds him or herself, not by the strength of muscles but by the power of thought, is I believe, one of the subtle charms of the Technique. Students of the Technique gain “something” priceless that not many do: a simple and sincere belief in themselves. They really do know within themselves, in the truest and most concrete way, that they are self-made women or men.

a gentle balance

Although the Technique encourages a person to pay attention to himself, it doesn’t encourage self absorption. The Technique strives for balance in the full sense of the word. A balance that begins within and radiates outward. A person who directs the right degree of attention inwardly and outwardly, eyes open, and who lives at peace with himself and his environment.

Thus, learning the Technique does not only benefit the student directly, but also indirectly his immediate environment. As the student of the technique progresses in the learning process, its benefit for his environment becomes clearer and, ultimately, he often continues to study the Technique as much for his environment as for himself.

 

It is one thing to teach the need of a return to the individual man as the ultimate agency in whatever mankind and society collectively can accomplish. It is another thing to discover the concrete procedure by which this greatest of all tasks can be executed. And this indispensable thing is exactly what Mr. Alexander has accomplished.

Prof. John Dewey, a student of the Technique