The Alexander Technique in a nutshell states that how a person uses themselves directly or indirectly affects how they function and react. If your use is poor you are likely to have symptoms of ill-health; likewise, if your use is good you are more likely to be healthy. Your intention every day is to try to improve, to attempt at all times to apply the principles of the Technique as best you can. It is a technique primarily of prevention—it is really only after a series of individual lessons that a person is able to look back and assess the benefits they have experienced.
The pupil who comes to the Technique because they have had back pain and subsequently gains relief will obviously see it as a cure. They will marvel at the fact that they can, by paying attention consciously to their movements in the everyday acts of sitting, standing and bending, banish their long-term back pain.
And it is almost certain that other benefits will reveal themselves. They may feel calmer. Situations which previously upset them or made them angry will be dealt with differently. They will notice their reactions have modified and become more appropriate. They will neither overreact nor under-react. They will deal with life’s problems differently, and consequently will see their lives differently. By learning to consciously choose what they do in these small acts of life, this principle will gradually be applied to bigger decisions as well. They will find themselves less and less worried about trivial matters. Friends and family will of course notice changes in them as well.
It is very significant that the Technique is taught in all the Music and Drama colleges throughout the world. Musicians, dancers and actors have always recognised its benefits. It is part of the curriculum. The directors know how a potential young student’s career could end in disappointment if their “bad use” is not sorted out before they pursue their chosen profession. The long hours of practice as well as the repetition day after day of a wrong movement will result in pain, injury and will shatter the aspiring performer’s confidence. Progress will cease, and, sadly, eventually the things which were once easy to do become, over time, impossible. They may indeed give up, becoming a victim of “bad use”. How many people have not reached their full potential due to this? Have in a way been disappointed in their lives and been unfulfilled? Nearly everyone who has lessons in the Technique says, “If only I had known about this when I was younger. The ability to stop, to think, to say ‘No’. It would have made such a difference.” Yes, indeed, to have led a life not full of regrets.
This is as we know Alexander’s own story: a promising actor, a star of the future who developed a breathing and vocal problem. No doctor could help him, no known cure helped. He, like many before and since, faced the heartbreak of giving up a profession he loved. But as we know from reading his books, he did find a cure. Through the discovery of his Technique, Alexander was able to eliminate the loss of voice that had dogged him for years. Yet still more important was the realisation that much of the ill-health humans experience can be prevented. His books are full of illustrations which support this theory. Alexander stated that the Technique ought to be taught universally, especially in schools. If children learned to apply these principles at an early age, before bad habits became fixed, their lives would be quite different.
However, Alexander had to demonstrate the Technique’s effectiveness in the curative sphere. Although he stressed he never ‘cured’ anyone, he did change their Use of themselves, and indirectly their symptoms were eliminated. The body’s own wisdom was allowed to become operational again instead of the body’s stupidity. With the mind and body working not in conflict, but together, health was restored.
It is often stated that the Technique is commonsense in action. At what age should one start utilising commonsense? The sooner the better. The lovely thing is it is never too late—we are not seeking perfection; to improve is enough. It is a start, and slowly the benefits will be seen. Some will be those desperately wanted, but the unexpected will delight as well. True happiness may well be achieved as well as relief from back pain, headaches, high blood pressure, poor posture, sleeping problems, lack of confidence and many more ailments pupils have found themselves unable to eliminate by any other means.
One famous teacher of the Alexander Technique was addressed in a public forum, “You are always so relaxed, so balanced; you move with the grace of a man of thirty, forty years younger. You seem to enjoy life so well. Even in old age you have a youthful vitality and outlook. Although famous you are so modest. You give your time and experience unselfishly to others. What a great example to us all of a rounded human being. Can I ask you, has this Technique been a big influence?” The answer was short: “What else could it have been?” Applause.