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
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!