One of the most interesting aspects of the technique is the fact that it has to be applied to everyone differently. Alexander said, “Do what I do, if you did what I did,” meaning that everyone’s experience is unique and the way to go about healing has to be specific to the individual. This is also the meeting point of the mental state with the physical state. The two are not separate. Alexander was able to see the patient’s mental state reflected in the postures of the body, which eventually lead him to the idea of “psychophysical unity.” Our body becomes set in particular postures according to our thoughts as well as our actions and reactions to the world around us. This is why awareness is so important. If we are able to check into our mental and physical states to see what thoughts we are thinking as well as what tension is arising in our bodies, then we can adjust. This gives us power over our experience instead of going about unconsciously through life. Ultimately, we are the only ones with quality control over our lives. Alexander called this power of choice, “Use.”
Another key aspect of Alexander Technique is found in the idea of “Primary Control,” which is the relationship between the head, neck and torso. Interestingly, this is seen though out the animal kingdom in an animal’s ability to act and react to its environment. The same can be seen in the everyday lives of humans. A person’s ability to think clearly and interact harmoniously with the world has a lot to do with the harmony that is present within the body. It is difficult to maintain a tranquil mentality when the body is out of alignment and in pain. On the other hand, when the body is functioning properly and the physical alignments are working correctly, the mental state will reflect that peace as well. Since the head, neck and torso are all connected by the spine, which among many things is sending and receiving signals through out the body, it is easy to see why this relationship is so important. If the head is sitting to far forward so as to see the computer screen, the balance of the head on the neck will be in correct, the torso will then also be out of alignment, and the spine and body will need to find a way to accommodate this unbalanced state by perhaps hunching the shoulders and bending the spine, which then puts strain on the muscles in this area, etc. When the person is done with their work at the computer, they then get up and unconsciously continue on in this incorrect position for the rest of the day. The end result being a headache in the evening, shoulder and back pain, and perhaps a tendency towards irritability.
There are seven basic operational components to Alexander Technique. Use and Functioning, The Whole Person and Primary Control are the three that have been discussed here. It’s important to remember that the body is a tool and a tool that is used incorrectly will firstly, not be effective to complete the task, and secondly, will be damaged in the process. Everyone has gotten to his or her place in life uniquely, and we cannot prescribe the same regimen for everyone. Ultimately, the individual has to take responsibility for the quality of their experience. Becoming aware of the mental and physical state is the first step to improvement. Lastly, the relationship between the head, neck and torso is a fundamental part of people’s ability to act and react their best in everyday life.
As musicians, it is so important for us to be aware of these principles. So often we are in pain and if we would only take the time to improve our chin rest or shoulder rest, to stretch before and after playing, to play with better posture and watch ourselves in front of a mirror...our lives would be so much better! Practicing and performing would be easier and the energy we are projecting out would be greater. The greatest performers play with ease and there is literally no one holding you back from that except you!