The Top Ten Myths about the Alexander Technique
A fellow Alexander teacher asked if I had a transcript of my little youtube video, Top Ten Myths about the Alexander Technique. It was somewhere in my computer. I found it and tweaked it just a bit. I added a few photos that support some of the ideas. This piece has also been translated into 17 languages. If your native language is other than English, you may find it here.
Feel free to share it. To understand these ideas more deeply, I would encourage you to read, Teaching by Hand/Learning by Heart – Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander, a book I wrote, published by Jean Fischer at Mouritz Press.
THE TOP TEN MYTHS ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
Hi. My name is Bruce Fertman. I’m the founding director of the Alexander Alliance International. Here are ten myths about the Alexander Technique that many people believe are true. After 50 years of dedicated study, and after training 300 teachers, I have come to realize that these ideas are not true.
The Alexander Technique is about posture. That’s a myth.
Reality. The Alexander Technique is about un-posturing. The problem is that we are continually posturing, most often unconsciously. The Alexander Technique is about becoming an un-postured person, that is, unheld, unfixed, flexible, movable, not only physically, but as a person in general.
The Alexander Technique is about uprightness. That’s a myth.
Reality. The Alexander Technique has nothing to do with standing up straight. There is not one straight line in the body, or in the universe for that matter. The Alexander Technique has nothing to do with doing anything right, or correctly. It is about doing what we do well, efficiently, effectively, fluidly, comfortably, and pleasurably.
The Alexander Technique is about how we hold our head on our neck. That’s a myth.
Reality. The Alexander Technique is about how we stop holding our head on our neck. It’s about not interfering with inherent balancing mechanisms that do that for us.
The Alexander Technique is about the body. That’s a myth.
Reality. The Alexander Technique is about us, about how we are within ourselves, with others, and in relation to the world around us. It’s about the quality of our actions and interactions. It’s about the quality of our experience. It’s about how we are being as we do what we are doing.
The Alexander Technique is about becoming more symmetrical because symmetry is balanced. That’s a myth.
Reality. Nothing in nature is perfectly symmetrical, including humans. Symmetry is a concept, like a point, or a line is a concept. Buddha might look symmetrical when he’s sitting peacefully on a lotus flower but take a closer look and we see one foot on top of the other, and one hand on top of the other. Look closely at any persons’ face and we won’t find perfect symmetry. We’re after harmony, not symmetry, and harmony is not related to the shape of our body at any given moment.
The Alexander Technique is about balance. That’s a myth.
Reality. Balance for humans is impossible. We are inherently unbalanced, and this is what promotes movement. We waver toward and away from equilibrium. This is a good thing. When the wind blows, waves are generated upon the surface of a pond. The wind stops and those waves become smaller, approaching but never attaining stillness. Stillness is a concept, a beautiful one, but within stillness lies motion, however subtle.
The Alexander Technique is about learning how to breathe correctly. That’s a myth.
Reality. We don’t breathe. Alexander once said, “At last, I find that when I don’t breathe, I breathe.” I would say it like this. At last, I find that when I don’t breathe, I am breathed. We are breathed by forces deep within us and all around us. Do we breathe when you are sleeping? Do we breathe when we are eating? Yes, we can take a breath. But breath is not for the taking. It does not belong to us. Breath is a gift from the world. It’s meant to be received. Breathing is responsive. It responds to activity. It is not something we do; it is not an activity, like running up a hill. When we run up a hill, do we first stand there and breathe and get enough air, and then run up the hill? Or do we run up the hill and breathing automatically and faithfully responds to our wishes, without our even having to ask?
The Alexander Technique is about learning how to stand, how to stand on our own two feet. That’s a myth.
Reality. We do not stand on our own two feet. We stand on the ground.
The Alexander Technique is about learning how to relax. That’s a myth.
Reality. The Alexander Technique is about readiness. The Alexander Technique is about preparing for nothing in particular, while being ready for anything that may happen. The Alexander Technique is about effortlessly returning, again and again, to a condition of alert, calm readiness.
The Alexander Technique is about proper body mechanics; learning the best way to get up and down from a chair, how to walk correctly, how to bend down without hurting yourself, etc. That’s a myth.
Reality. Human beings are not mechanical. We are not machines. We’re organic. We’re mammals. The Alexander Technique is about learning how we are best designed to function as Homo Sapiens. The Alexander Technique is, in part, about questioning cultural, gender, and cosmetic concepts of the body that interfere with the functioning and beauty of our natural design.