THE IMMACULATE CONTRACTION
While muscles provide the power for our movements, it is our nervous system that provides the direction of our movements. Muscles are only machines that contract on command. The message to contract comes from the nerves.
It is impossible to change the design of a movement once the message has been sent out of the motor area of the brain.
It is only before that point - as the movement is being designed - that a change in strategy can occur.
The design of a movement is a thought.
The only effective tools that can be used to change a thought are other thoughts.
Consequently, it is the redirecting and retraining of our thinking that will provide the means of escape from our ‘monkey traps’.
So, movements are caused by contractions of muscles, and muscular contractions are caused by the sending of messages along the nerves to the muscles involved.
These messages are called impulses in the peripheral nerves, but they are the sort of thing we call thoughts in our brains.
Once we understand that the commands sent to the muscles originate as thoughts in the brain, then we have a way of finding out something about the thoughts which an individual has.
First of all, we must begin with a basic decision about the relationship between thought and movement. I believe that most, if not all, voluntary movement behaviours begin with a thought.
In other words, the relationship of thinking and movement is causal.
I believe (and I am quite confident that Alexander would agree) that if there is a voluntary movement, then there was a thought that preceded and directed it.
In other word there is no such thing as an Immaculate Contraction.
If the process of learning this work is a battle between being trapped by one’s habitual movement responses (and the thinking processes that create these responses) on the one hand and being free to design appropriate responses at will on the other, I do not believe this “battle” will every be won on the basis of movement correction, reflex initiation, or postural change.
I believe that it will be won on the basis of training the student how to think. If the student’s thinking is sound, then satisfactory movement and conditions must follow.
USING TOO MUCH ENERGY
Alexander discovered that using too much energy to perform a task can typically occur in two ways.
You can either use too much energy in a specific way or you can use too much energy in a general way.
Specific ways of using too much energy:
We can use the appropriate muscles for our task but using MORE FORCE than is necessary.
For example we can PRE-JUDGE the amount of effort required for our task rather than gradually increasing the force required to complete the job.
Another way people specifically misuse the amount of force they are using in muscles, is by employing muscles that can’t perform the desired task.
For example getting out of a chair and creating muscular tension in our neck and shoulder muscles while doing so.
(These excerpts from Donald Weed's text book for the study of the Alexander Technique ‘What You Think is What You Get’)
PRINCIPLES OF THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
The human being is whole, its body, mind and soul inseparable one form the other. We’ll call the whole human being the self.
The way you use yourself is the way you react to any stimulus or situation, whether triggered by external events or by your own thoughts and initiatives.
The way you use yourself - that is the way you react - affects all aspects of your functioning. This includes aspects that we tend to call ‘physical’, such as digestion, circulation and locomotion; and aspects that we tend to call ‘mental’, such as adaptability, creativity and emotional fulfilment.
If you’d like to improve how you function, then you should improve the way you use yourself - that is, the way you react to life.
And if you’d like to improve the way you use yourself, become alert to the universal habit of end-gaining, which consists in pursuing unhealthy goals, and in pursuing goals in an unhealthy manner.
To improve your use, you don’t need to do the right thing. Instead you stop doing the wrong one - that is, stop end gaining. This is called non-doing (or inhibition).
The orientation of your head, neck and and back, each in relation to the other, determines many things in your life. We call this relationship the primary control. The better you direct your primary control, the better your whole co-ordination becomes.
The primary control engages your head, neck and back. But your goals and motivations are the motor of everything you do. What you do with your head, neck and back is a result of what’s happening in your mind. Let’s redefine the primary control as the orientation of your head, neck and back in response to your goals and intentions.
Faulty sensory awareness and the force of habit - our blind spots - makes us and break us. But we can deal with them thanks to non-doing (or inhibition) and the direction of our energies.
(Taken from the book ‘The Alexander Technique - A Skill for Life’ by Pedro De Alcantara)