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Alexander Technique Directions – What Are They? — 28 Comments

  1. hi imoge,
    you blog is very good. BUT,
    ‘Let the neck be free so that the head can go forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen’;

    i think the above is not alexander classiscal direction.

    the right classical direction is ::::::::::

    ‘Let the neck be free TO LET the head can go forward and up TO LET the back can lengthen and widen’.
    OR
    ‘Let the neck be free IN ORDER TO LET the head can go forward and up IN ORDER TO LET the back can lengthen and widen’.

    there is a lot of difference between ‘ so that’ and ‘TO LET’.

    ‘to let’ indicates some action doing or nondoing.

    ‘so that’ word may leads to lazyness.

    but ‘TO LET’ ,’IN ORDER TO ‘ not leads to doing with stimuls in daily activities.

    am i right or wrong?

    • LET THE NECK BE FREE, TO LET THE HEAD GO FORWARD AND UP, TO LET THE BACK LENGTHEN AND WIDEN.

      These are the ones used by Patrick MacDonald in his wonderful article “On giving Directions, Doing and Non-Doing”

    • Thanks for your comments, Jagadish, and apologies for taking so long to reply. I think you may have a point – I have heard it said in all these different ways as the traditional or “classic” way of directing. For myself, I haven’t determined a noticeable difference with these subtly different distinctions in wording. But as you’ll see in my next blog, words can be very tricky, for we all interpret them slightly differently (and in some cases much more than just “slightly”). In fact, I believe FM Alexander moved away from using the word “relax” in relation to the neck to the now widely used “free” because of problems with the way his students were interpreting it.

  2. Thanks for another insightful post Imogen. I can’t remember when I first was introduced to Alexander’s directions. I suppose it would have been in my early lessons but I have no specific memory of the encounter, just the wonderful feeling of relief and release that occurred at the hands of my teacher. I do recall a long period of frustration during my AT training. I would direct and direct and not much would change! But after awhile I found that giving my directions and then moving would result in release and improved freedom of movement. Over time, as I became more skillful at releasing tension, I could give my directions and feel release begin to happen without the extra step of going into movement, especially as my breathing became freer. The idea of directions as preventative orders helped clarify their role for me, as did learning about postural sets, and the differing role of muscles for postural support and muscles for moving the skeleton about. Now directions are a huge help to me and I do my best to explain them in a way that they can be useful to my students without such a long learning curve!

    • Thanks for sharing this, Jo Ann. I think you’re quite right about thinking of directions as preventative – again that really helps us get out of the trap of trying to do something new. Rather we are using them to prevent unwanted habits from creeping in. Your students are very lucky to have you 🙂

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  4. Hi imogen,
    i agree with your explanation.

    the traditional original directions of fm are ,

    let the neck be free
    to let the head go forward and up
    to let the back lengthen and widen.

    And the classical directions are,

    let the neck be free
    so that the head can go forward and up
    so that the back can lengthen and widen.

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    • Excellent question, Dave! Whatever the answer is, I think it has something to do with why I usually prefer another form of the directions: “The neck is free. The head aims forward and up. The torso lenthens and widens. The knees go forward and away.” — and variations on those, but always impersonal and expressing a fact in present tense, rather than employing a verb, which is always tempting to “do” — even if it’s the seemingly non-doing word, “let”.

      • Thank you both for your comments. I realize I often use the present tense, expressing it as a fact, or a “done deal” version of many directions, but hadn’t clearly thought about why this works better for me (and my students). It’s also more like using a negative direction – “I am not tightening my neck” – which is also present tense (although it is personal). Really appreciate this, Jennifer – so helpful.

  8. Hi imogen,
    thanks for reminding my comments myself once again.
    They are true now.

    I want to explain you something about SOLDIER.

    Think of a soldier learned the war techniques , how to protect him self during a training period of 3 Years.

    The soldier done a great work!!
    Is not it?

    But, in the real war which he was facing for the first time , if he not protects him self he will die.
    …….
    I think, the alexander technique is a war of lifetime.

    We have to protect our self either before going to SLUMP SLUMP or after the slump.

    SLUMP is just like war!!

    We have to face it during slumping or conscious about slumping, by thinking FM directions and ideas.

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