Falling Down in the Lower Spine

Hello Everyone,

This blog is created by our guest master teacher in Alexander Technique- Carolyn Johnston.



There are many unconscious, unconstructive ways in which people fall, pull

or collapse down in different sections of their spine.


One of the most common is in the cervical vertebrae (the neck.)  There are

two different habitual patterns that occur in this area.

1. Fredrick Matthias Alexander discovered, by watching himself in a mirror

    during the elocution of Shakespearean monologues that his neck would

    pull backwards and down. (Picture a strong military salute.)

2. The 2nd pattern occurs more often, especially with extensive use of

    cell phones and computers.  The direction of the neck falls or pulls down

    and forward and then the skull will either go in the same direction as the

    spine with 10-12 lbs. pulling on the neck and back or it will need to tilt

    backwards on top of the spine in order to see something above your

    neutral eye level related to the eye sockets or your eyeballs will need to

    roll up in their sockets.

The second most common spinal compressing is in the lower thoracic and

lumbar vertebrae from the tenth rib to the sacrum (the waist and a little


1. Alexander’s back and down neck habit resulted in a pattern of

    tension that narrowed and shortened the muscles of his whole back

    reversing the natural curve of the thoracic spine.  This compressive

    habit continued down through his lumbar curve resulting in an

    overarching of the natural curve accompanied by an uptight, rigid state of

    being.  Support was no longer available from the ground up through the

    legs and pelvis under the front of the spine which is the supportive part

    called the body of the spine   Therefore his head was unable to simply

    rest and easily balance on top of his spine.    


2. The 2nd pattern, that accompanies the forward and down neck pattern,

    most often produces a falling down in the spine and is usually

    associated with a sense of a collapsed state of being wherein the

    thoracic spine is overly curved and the lumbar curve is overly arched.

    Again, there can be no support from the ground up through the legs and

    pelvis under the supportive body of the spine.  Therefore the head is

    not able to simply rest and easily balance on top of the spine.

F.M. Alexander spent many years observing himself in mirrors while he was

performing monologues and engaging in other activities in order to figure

out what he might be doing that was causing him to lose his voice during

Shakespearean performances.  He observed many habitual patterns of

tension throughout his whole self over a period of ten years.  To his

amazement, these habits began with the thought of engaging in an

activity, even the simplest, like raising an arm or a leg.  These patterns

must be inhibited at the thought of doing something otherwise it will be too

late.  He discovered that these patterns interfered with his ability to………..

(allow his neck to be free, so that his head could move (in such a way) that

he could let his back widen and lengthen and decompress his spine………)

When he was able to inhibit his habitual patterns of tension and give

himself the directions I just stated, he was able to restore a dynamic and

balanced connection between his head, his neck and his torso all the way

down to the bottom of his pelvis.  He referred to that dynamic balanced

relationship as “The Primary Control.”  Through his pioneering process

the hoarseness (dysphonia) and loss of his voice was cured.  Also, to his

surprise, the principles that he discovered, cured him of his asthmatic

condition that he had since the age of nine.  Because he cured himself of

these two ailments, other actors with dysphonia came to him for help and

doctors started sending him their patients with breathing problems.  That is

why his technique was called Breathing Reeducation before it was known

as the Alexander Technique.

As Alexander began to describe and teach his process to others, he found

that words by themselves seemed inadequate.  He began to use his hands

to help students inhibit their downward pull habits and redirect their

structure to a freely balanced, and easier way of being.  Because of the

way that F.M. used his hands in relation to his whole consciously

coordinated self, students kinesthetically experienced the difference

between doing an activity in their nonconstructive habitual way and a

constructive conscious way.  Here are some of the principles he taught.

1. Recognize your force of habit.

2. Inhibit your force of habit.

3. Recognize your faulty sensory awareness.

4. Give yourself constructive directions.

5  Cooperate with your Primary Control (the dynamic balanced relationship

    between your head, your neck and your torso all the way to the bottom of

    your pelvis.)   

Alexander referred to our ability to be upright effortlessly as “Man’s

Supreme Inheritance.”  The restoring of our Supreme Inheritance from

falling, pulling or collapsing down in the spine requires a willingness to

patiently unlearn, be open to reeducation and graciously observe the

constructive changes that are already there, waiting to be unveiled!