First Lessons in the Alexander Technique.
Comments / Reflections by Derick Carter, a dance student, 2nd year B.A. from W.A.A.P.A.
Edith Cowan University. Instructor - T. Gordon.

SUBJECT: Alexander Technique
DATE: Friday, September 10, 1999

Main Focus

Keywords: Introduction to Alexander. primary orders.
This session introduced the Alexander Technique and what aims for.
The primary orders where established and applied to the body.

Description of activities/exercises

  1. A short introduction to the Alexander Technique was given. This gave an overview of the technique and what it can and cannot achieve. An overview of the teacher’s background with regards to the Alexander technique was also given.
  2. The primary orders were established along with some hands on manipulation of the body.
  3. A short demonstration of grounding and how it can be applied.
Learning points

Primary Orders.

  1. Neck Release
  2. Head Forward & up
  3. Back Lengthen & widen
  • The positions the body and neck were manipulated into felt strange & wrong at the time.
  • It is very difficult to inhibit the automatic response of the body.
  • There is a tendency to manipulate the body into the way it was placed through force.
  • The head. neck and back relationship is misused during daily life all the time.
  • Sitting. standing and picking things up results in many examples of poor use of the head, neck & back.
  • Mv body is divided into two halves with no connection between the top and lower half This has become more and more apparent as the days have gone by.
  • Constant attention is bringing up some unusual things that I would not have thought existed.
Personal Reflection/Response

This was a very productive and interesting session. My only regret is that I had not started doing this type of work many years ago. The constant attention to the body is becoming enjoyable. I use this attention dunng class and at all times when I have a few moments to spare. I have started noticing some unusual things. When performing and dancing in front of people I tend to make myself look bad deliberately. Analysis of this reveals that I have some feelings that make me believe I am not a very good dancer. Another strange thing is that if I use body awareness to much I feel like getting up and leaving the class I am in and going away. Childhood memories and feelings are also brought up. These are totally unexpected reactions and something I thought didn’t exist. The division of my body into two halves is something I was also not aware of Sitting in a chair is now of some concern to me as I am now aware of how badly my body is used each time I sit down. This session was a major revelation into how the body and the self is viewed and used.

SUBJECT Alexander Technique
DATE : Monday, September 20, 1999

Main Focus

Keywords: Lying down. primary control, inhibition, direction, means. This session introduced more aspects of the Alexander Technique and of how we live our lives. Inhibition was introduced and used in the session. The primary control and the lying position were used. Some discussion ensued on the means whereby we go about something.

Description of activities/exercises

  1. A discussion on the means of going about an activity.
  2. Demonstration of the lying position and how to reach that state.
  3. Use of the lying position and introduction of the idea of inhibition.
  4. The establishment of directions in the body.
  5. The encouragement of directions in the body by the use of physical contact.
  6. The definition of the primary control.
Learning points

  • Primary Control: The head, neck & back relationship.
  • Inhibition: The restraint of the habitual responses of the body to stimulus. There are different ways to respond to a stimulus received by the senses. The first is in the usual habitual way. The second is by not responding to the stimulus. The third is to choose how to respond to given input.
definitions of inhibition from thesaurus; repression, control, restraint
  • Inhibition is a very difficult thing to do. Maybe because the body is not used to this kind of response.
  • After one side of the body was worked on, a significant difference between the two halves of the body was felt.
  • The means by which we go about a task. This is a very important point.
Personal Reflection/Response

This was a very good session. After working on lying down throughout this week it has become very comfortable. I feel much better every time I practice lying down. I felt a bit unusual when I was sat up from the lying position. For a brief moment I felt very disorientated and unsure what was going to happen next. This feeling disappeared as soon as I sat up. I have been working on the primary control throughout the week in classes. My turning and balancing is improving. The means by which we go about a task is was a bit of a breakthrough. I have heard this kind of thing before and practiced it but the discussion suddenly brought it all together. Is the end result more important than the path traveled? Is there an end result to be gained? Contemporary western culture teaches this. I believe this may be the cause for so much unhappiness and misery in the world. Many of the problems in this world can be traced back to this kind of teaching and philosophy.

SUBJECT : Alexander Technique
DATE : Thursday, October 14, 1999

Main Focus

Key words: sitting. standing, inhibition This lesson consisted of sitting and standing in a chair whilst using direction and inhibition. All of the Alexander work previously taught was applied in this lesson.

Description of activities/exercises

A general discussion ensued at the start of the lesson. This progressed into sitting and standing in a chair whilst being gently guided. The “monkey" was introduced as part of this lesson.

Learning points

The body generally moves in patterns that it is accustomed to. When these patterns are broken, new and sometimes frightening sensations are introduced. Such a seemingly simple task as sitting down or standing up from a chair takes on many new dimensions. "End-gaining” is a very important thing to keep in mind when going about daily living With the correct application and inhibition of end-gaining" the normal living patterns can be changed in extraordinary ways. A beautiful and simple way of living in every moment could be achieved with practice.

Personal Reflection/Response

As the lessons progress I find it hard to believe that this technique is not more widely used in society. I wish that this had been taught to me whilst still at priniarv or secondary school. I believe that this would have helped me considerably with schooling, relationships, personality and general living. I would like to use a quote from a paragraph I found in "Your Guide to the Alexander Technique" John Gray, 1990. "We are encouraged in this form from an early age: to jump to it’, 'hurry up','get on with it' and so on, and then are praised for being the first child to walk, talk, for getting high marks, passing examinations, getting into college, getting a good job, and are judged by how nice a house we have, how big a car, how much we earn. Very little thought either by ourselves or by those who judge us is given to how we might have achieved these ends." Sitting down whilst being guided proved to be a very powerful experience. I found myself moving into the unknown and before actually contacting the chair broke back into old habits. Since then I have practiced sitting down and deliberately putting myself back into that place. It is very enlightening and also sad to find how much we are creatures of habit. I think that all the extra-ordinary people in the world live in this unknown place constantly.

SUBJECT Alexander Technique
DATE : Thursday, October 21, 1999

Main Focus

Keywords: sitting, standing, inhibition, floor work, hands on back of chair.
This lesson concentrated on sitting and standing in a chair, working with hands on the back of a chair and some floor work described in a previous session. Movement qualities were also discussed.

Description of activities/exercises

Sitting and standing were applied again to working in a chair. The primary orders were maintained whilst sitting and standing. The body was constantly checked and observed for how it was responding to the work. The hands on the back of the chair was then applied whilst sitting, standing and working in monkey. The final part of the lesson was done on the floor. This involved working on the bod whilst in the lying down position.

Learning points

primary orders: Neck Release, Head Forward and Up, Back Lengthen and Widen. Priman control: The head, neck & back relationship.

  • The body has very strong movement patterns that are hard to break.
  • You are unable to really tell whether the body is moving in a right or wrong way.
  • Being placed outside your normal movement patterns is something that doesn’t occur very often (if at all) in normal living.
  • The quality of movement can be modified consciously.
  • Use of the body in the present moment and being able to change, stop or continue the movement is something to try and apply.
Personal Reflection/Response

Having choice in how to react and move in any situation. This is something to aspire to, not trying to be in the “right” position or do the exercise “correctly”. Trying to do things correctly or right is living and moving statically, resulting in being brittle, tense, inflexible, closed. How much more free and beautiful would it be to choose and live in every moment as it arises. This lesson has given the quote of FM Alexander “The Essence of the Alexander Technique is to make ourselves more susceptible to grace” a new meaning. I would also like to use some quotes from the memoirs of Jean-Louis Barrault.

"It was a case, therefore, of starting from Silence and living in the Present. The characters are there, they are living at this moment. They don’t speak to each other. They act. But they are not dumb. Silence is not deafness."


"Your only die once. Not true. One dies and is born every day, at each moment."

One final quote from another book

I am a Democrat. I am a socialist. I am an artist. I am a thinker. I am a jock. I am sensitive and tough. Macho but vulnerable - good. clean. pure. Who are we without labels? When you really let go of all the pros and cons. who are you then’? Drop all your likes and dislikes, notions of career and position; then who is left? God. I don’t know.... I am nobody. I am nothing.” That is how we feel, but it isn’t true. When we really let go, we become everything. At that point we are identified with all things: the flower, the oak tree, the morning star.

Imagine moving from this position