My book on the Alexander Technique has been published. And it's not about posture.
Originally posted elsewhere in March 2018
Have you ever read a book on the Alexander Technique? I have been browsing Alexander books on Amazon, because mine has just been published. Some of the reviews are very interesting.
A reviewer of one of the better books on the Technique says she would have preferred photos instead of drawings. Also, she says, fewer words and more pictures of “postures” of how to stand and move. I suspect, sadly, she’s got the wrong idea of what the Alexander Technique is about.
F. M. Alexander, the “founder” of the Technique, said that his work was an exercise in finding out what thinking is. He said that the conscious mind must be quickened. He said that it is primarily a Technique for the development of human reaction. How can all that be learned from photos?
If you learn the Alexander Technique from a teacher your posture will improve. But you will probably find, like I did when I started learning it 29 years ago, that the postural improvements come from making new choices. Choices can only be made with the conscious mind, so to make “physical” changes the conscious mind must be quickened.
I wrote in my book
‘Traditional Alexander teachers get their clients to do a lot of standing and sitting. They call it ‘chairwork’, and it would be very easy to mistake it for learning to how to stand and sit correctly.’
‘If the Alexander Technique isn’t about standing and sitting correctly, what is it about? Until people have an Alexander lesson, they don’t think much about how they stand or sit. Then they find they have choices about how they stand and sit. They’re surprised how effortless it can be – so effortless they can’t actually feel their body – but the point is that they have to choose to do it the new way after many years of doing it the old way.
The choices aren’t about how they do things ‘with their body’, they’re about ‘getting out of the way’ and allowing their body to do things naturally. Your body knows how to stand and sit; you just have to stop interfering with it!’
‘In Alexander lessons, people discover they have choices about things they didn’t even realise they had choices about. And once they can choose how to do something, they can choose whether to do it. But they have to be conscious – mindful – to do it. You can’t make choices while you’re in your head, or daydreaming, or on automatic pilot.’
George Bernard Shaw – one of F. M. Alexander’s clients – said that 2% of people think, 3% think they think, and 95% would rather die than think. Most of us “like” to live our lives doing things the way we always do them - Charles Duhigg talks about this in his book “The Power of Habit.”
The Alexander Technique teaches how to get off autopilot and start making conscious choices; how to think. I wrote in my chapter "Freedom to Choose":
‘In the introduction to this book, I said I hoped it would get you thinking about how you do things. In How to be an Existentialist: How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses, Gary Cox says he hopes it will “change the way you behave, the way you act… you can only truly change the way you think and feel about your life by acting differently, by acting rather than simply reacting… by always taking responsibility for yourself.”
That’s exactly what the Alexander Technique teaches us.
Cox goes on to say: “Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, freedom is having to make choices and therefore having to take responsibility.” Almost all our problems are caused by how we do things, but most of us don’t want to change how we do things – we don’t want to take responsibility for ourselves’
The Alexander Technique shows us how to be conscious, how to make new choices, and how to take responsibility for our lives. FM Alexander said “For in the mind of man lies the secret of his ability to resist, to conquer and finally to govern the circumstances of his life.”
No-one governs the circumstances of their lives by improving their posture. Or looking at photos of “postures” in books!
If that reviewer reads my book she won’t like it, because there are few pictures, and they are all drawings. She’ll give me a bad review. But so far I only have three reviews, and– so far! - they are all positive.
One, by an Alexander teacher I respect in the USA, says this:
“Thank you Peter Nobes for this important contribution to the AT literature. We finally have a book that speaks the honest truth about what the Alexander Technique actually is. This book is a joy to read.”
My book is called Mindfulness in 3D; Alexander Technique for the 21st Century. It won’t help you improve your posture.