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WEEKLY STUDY TEXTS   Weeks 1 - 10 

Week 6 


F.M Alexander quotes:

“The aim of re-education on a general basis is to bring about at all times, and for all purposes, not a series of correct positions or postures, but a co-ordinated use of the mechanisms in general”



“It is not the degree of willing or trying, but the way in which the energy is directed that is going to make the ‘willing’ or ‘trying’ effective.”

"When anything is pointed out, our only idea is to go from wrong to right in spite of the fact that it has taken us years to get wrong: We try to get right in a moment.”

"Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing things we shouldn't do.”    





One of the great flaws that Alexander identified in education systems was a generally held and fixed idea that,

“if a pupil is to be corrected for a defect, he should be taught to do something in order to correct it, instead of being taught, as a first principle, how to prevent …the wrong thing from being done.”

He speaks out quite often and quite strongly against this correction approach to teaching, particularly in cases of learning how to do something. His reasoning for this objection is quite simple and compelling.

If a student tries to do a movement and either fails to do the movement or does it in a dissatisfying manner, then Alexander reasoned there must be something at fault with the way he was directing himself in the performance of that activity, that is, the way he was using his thinking to guide himself while doing the movement. According to Alexander, this meant that the controlling mechanism upon which the student relied for guidance was faulty.

If a teacher would then ask the same student to do a second opposing movement in order to correct the effects of the first movement  (or even if the teacher asks the student to do an entirely different movement altogether), the student would still have to rely upon the same faulty controlling mechanism ( thinking processes ) that caused the problem in the first place. As a result, the second movement would be as equally misdirected as the first and although the original problem, distortion, or symptoms may seem to disappear, Alexander claimed that a new defect, perhaps even a more problematic defect would be created in its place.

In other words, Alexander contended that, although a clever teacher may find a way to instruct the pupil and create a balancing effect between the two opposing, “fault-filled” movements so the immediate end product was satisfactory in the moment, new defects would be developed, defects that would be, perhaps, even worse than the original difficulty. More importantly, the problem of the causal faults in the student’s directive thought processes would remain unaddressed.

On the other hand, if the defect was being caused by something that the student was doing to him - or herself, the easiest way to remove the defect would be to persuade the student to stop thinking the thoughts that caused the problem in the first place. Without the thinking processes that caused the defect being present, the defect could not happen.

For instance, certain people are often told that they are pulling up their shoulders.To correct this, they are often directed to “relax” or “let their shoulders go down”. Because of the various forms of misguided thinking and values involved in our prejudices about having to “do” something to correct a fault, these attempts at “relaxing” or “letting their shoulders go down” often would result in these people pulling their shoulders down in some fashion.

This process of correction created by pulling the shoulders down would work well but only as long as the “corrective” movement exactly balanced the original defect and as long as as the student continued to pull the shoulders up at the same time and as long as the total amounts of excessive muscular tension that were being created as a result of the “corrective” movement were not a concern.

This is a feature of all successful strategies in the correction model. If we take the time to reason this out, we will quickly see why this should be the case. In the first place, even when the suggested correction is appropriate, it will only work as long as the original fault remains. If the original fault disappears or diminishes, then the application of the previously successful correction will create a new and opposite fault. And, as bad as all of that is, from the standpoint of minimising energy usage, the use of the correction model is a disaster!

If the student was indeed unnecessarily pulling his or her shoulders up, this could easily be seen as an unnecessary waste of energy. If the student continued to pull his or her shoulders up and added in pulling his or her shoulders down at the same time, the total energy cost would now equal the original waste of energy from pulling them up plus the second unnecessary waste of energy created by pulling them down. In addition the presence of these opposing muscular forces would almost certainly bring about a stiffness in the joints involved.

Alexander said the most problems are caused by unnecessary muscular activity leading to undue rigidity throughout the organism. If a particular person’s problem is being caused by the use of too much muscular effort, adding more muscular effort into the equation by turning on additional muscles to perform “corrective” movements is unlikely to be the solution.

The genuine solution to this problem is actually quite easy. If you have correctly identified the problem as the fact that you are unnecessarily pulling your shoulders up, the genuine and easy solution to this problem is to stop pulling them up! Simple. Elegant. Easy.

But as Alexander points out in his second book, the ordinary student is not persuaded by this line of reasoning. I don’t know why. It makes sense to me. If people are doing something that is causing them a problem, then if they would stop doing the thing that is causing the problem, then the problem would disappear.

Sometimes it seems to me that at least half of my job while teaching is to tell people to stop doing the the things that they are doing to themselves that cause their problems. The good news in all of this is that it is possible to learn how to stop those things and that learning how to stop doing those things is one of the many, many things the Alexander Technique teaches you to do.

(This extract is taken from ‘Reach Your Dreams’ by Donald Weed)


“There isn’t anything either right or wrong when dealing with co-ordination. There are degrees of movement. Life is really moving from one position to another. We never stop and say, “This is right – this is my posture, this is the way I ought to be. If we do that, we’re stiff trying to hold that posture. It isn’t natural for our bodies to be held in positions.”

“CONSTRUCTIVE CONSCIOUS CONTROL - CONSTRUCTIVE: because we are changing something in ourselves which is ineffective, harmful. CONSCIOUS: because we become aware of what we are doing. CONTROL: because we are redirecting energy and bringing freedom into the whole mechanism.”

“Our voices are talking to your thinking apparatus; our hands are talking to your sense of feeling.”

“Learn to laugh at yourselves: you always move better with a smile.”

“All you want is a little bit of nothing–but the trouble with all you people is that you all want something. And that something is your habit.”

“Inhibition is the activity by which the old habit cannot take place.”

“When I find myself pushing, I have not taken the time to see where I am before I start to move.”

“He was scared as he was keeping his mind on what was bothering him, instead of looking for what to change.”

“So you are learning less and less about yourself, and more and more about what is possible.”

“You’d better talk about a ‘preventing’, because if you talk about a ‘keeping’, you will stiffen.”

“There is no right place, there is just a little bit more ease.”

“Spend a little time in conversation finding out what the person is learning…”

“I’m not interested in little pieces of tension–it’s my whole head and my whole body.”

“Thinking and moving are the same thing–don’t wait for perfection.”

“You are not supposed to expect something–you are supposed to be experimenting.”

“People love complicated things–but this is so simple, people think it’s hard.”

“It’s so simple it’s shocking.”

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