Over the years, Alexander teachers have stressed the importance of not relying entirely on proprioception when applying the Technique. That is to say, insuring that the turning inward of attention does not come at the expense of awareness of our surrounding environment. Short film clips of F.M. Alexander show him as a sparkly-eyed older gentleman with rapidly moving, lively eyes and a highly mobile head – the very opposite of what we commonly see in typical beginning students, who sit rather stilly, glassy-eyed, while oh, so subtly moving their heads around, “trying to find the right place” in order to recreate the open and free experiences they’ve had during hands on work with their teachers. What is required is a blending of perception and proprioception, or as I like to call it these days – being inside and outside at the same time. A shift of awareness which feels to me like a state of being completely present, a state in which being inside and outside feels not so much as the experiencing two things at once, but rather that these two modes are now part of a single activity. Frank Pierce Jones gave this the stunningly accurate, though somewhat scientific sounding name the “unified field of awareness.” And it’s in this special field that inhibition and directional thinking can most effectively occur – and the magic can happen.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Modern neuroscience’s bumper sticker takeaway about the plasticity of the brain is perhaps the most delightful news I’ve ever received. Why so? Not only does it prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that change is possible, but it suggests that we can truly control and self determine how we experience life. Constantly choosing to think in a certain way will reinforce itself and become a larger and larger part of our experience. But it’s not as easy as, say, simply repeating certain sentences to ourselves. Not by a long shot.
We often think of “thoughts” as being sentences or semi-sentences or urges in our heads. But since there is really no way to make a clean separation between body and mind (hence that term from the 80s – body/mind) in actuality, our “thoughts” need to be considered as both the sentences or urges in our minds and the state of what is going on in the body at that time as one inseparable event. Therefore, for example, repeating an affirmation, “I am calm” when you are agitated won’t have the same long term effect of rewiring neural pathways in your brain that it would if you were repeating,”I am calm” when your body is actually experiencing calm.
This is why I am so excited about Alexander Technique teacher Jennifer Riog-Francoli having shared Mio Morales’ approach of monitoring for and expanding ease in myself and my environment when giving myself the Alexander Technique direction,”Let my neck be free.” Because ease begets ease, begets ease. It’s science.
The F.M. Alexander Technique, now over a century old, is a simple, practical method that teaches people to re-direct unnecessary tension into useful energy. It was developed by F. Mathias Alexander, an Australian actor, to aid and enhance his performance. Over the years it has been recognized as a valuable tool for musicians, actors and dancers.
The human body is designed for movement – graceful, expressive and powerful. But all too often, the stresses and strains of our lives, including stage fright, interfere with out natural tendency toward balance, ease and health and we become trapped by physical and mental inflexibility. By applying the Alexander technique to our activities, we can restore freedom and elegance to our activities, whether we are working on a computer, painting a ceiling, or playing a musical instrument.
The Technique is taught at Juilliard, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and most of the major performing arts conservatories worldwide. Some of its well known practitioners have included George Bernard Shaw, Sir Colin Davis, Sting, Julie Andrews, Madonna, John Cleese and Paul McCartney.