© Declan Quigley
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique is a means of examining the ways in which we become prisoners of our habits. The ‘client’ is a student or pupil who learns from a teacher how to undo harmful patterns that he has been more or less unaware of. The Technique works by making the student conscious of these patterns and providing him with an alternative which works in harmony with the body’s natural mechanism. The student begins to realize that he has a choice to stick with the way he has always done things, or to explore a new way. It may seem far-fetched at first but if you can interrupt the habitual way in which someone sits down everyday, you will then oblige them to look at their next habit and the next and the next.
The idea that body and mind are inseparable is fundamental to the Technique. Every time we react to something around us our thoughts express themselves in particular postures and muscular tensions which we come to think of as 'just the way we are'. Since we are reacting continuously to the world around us in all kinds of mundane ways, these tensions come to appear to us as normal and inevitable. We go to speak and we move our arms in a particular way; we go to sit down or stand up and we tense our legs in a particular way; and so on. These patterns are generally so deeply engrained - so much part of who we are - that we normally don’t question them until something starts to cause us a physical problem.
Unfortunately the remedy is not quite as straightforward as giving ourselves an instruction not to react in the ways we always have done. The reason for this is very simple: if we try to prevent our normal reactions ourselves it feels completely wrong. Our bodies have got used to the maladaptation. Moreover we almost invariably try too hard, thus making the feeling of wrongness even more exaggerated. Not surprisingly we then give up very quickly and revert to our old patterns. However, a skilled teacher of the Alexander Technique can get round this problem fairly quickly if the student really wants to change.