F.M. Alexander — the father of the system — used to say:
“Stop doing the wrong thing, so that the right thing does itself.”
Stop (or inhibit) the wrong thing first! This is the very essence of his principle of conscious inhibition.
Alexander’s concept of “inhibition” is all encompassing. Keeping in mind at any given every moment of our lives we might feel a sense that we are at a loss, or we may have a sense of feeling hesitant. While F.M. focused primarily on musculoskeletal problems, he also considered how human behaviour shapes our reality, including an emphasis on larger related issues, such as human relationships and even issues involving war and peace.
Humans have the ability to adapt to adverse conditions. This is a blessing and also a curse in a sense. We learn how to survive by adapting to adversity. We can adapt to bad climate, chronic inflammation, or other physical conditions, such as repetitive stress injuries. A person may even get used to pain. Some ways that we may adapt can help our survival, but strain our vitality. Instead of simply curtailing activities or taking pain medication, it becomes useful — and even essential to our quality of life — to take a closer look at the underlying causes of our physical adversities, and our response to them. Some responses, in fact, limit our progress and can sometimes be simply too expensive to keep up.
Our lives are shaped by all of the regular daily activities we do – our daily “habits” – often without our even giving thought to the things we do. The way we roll out of bed, tie our shoes before heading out, how we walk down the street, or even how we sit at a desk. For instance, it is in normal for us to react to the stress of everyday living by “tensing up” – going into “fight or flight” mode.
This tension becomes a part of our everyday existence. By observing animals and kids we notice that they can “shake off” and release their reactions to stress sometimes almost immediately after the perceived threat has passed. Unfortunately, as adults we aren’t able to “shake it off” as easily.
Even two hours of aerobic exercise or stretching may not be enough to recover from stress. Some of this residual stress tends to stay with us in the form of muscular tension, or contraction. As we accumulate habitual stress we tend to get accustomed to it. It becomes second nature. This systemic habitual tension becomes so normal that it falls beneath the radar of our perception and goes unnoticed to the point that we live with it and take it with us into our daily activities — including exercise. Retaining this tension saps our vitality, stifles our expression, influences our relationships and our communication, and can eventually lead to musculoskeletal injury and chronic somatic disease.
How can this besetting human condition be helped? F.M. provided us with a practical “tool how” way to unlock this “seeming impasse.” This is a “postural mechanism” that helps keep us upright in gravity while reducing our physical tension to a minimum. F.M. shows us how take advantage of this mechanism.
First have to stop doing the “wrong” things so that the right things happen by themselves. By learning in each individual case exactly the ways that we interfere with our healthier postural reflexes with habitual tension, and by inhibiting (stopping) that tension, we allow our body to “spring up.” We expand our bodily structure and, in Alexander’s words, experience — maybe for the first time — “our full human potential.”
Alexander Technique is also all-encompassing in the sense that everybody may benefit from it. Whether you are an avid sportsman or a person who has to endure hours in front of computer you may learn how to enhance your performance. People with back or neck pain, repetitive stress injuries, or TMJ problems may find lasting relief through Alexander’s techniques. They may access the very root cause of their suffering.
We benefit in our individual pursuits by learning Alexander’s principles and by having the determination to stick to them. Trust the process and the outcome will gradually take care of itself. As it is a process that took time to learn habitual bodily tension, so it is a process that takes time to unlearn it. Not without reason Alexander named “end-gaining” as one of the strongest habits of all in all of us! Trust the process and the results will take care of themselves!