Why learn Alexander Technique? Choose to be different

All the apples in this image are different - people who learn Alexander Technique choose to be different.

A few years ago I did a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera – an introduction to psychology. One of my favourite parts of it was the description of a basic idea from social psychology. In this idea, we can all place ourselves on a spectrum between the extremes of complete individuation and total conformity to a group.

I found this a really interesting idea, partly because we move along depending on the situation we’re in, but also because it reminded me of a truth about what I teach. More importantly, it reminded me of a reason why people sometimes balk at choosing to learn Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is counter-cultural.

Same old, same old…

FM Alexander noticed back in 1910 that people in the society of his time had a serious problem with inertia:

We must always remember that the vast majority of human beings live very narrow lives, doing the same thing and thinking the same thoughts day by day… [1]

The people FM saw around him conformed to what they thought was normal – even if what they accepted as normal was a kind of managed deterioration of their physical abilities. He wrote:

The trouble, whatever it is, is endured in the first instance; it is looked upon as a nuisance … no steps are taken to get rid of it, and the trouble grows until, by degrees, it is looked upon as a necessity… As long as the disease can be kept within certain bounds, no effort is made to fight it.[2]

But it isn’t only London of 1910 that has a problem of accepting decline and deterioration as normal. We do that, too. When I turned 45, a friend half-jokingly told me that I’d reached the age where it was obligatory to utter a groan when getting out of a chair, and a contented sigh when seated! My friend was teasing me, but it points to a deeper truth about what we as a society expect: we expect to ‘put up with things’. We expect inexorable deterioration. If we get the odd spot of discomfort, we just live with it, and even expect it to get worse.

And there is no reason why this should be so.

Learn Alexander Technique to be counter-cultural

At its heart, I think the Alexander Technique is profoundly counter-cultural, because it is profoundly anti-inertia. It says that change is possible. It reminds us that not every problem we experience is structural – sometimes we are responsible for our own discomfort. And if we are responsible for our troubles, then we don’t need to wait on an expert to solve it for us. We can learn the right tools to help get out of trouble again for ourselves.

As FM said,

I turn my attention particularly to the many who say, “I am quite content as I am.” To them I say … if you are content to be the slave of habits instead of master of your own mind and body, you can never have realised the wonderful inheritance that is yours by right of the fact that you were born a reasoning, intelligent man or woman. [3]

Don’t settle. Why just live with ideas and movement patterns that don’t help you, when the solutions are available and easy to learn? Why not take up the challenge, be counter-cultural, and decide to take on change?

Will you learn Alexander Technique?

[1] Alexander, F.M., Man’s Supreme Inheritance, NY, Irdeat, 1997, p.65.

[2] ibid., pp.64-5.

[3] ibid., pp.67-68.

Image of apples by Artemas Ward [Public domain].