Forward and Up: The Alexander Technique

Catching up with the various social media feeds recently I noticed Pedro de Alcantara had posted with pride a photo of the new edition of his Indirect Procedures. I first encountered the book as a student when I discover the technique through lessons offered at my students’ union. To say the technique had a massive impact on my practice as a musician is an understatement; shifting the focus from my fingers and brain alone to the head and neck (the primary control) was a revelation. I had lessons for about four years and my passion for the benefit of the technique took me to Paris to have lessons with Pedro de Alcantara as his book had offered me a great deal of insight. The lessons were quite unusual, to be frank, in comparison to the lessons I had received before. It stuck me that the Alexander Technique lessons I had received before Pedro were extolling the very thing the technique sought to dispel: habit. The lessons had become a ceremony in their own right, and some processes were identical between different teachers. Pedro’s teaching was markedly different. He would say would thing but would do another: “I’m going to turn your head to the left” and then he’d move it to the right. Because I had prepared myself to move one way, he encountered restriction; I’d set my head on one journey and prevented another. Sounds pretty minor as an event but it taught me that I wasn’t free, prepared for ‘nothing’ but faking inhibition. The three lessons were indeed very refreshing. It wasn’t about being put into a position – though it included the usual table and chair work – but about asking questions. Oddly I left every lesson laughing; such was the revelatory feeling of every lesson discovering something new about my use.

I’m writing this post in the lobby of a Berlin hotel. My thoughts are drawn to the fact I’m pulling myself down to type on my iPad. I also remind myself to send my back, back. It really sticks with you, Alexander Technique. Hopefully as the concepts stick I hope I don’t allow myself to get stuck into a particular position, posture; it’s the ability to inhibit mechanical disadvantageous movements, positions I think is the crux of what makes the Technique so useful for me. Inhibiting such disadvantage is something I always enjoyed in my lessons: inhibition. A great concept as it involves doing nothing, not something else. I think that’s why I like the technique. We just need to get out of the way of our socio-culturally defined postures and let our bodies run themselves as intended; free of (needless, unfocused) tension and prepared for anything, ready for nothing.

Look out for the new edition of Pedro’s book. I strongly recommend it as a way of questioning what we do and how we do it.

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