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Excerpts from Training Course Talks

The following is an excerpt from a discussion at the Northern California Center for the Alexander Technique which was recorded April 9, 2010. It is based on Walter Carrington’s “Yin and Yang” recorded at the Constructive Teaching Centre (London), June 17, 1992 and published in The Act of Living (Mornum Time Press).

In this talk, Walter suggests to us as teachers of the Alexander Technique, that the best use of our time is to observe our students regardless of whether they’re first timers or have been coming for a long time. He also offers the suggestion that we not particularly rush right in to share these observations with our students. The reason for this is that when people think they are doing something wrong, their first reaction is likely to be to try to fix it. If we make the observation that a student is pulled down or collapsed, he is likely to want to “stand up straight” as this is the popular remedy. If she is tense and rigid, she will likely attempt repair by sagging and collapsing; if they are leaning to the one side, they are likely to lean to the other to compensate. If we don’t dispel them of this notion and they have spent the week working hard at it, they are going to want to know whether or not they are in better shape. Of course, we don’t know whether they are as we aren’t likely to recall what shape they were in the week before. The alternative to this is to simply observe your student and give both him and you the opportunity to get to know each other. There is much to be learned by not rushing in, and by giving the student and teacher time especially to think of themselves and not try and do too much. It is likely to be more useful to the student if you can support her to think about herself, rather than doing the thinking for her. It is likely to be much more encouraging if by our decisions to leave things alone, the student can begin to find his own way. Improved use of him or herself is more likely to follow. Participating in this discussion were Jeanne Benioff, Greer Ellison, Peter Estabrook, David Levitt, Daina Block, and George Lister

The following is an excerpt from a discussion at the Northern California Center for the Alexander Technique which was recorded October 15, 2008. It is based on a section of the chapter “Imperfect Sensory Appreciation”, from the book “Constructive Conscious Control for the Individual”, by F. M. Alexander, first published in 1923.

From our earliest days of study of the Alexander Technique we learned that a free neck is vital to the organized use of the entire psycho/physical system. We have learned that the direction “Free the neck”, is not something to be done; but rather a state of being necessary so that the entire system will work well. The logic seems to follow that if one frees the neck, everything else in our use of ourselves is destined to come along. And, unfortunately, this is where we risk going a bit off.

Alexander clearly states (p. 103, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, Mouritz edition), that “a stiffened neck, in fact, is merely a symptom of general mal-co-ordination…” and, therefore, “any direct attempt to relax it means he is (we are) dealing with it as a cause and not as a symptom”…He goes on to say, ”Such an attempt will result in comparative failure unless a satisfactory coordinated use of the mechanism in general is restored.” In other words, if we’re carrying stiffness, pain, etc., we tend to recognize some particular area of ourselves which we consider to be the culprit. The tendency may be to focus on that specific area in the hope that we will find a solution so the pain will disappear. According to Alexander, dealing with this in such a direct way is not the answer. He mentions a stiff neck as a problem area, but we can probably apply this to any symptom (back, knees, etc.), as an indication that the whole system is out of coordination.

We all come to the Alexander Technique for some reason – pain, stiffness, performance improvement, or simply a desire to develop ourselves. We may have tried many things to improve the situation in a direct way, but arrived at the Alexander Technique because they didn’t work to our satisfaction. The willingness to explore something new and in a new way, means that the principles of the Technique are already in place and have aided us with our decision. With a teacher’s help and guidance, we learn to build on this new direction.

Participating in this discussion were Lee Anne Welch, Greer Ellison, Jonathan Salzedo, Peter Estabrook, Kyleen Wolfson, and George Lister

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