Two Great Puzzles (1)

Two Great Puzzles (1)


People generally come to the Alexander technique with a wish to improve the way they function: either to relieve some difficulty or discomfort in action, to rehabilitate from injury, or to improve performance in an activity they love to do and want to master.

In the way of this wish are two great puzzles to be solved:

Puzzle One: Lack of conscious awareness of how the action is being carried out.

A person may be aware they are doing something that is in the way of freedom in action, or is causing discomfort, but have no idea of what that something is. This is seen very clearly when working with musicians who have been playing for some years – the anticipated action with the instrument is experienced so routinely that while you know what you are doing overall, the action itself is not being experienced directly.

Of course Alexander faced exactly this dilemma… his voice deteriorated when he recited, and got better when he rested. Therefore he must have been doing something while reciting that was causing the deterioration… but what?

The things that don’t exist are the most difficult to get rid of

F.M. Alexander 1

There are several ways of referring to such established movement routines:habit, training, conditioning or unconscious competence.

However, these all have one thing in common; they have been repeated either deliberately or unconsciously for some time. So while it is possible to know indirectly that there is something not quite right, direct perception may not be so easy.

There are two essential ways you get to know what you doing in action. The first is simply to observe without attempting to make changes. This process is sometimes referred to as ‘mindfulness in activity‘.

The second is to appreciate that directly sensing what is happening will come most easily as you create changes in your overall coordination. The Alexander technique provides a practical means to do this. The nervous system reports changes from normal, if something does not change, it will not be reported, conversely when things are different, awareness is heightened.

This could be the awareness of a lack of pressure, tension or effort.


1. Alexander, F.M, “Notes of Instruction”, The Alexander Technique: the essential writings of F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Edward Maisel, Thames and Hudson: London (1974) pg4.

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