Published in the winter 2007 edition of the AmSAT News - the quarterly publication of the American Society for the Alexander Technique. Copyrighted - all rights reserved.
Not long ago, during a lesson I was explaining to a student that according to F. M. Alexander we really don’t have to do much to find the wonderful grace and elegance of the proper use of ourselves. Good use is built into our system so all we have to do is not interfere and the whole thing will work just fine.
My student came to the Alexander Technique because he wanted to better himself. He seemed to be suffering from a familiar state of affairs - he believed that if he wished to make things better, if he wanted to have “good posture”, he needed to try harder. He thought that in order to stand or sit fully upright, he needed to pull things up rather violently, head and shoulders back, chest out, knees and legs locked. The prospect of doing none of this but instead, allowing the body’s natural upright processes to take their own course, was rather daunting and, it seemed impossible to him. His response to my suggestion to not do the things he was doing and see where it all might take him was “That’s a real leap of faith”. And so it is a leap of faith – but, I believe, one that we have little choice but to pursue. If we wish to reach our full potential in supporting our very basic needs, if we trust that the resources to carry our own weight, to move from place to place and to perform the many varied tasks we ask of ourselves each minute of every day; then we must use ourselves to the best of our abilities and waste little effort.
Years ago, during my first Alexander lesson with Troup Matthews, he and I were chatting and sitting on stools in the teaching room in his house on Macdougal Street in New York City. The room had the feeling of age and seasoning and it seemed to move gently with Troup as he walked about. The floorboards creaked with every step. I’d had enough Alexander lessons to know that Troup was going to stand behind or to the side, put his hand on me and by using some gentle magic, float me lightly and easily out of the chair. Troup seemed to know what I expected, and he did nothing of the kind. Instead, he told me to get myself out of the chair. Troup had changed the game plan. He had encouraged me to take the time to think - as a matter of fact, he insisted on it. Eventually, I got myself up. I have no idea how long that took, but, when I finally did rise, the movement had qualities similar to those I had experienced in my previous lessons.
“You’ve only got to wish for it, my boy,” Troup said. Perhaps that is what the Alexander Technique is all about - giving ourselves time to wish for what we want. And if we can get what we wish for, if we do have in us the stuff to make our wishes come true, that really will be a leap of faith.