‘Sit Up Straight!’ – Does Alexander Technique help with self-control?

selfdiscipline

Is there a link between self control and the Alexander Technique?

On Monday morning on BBC Radio 4, the presenters of the Today programme interviewed Professor Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength. In the interview, he suggested that “self control is really the best thing you can give your chilrdren,” and gave an example of a simple way to improve one’s willpower as an adult.

“The good news about self control is that it’s never too late. We’ve done studies even with adults, showing that a couple of weeks of training and practice, even things like working on your posture, can strengthen your willpower … The first study we did, we told people, ‘Whenever you think about it, sit up straight, stand up straight.’ The thing about willpower is that if you strengthen it in one sphere makes you better at everything else.” *

So… If you tell people to sit up straight or stand up straight, their self control improves. And if their self control improves, the evidence is that they become more successful and better liked. So far, so good…

I have a couple of things I’d like to talk about off the back of this interview:
1. How the Alexander Technique can explain the basis behind the positive changes Baumeister witnessed;
2. Why it is that Baumeister’s approach may end up doing more harm than good.
I will cover point 2 next week.

 

Alexander on habits and self control

FM Alexander stated all the way through his books that he believed that the troubles people experienced (with things like bad habits) were the result of what he called subconscious control – depending upon instinct and feeling for guidance, “so that today man walks, talks sits, stands, performs in fact the innumerable mechanical acts of daily life without giving a thought to the psychical and physical processes involved.” **

Alexander wanted us to move beyond this subconscious guidance, and to enliven our reasoning faculties. “For in the mind of man lies the secret of his ability to resist, to conquer, and finally to govern the circumstance of his life…” ***

So how do we bring to life our reasoning faculties? Well, Alexander said we could change to something more beneficial “if once we can clear away that first impeding habit of thought which stands between us and conscious control.” ****

In other words, if we make an effort to change the way we think, then we start to change not just towards more beneficial physical conditions, but more beneficial mental ones too. We will  begin to develop a reasoning facility that will actually help us to keep changing and improving. As Alexander says:

For when real conscious control has been obtained  habit need never become fixed. It is not truly a habit at all, but an order or series of orders given to the subordinte controls of the body…”

And interestingly, this sounds errily similar to  statement made by reviewer Jamie Holmes in his assessment of Baumeister’s book: “One implication is already apparent.Since repeated behaviors eventually turn into habits, improving willpower long term requires a unique strategy—a habit of changing habits, of continually expanding our zones of comfort.”

The way forward?

All of this so far, I fear, may have sounded a bit dry. But it is actually really important. Alexander is telling us that nothing is fixed.

Let me repeat that. Nothing is fixed.

If we begin to use our brains and take a good hard look at the things we do, we can make beneficial changes. If you habitually slump, for example, you can reason out where you would bend to sit if not slumping. You can reason out where the muscles are that do the job of bending your legs. You can find out what a curvy shape the spine actually has. You can think about whether different chairs would need different approaches to sitting. these are just some of the questions you could ask yourself.

You can do all these things. You are resourceful, intelligent, and determined. You have the power to change for the better. So what are you going to start to change today?

 

*Prof Baumeister, transcribed from the BBC interview. The link is in the text above.
**FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.16.
*** ibid., p.58.
**** ibid.
Image (C) STROINSKI.PL

3 steps for changing bad habits

My son recently reported that his teacher had said, in class, that ‘it is important to make sure that when you learn to do something, you are careful to learn the right way to do things. Otherwise, you could develop bad habits. And’, she said, ‘it is very hard to break a bad habit.’

What do you think? Was she right?

I’ll give you a moment to think about it.

Ready? Let’s investigate!

 

The average view of habit.

Most people talk about habits as though the habit is something external to them: “I have this bad habit of slumping,” one of my students might be hear to say. The habit seems to have a separate existence, and has atached itself, carbuncle-like, upon the student. It sneakily intrudes into the student’s day without permission, and certainly without consent. And if the student could just detach this nasty habit, then all would be well.

 

FM on habit.

FM Alexander wrote very clearly against this conception of habits. He said:

“the establishment of a habit in a particular person is associated in that person with a certain habitual manner of using the self, and that because the organism works as an integrated whole, change of a particular habit in the fundamental sense is impossible as long as this habitual manner of use persists.”*

In other words, I have a ‘manner of use’ of myself that is particular to me. It is my ‘me-ness’. Any habits that I have are not additions to this me-ness. They are a part of the me-ness (manner of use of myself).

And if I want to change the habit, I have to make a change to the me-ness.

 

Changing the me-ness

So… It sounds quite heavy, doesn’t it? It sounds like my son’s teacher might be right – changing habits is hard work!

Except…

Making a change to the me-ness is relatively fast and simple. Because we control our me-ness. We just need to change our thinking. So, for example, I could decide that I don’t want to be lumbered with the extra kilos that I gained over Christmas, and that I am going to be more controlled in my calorie intake over the next few weeks.

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Ah!  I hear you say. But that’s just a decision! How are you going to stick to it?

By using Alexander’s secret. He wrote: “all those who wish to change something in themselves must learn to make it a principle of life to inhibit their immediate reaction… They must continue this inhibition whilst they employ the new direction of their use.” **

To carry on with my dieting example, the next time I feel peckish and head for the kitchen, I can stop and, prior to picking up that biscuit, I can remember my decision and renew my decision to carry on with my calorie control.

My son’s teacher is right that learning the best way to do things is important. But changing habits is only as long and hard as you choose to make it. And that’s your ‘me-ness’ at work, too.

The process?

1. Make a decision. Change happens at the speed of thought!
2. When you are tempted to respond in the old way, STOP!
3. Keep stopping your old response, and carry on with your new response.

Give it a go, and let me know what you think.

 

*FM Alexander, Universal Constant in Living in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p,580.
** FM Alexander, The Use of the Self in the Irdeat Edition, p,473f.
Image by Ariel da Silva Parreira, stock.xchng

Annual Check-up: the easy route to noticing change

short_pants

One night last week my son went to bed in pyjamas that fitted. When he got out of bed the next morning, they were conspicuously short in the leg. He had had a growth spurt overnight.

Now such things happen – changes that are sudden and instantly visible. But often change isn’t so obvious. It is gradual and incremental. It creeps up on you. The classic example is not noticing that your child has grown until someone comes to visit who hasn’t been for a while. When they exclaim how tall your child has become, you also look on them with new eyes. Yes, they have grown, haven’t they?!

It is very easy to just let life slide past and thus not notice the effect of the accumulation of small changes, whether for good or ill. Our child grows, the bedroom carpet gets shabbier, our confidence in our new job increases, our favourite shoes develop worn heels…

Small changes. It can be hard to notice the small changes. FM Alexander knew this. In the opening chapter of his very first book he wrote:

“The evils of a personal bad habit do not reveal themselves in a day or in a week, perhaps not in a year, a remark that is also true of the benefits of a good habit.” *

What Alexander means here is that, if we sit or stand or go about any of the “innumerable acts of daily life” in a way that is less than optimal (or even downright harmful), we may not notice the effects immediately. They might not appear for weeks, or months, or maybe even a year.

But notice that he also says that this is “also true of the benefits of a good habit.” When we make changes that are good and beneficial, we might not notice the benefits immediately. They might be gradual and incremental. They might creep up on us. We might not even notice the improvement for weeks. Or months. Or maybe even a year.

 

Annual check-up time.

Some years ago I decided to take Alexander’s words seriously, and set up for myself a sort of informal annual check-up. At a certain time each year, I think back to that time the previous year. I think back to what was feeling emotionally and physically. I check my diary and look at the sorts of things I was doing each week. I look for the accumulation of the small changes.

Would you like to do something similar?

The end of the year is a good, standard, traditional time to carry out that sort of annual review. One of my favourite writers, Chris Guillebeau, is even making part of his public at the moment on his blog.

Sample questions for your review:

  • How was I physically this time last year? Are there things I can do now that I couldn’t do back then?
  • What was I thinking about this time last year? What preoccupied me? Has my thinking changed, and if so, how?
  • How was I feeling this time last year? Am I feeling differently now? If so, how?

If you haven’t done a review before, give it go, and tell me in the comments how you found the exercise. And if you do this each year, tell me, how does it help you?

 

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.16.

 

5 Alexander Technique steps to everyday happiness: 5. Keep experimenting

In my reading of FM Alexander’s works recently, I was reminded very strongly of the supreme importance of experimentation. Alexander writes:

“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, and it is this fact that makes it so necessary that we should acquire conscious control of the mental and physical powers as a whole, for we otherwise run the risk of losing that versatility which is an essential factor in their development.” *

The phrase in this that stopped me in my tracks was that first one, “the vast majority of human beings live very narrow lives, doing the same thing and thinking the same thoughts day by day…” Is this me? I asked myself.

Is this you? And even if it is true of me or you, does it really matter if we do and think the same things day by day?

legoplay

Why it matters.

I am about to say something controversial. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you decide to spend the next decade or three slumping. It isn’t going to kill you. With only a few potential exceptions, the way you sit or walk isn’t going to be a life or death issue.

But it is a quality of life issue.

If we choose to do the same things in the same way day after day, or worse, if we don’t even realise we are doing the same things in the same way day after day, we risk dulling our ability to be versatile. We lose our skill at rolling with the punches. Which means that when we experience some sort of (possibly externally initiated) form of sudden change, like an injury or illness or sudden redundancy from work, we struggle to know what to do.

 

Even if we don’t experience anything so major, if we stay content with doing and thinking the same stuff day by day, we risk a far more subtle kind of injury – the dulling of our enjoyment of things.

Alexander’s definition of happiness is the kind of absorption seen in a child doing something that interests it. And having watched my own son, what I have noticed is that this absorption is most apparent when he is experimenting.

He doesn’t build the same structures with his Lego, slavishly following the instruction book. He builds the bricks that way once, takes it apart, and then goes freeform. He experiments. He plays. He messes up, gets frustrated, pulls it apart, then tries again. And each thing he builds is fascinating.

According to Alexander, versatility is important. And we build versatility by playing and experimenting. We build it by getting things wrong, getting frustrated, going back to the beginning and trying again.

So. Tell me: what will you experiment with this week?

 

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.65.
Image by Afonso Lima, stock.xchng

5 Alexander Technique steps to everyday happiness: 4. Live in the present moment

Next week my recorder quartet will be playing a concert, and my thoughts about the rehearsal process are what have led me to today’s tip for everyday happiness: being in and reacting to the present moment.

PinkNoise

The piece that my quartet will play to begin our concert is called The Jogger, by Dick Koomans (the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet play it extremely well here). It is one of those pieces of music where one person starts, then the next person comes in, copying what the first person does. Then the third person joins, copying the first two players.

The trouble we had initially with this piece as a quartet is that the third player didn’t exactly following the style of playing (intonation) set up by the first two players. And if all the players don’t agree, then the result can sound a little odd.

What happens is that each player goes away and practises the piece on their own. They spend time working on their own style of playing it. But when we get together to practise as a group, we have to find a way to play the music together, sounding as one unit. This means that we really need to spend time listening to each other, and responding in the moment to what we hear going on around us. And if we don’t listen to each other and just press on and play the way we practised, then the result just doesn’t sound the same.

 

Lifting past chairs

But it isn’t only musicians who need to spend time in the present moment. Even on the simplest of tasks we can fall into the trap of not sticking with the present moment, but either dallying in the past or straying into the future. FM Alexander used as his example a person asking a friend to lift a chair:

“You will see at once that your friend will approach the task with a definite preconception as to the amount of physical tension necessary. His mind is exclusively occupied with the question of his own muscular effort, instead of with the purpose in front of him and the best means to undertake it.” *

Our friend lifting the chair approaches the task with “a definite preconception” – they will probably have decided upon the likely weight of the chair and tensed muscles in readiness long before their fingers touch the object. To all intents and purposes, they aren’t really picking up the chair in front of them. They are picking up all the chairs they have picked up in the past!

Most of the time it won’t be the end of the world – misjudging the weight of the chair isn’t likely to have serious consequences! But if we keep relying on our preconceptions, to the point where we forget that we are even doing so, then we are locking ourselves out of the present moment. And that will make it so much harder to react quickly when it really counts.

 

So my task for you this week is this: 

  • Think about the times and places where you do genuinely experience the present moment. For blogger Jamey Burrell, it is when he is running. What about you?
  • And for the next week, keep an eye on yourself. See how often you operate on preconceptions, and whether it sometimes trips you up.

Oh, and if you’re in Bristol next Wednesday lunchtime and have nothing to do, come along to my concert!

 

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.63.
Image by Gregor O’Gorman

5 Alexander Technique steps to everyday happiness: 2. Rejoice that you are fallible

cupboard

In my teaching room, I have a cupboard. It has two main uses. Firstly, it stows my computer away out of sight. This is its practical use. But it has a far more important function than that.

It stores all of my students’ sticks.

Sticks? I hear you ask.

Yes, sticks. The sticks they beat themselves up with.

Mental sticks

Obviously I don’t mean actual physical sticks. I’m talking about something far more insidious, though just as damaging. I am talking about the things that people believe about themselves and say to me during their lessons.

“I have such terrible posture.”
“I sit really badly.”
“My right leg is okay. But my left leg is really bad.”
“I know that my walking isn’t good, but there’s nothing I can do to make it better.”
“If my furniture at work was better, I wouldn’t have this neck pain.”

 

Why these statements are sticks

1. They are examples of what I was talking about last week: they are examples of thinking that is stuck in a groove. They are conclusions masquerading as statements of fact, and the reasoning on which those conclusions are based has long been forgotten. The assumptions are hidden. And hidden assumptions are dangerous!

2. They are conclusions that assume that improvement is impossible. When someone says “I have terrible posture,” typically the unstated ending to the sentence is something like “and it can’t change.” And the student sincerely believes this, because so far they haven’t been able to change what is bothering them. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t change.

3. Because these statements assume that change is impossible, they are a means of abdicating self-responsibility. Think about it. If something can’t change, the how much responsibility do we need to take for changing it? None! Instead, we claim the apparently unchangeable behaviour and use it to make ourselves feel bad.

 

Give up the stick!

This is what I tell my students. I fact, I hold out my hand and require them to give them up! Here is why.

1. Change is possible.

2. Change begins by owning up to the things that we do to ourselves. Or as FM Alexander would put it, we need to “acknowledge in fact that [we] suffer from mental delusions regarding [our] physical acts.” *

3. Doing this is not an admission of failure. It is an admission of power. As soon as we stop beating ourselves up and own up to the unnecessary muscular activity we are doing to ourselves, we have gained power over it. We are no longer slaves to discomfort. We have, in fact, taken the first major step to mastering it.

So give up your sticks. Send them to me – write them down in the comments and leave them there. And then you’ll have taken a leap away from discomfort and towards everyday happiness.

 

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.59.

 Image by Mati Martek, stock.xchng

5 Alexander Technique steps to everyday happiness: 1. Get out of the groove!

Forest_path_in_Yvelines_-_France

Last week I wrote an article all about FM Alexander’s concept of happiness. I talked about FM’s desire that we should rediscover what true happiness is all about (in his opinion): being able to take pleasure in even something as apparently simple as sitting or standing. You see, if we take pleasure in even these small acts, then we will be increasing the amount of pleasurable experience over the whole range of our day.

But how do we do this? This question may be a live one for you, especially if you are like many of my beginning students and find even just sitting a tiring and uncomfortable experience. How do we even begin to think about taking pleasure in sitting or standing?

By taking some simple steps, and being prepared to work at them. For the next five weeks I will give you some steps that FM Alexander wrote about that have the potential to improve your relationship with your body in even the simplest of movements. But just reading these steps will not be enough to magically make a change in your life. You will need to have a go at applying these steps in your life. You will need to do a little bit of work.

Do we have a deal?

Okay, then let’s begin!

 

Get out of the groove!

In his first book, Alexander wrote a lot about overcoming mental habits, because he believed that physical difficulties came about as a direct consequence of unhelpful thinking. And when wanting to control mental habits, FM wrote,

“the first and only real difficulty is to overcome the preliminary inertia of mind … The brain becomes used to thinking in a certain way, it works in a groove, and when sent in action, glides along the familiar, well-worn path…”*

I think it is fair to say that on certain topics we all have set views and ideas. But did you know that we can have set ideas on even the apparently simple things in life, like sitting? Alexander describes these using the picture of grooves, or well-worn paths.

Sometimes these grooves are useful and helpful. Sometimes they are not. For example, many of my students first come to class with the notion that ‘sitting up straight’ is good, and slumping (slouching) is bad. They are furthermore secretly convinced that they do the latter (the slumping) most of the time, and therefore work very hard at trying to sit up straight (usually involving arching their back).

There are two problems with this.

1. They have never really thought about what might be involved in ‘sitting up straight’, and so end up using a lot of unnecessary muscular activity in a way that causes them to be tired and achey.

2. Even more importantly, they have never questioned the underlying assumptions of their behaviour model. First, who says they slump most of the time?! And second, why is sitting up straight inherently good, and slumping inherently bad?

(And yes, I know that might be a phrase you thought you’d never hear from an Alexander Technique teacher. But think about it. When you sit on your sofa of an evening with a nice glass of something to watch your favourite movie, do you really want to be sitting absolutely upright? Wouldn’t a nice, efficient slump be more appropriate here? Just a thought…)

 

The task for the week.

So your task for the next week is this. Pick an activity. Pick something simple, like sitting or standing, or getting out of a chair. And think about what assumptions you may have made about that activity. What are you convinced is true? And what if you played, just for fun, with not having those assumptions. What would be possible then?

Sometimes it is our convictions about what it true and unchanging that are the very things that are holding us back. They are the groove, the well-worn path. If we lift our feet from the path, just for a step, then a whole forest of adventure is waiting for us.

 

*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.67.??

 

 

Can the Alexander Technique help me be happier?

Today’s post is all about happiness, and why FM Alexander believed that doing his work could make students happier in their daily lives.

legoplay

At dinner tonight, I told my son that I was expecting a student this evening, even though it is school half-term holiday. He put down his fork and looked at me. “I don’t like it when you have students at night,” he said. “I like it when you have students while I’m here downstairs. Then I get to hear you laughing.”

“You hear me laughing?” I asked.

“Not just you,” he said. “Lessons sound like fun.”

An abundance of laughter is not what students expect when they sign up for Alexander Technique lessons. And sometimes they are surprised when they start having fun. But FM Alexander would not have been surprised at all. In fact, he devoted a whole chapter in his second book to the relationship of his work to happiness: why people experience a lack of happiness, and how doing Alexander’s work can reverse this lack and change it to abundance.

 

Why we are lacking happiness

FM wrote, “the lack of real happiness manifested by the majority of adults today is due to the fact that they are experiencing, not an improving, but a continually deteriorating use of their psycho-physical selves.”*

In other words, because the majority of us don’t use our bodies as efficiently or appropriately as we could, over time our bodies begin to feel the pinch of our less-than-perfect use of ourselves. We get aches and pains. We suffer irritations of body and mind. Our experiences of happiness become shorter and more fleeting.

FM is suggesting that our difficulties in being happy are a knock-on effect of our general lack of understanding of how to use our bodies and minds most effectively. And if we want to experience greater happiness, we need to attend to the way we use ourselves first.

 

How to turn lack of happiness to abundance

Alexander’s view is very simple. In order to experience a greater quantity and quality of happiness in our lives, we need to learn the principles of using our minds and bodies more efficiently and effectively.

He writes, “one of the greatest facts in human development is the building up of confidence which comes as the result of that method of learning by which the pupil is put in possession of the correct means whereby he can attain his end before he makes any attempt to gain it.”**

In other words, if we learn Alexander’s principles, if we actually take the time to think about how to use our bodies even in apparently simple acts such as sitting or standing, we can develop not just an intellectual interest, but genuine pleasure. And FM’s picture of happiness, repeated often in the chapter, is that of a healthy child using its body beautifully and naturally in an activity that interests it.

So, to recap, here is FM’s recipe for happiness:

·        Happiness (or the lack of it) is a byproduct of how we use our minds and bodies;

·        If we want to improve the quality of our happiness, we need to think about how we go about our daily activities, even something as ordinary as sitting;

·        If we can control the means whereby we achieve our goals, we will have success. And this leads to that happiness of a child who is fully occupied in something it loves.

And if we think about these things, then my son – and all our children – will delight in hearing us laugh more often. And wouldn’t that be a great world to be a part of?

 

*FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.382.
** ibid., p.387, p.388.

Image by Afonso Lima, stock.xchng

Can the Alexander Technique cure me?

This post is prompted by the students I have had recently who have experienced significant medical problems. They come to me in pain, and want to know if the Alexander Technique can cure them. I have even been asked if the Technique could help fix a prolapsed disc (like a slipped disc, but worse) without surgery. So… Can the Alexander Technique cure medical problems?

Pretty much…no.

I can almost hear the intake of breath. Yes, the Alexander Technique is fantastic, and any teacher you ask will tell you stories of students who have begun lessons in significant pain and discomfort who experienced dramatic improvement. But the Alexander Technique is not medicine, and does not cure structural conditions. The Alexander Technique deals with functional matters – what FM Alexander called our manner of use – the stuff we do to ourselves that limits us.

ParkBench

The difference between structure and function.

One of the most striking examples of the difference between a structural condition and functioning was FM’s brother, AR Alexander. He suffered severe back injuries in a horse riding accident, so severe that doctors initially believed he would not walk again. He initially walked with two canes, but later with just one. A contemporary described his walk:

When I knew him … he could walk, with a curious swaying motion, for a considerable distance, his trunk very upright and his legs swinging smoothly from the hips. *

Clearly AR had suffered a major structural problem. Yet he not only was able to walk but did it so well that he was accosted by at least one passer-by who was struck by the way he moved.

[A passer-by] stopped  in front of him one day and said, “Sir, I’ve watched you for a long time and I wish I knew what  you have that other peole don’t have.” “I’ll warrant you do,” said AR laconically, and swinging up onto his cane he [walked away]. **

This is the difference between structure and function in a nutshell. AR’s structure was compromised. But he was able to use the compromised structure that he had very well indeed. As a result of the time he spent working with the Alexander Technique, functionally AR’s movement was so free and easy that it invited wonderment.

If you are reading this and you are suffering from pain or discomfort, I bet you have one question for me right now:

 

So how do we know if a problem is structural or not?

We don’t.

This is why I recommend that students seek advice from primary healthcare. If your back is painful, you really should get it checked by a doctor. Yes, I know this is obvious, but so often people don’t take this step!

However, even if there is a structural problem, an Alexander Technique teacher may be able to help you to deal with your reaction to the problem or injury. So often in order to avoid discomfort, we subtly alter our movement to ‘accommodate’ the injury we have. And these accommodations may actually do us more harm than good.

So can the Alexander Technique fix my friend’s prolapsed disc? No! But I can help them use their body more easily and efficiently within the bounds of that structural problem. And moving better may even aid their recovery, making it faster and less painful. And that, surely, must be worthwhile in anyone’s book.

 

* Frank Pierce Jones, Freedom to Change, p. 69.
** ibid.

Image by housey21, stock.xchng

 

Do children benefit from Alexander Technique?

When children and Alexander Technique are mentioned together in the same sentence, it is usually in something like this form: “Children don’t really need Alexander Technique, do they? I mean, when you look at little children, they just move so smoothly and gracefully…”

Well, yes. But…

What about the times when they just don’t? Can the Alexander Technique help children?

ballchild

Why children move well… or not.

FM Alexander was, from the first, profoundly convinced of the importance of his work to children. And as he pointed out in his first book in 1910, children are born with tremendous potential, a potential that we as parents, educators, friends etc. begin to shape almost from the very first day of life. A baby is born with everything it needs to move freely and easily; it is born with an intelligence that soaks up information and impressions insatiably.

Some of what our children take in, we can control; some of it is beyond our intervention. But everything that our children see or do makes an impression. Sometimes the impression made is positive; sometimes it is not. And we parents and educators form the primary source of information and instruction for our children. Whether through imitation or through overt instruction, our children learn what to think, how to think, and how to move through us. And we all, of course, move perfectly, think logically and exhibit open-mindedness at all times…

Hm.

This is why FM Alexander was so concerned about children. This is why he wished to teach children his work: so that they would have a framework of principles and tools that would help them learn how to think and how to move. Alexander wished to prevent our children from suffering the same problems that we adults experience.

Children and the Alexander Technique

FM Alexander taught children. In fact, they seem to be mentioned quite often in his work. The youngest that I can recall seeing at this moment was 3 1/2.* He even opened a school, first in England, then in the USA (it evacuated there during World War 2) because he was convinced that education of children was the key to his dream: “I look for a time when the child shall be so taught and trained that whatever the circumstance… it will without effort be ble to adapt itself to its environment, and be enabled to live its life in the enjoyment of perfect health, physical and mental.”**

 

My own story

My son is seven. He had his first proper Alexander lesson (not from me!) when he was 4 1/2. He loved it, and it made a big difference to the constant arching in his upper back that was causing problems with his flexibility.

He has watched students coming in and out of the house for years now. And just recently, he asked about why they came. So I told him a story about how sometimes people can’t do the things they love to do as well as they’d like, because they seem to get in their own way. And I gave him an example that he could relate to (from memory, about moving arms while swimming). And he asked me for a lesson.

The lesson was duly given, changes happened, and my son’s interest was piqued. He demanded another lesson the next day. And the day after that, he wanted to know about where his head stopped and his neck started. So we got out the anatomy books. Just as Alexander predicted in his second book, my son was hooked.***

 

Recommendations

I think Alexander Technique lessons are great for kids. My son has benefited, and I have seen big changes in other children that I have taught. So if you want to investigate this for your child, go right ahead!Just keep in mind the following things:

  1. Look for a teacher who is happy to teach kids, or who has experience of doing so;
  2. Make sure they have some sort of Child Protection training. In the UK, make sure they have a CRB Disclosure;
  3. Expect them to ask you to stay in the room, and probably to join in!

Our children are the most precious asset we have. It is our responsibility to give them the very best tools possible for navigating their future lives. And I strongly believe that the Alexander Technique is probably the best tool around for the job.

 

*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.82.
** ibid., p.93.
***FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in the Irdeat Edition, p.381.
Image by Monika Jurczynska, stock.xchng