"Be like a fish in water" has become one of my favourite sayings of late. It's not literal, but highlights the idea that functional movement is meaningless without environmental context.
In this video I extemporise around this theme.
There's also an edited transcript below.
Today I thought we'd discuss something a bit different, slightly philosophical, but I'm hoping it will prove practical as well. Now, it's not strictly speaking Alexander Technique canon, if you like, it's not something that Alexander personally talked about, but I have found through talking to colleagues that it seems to be a view that's quite commonly held anyway.
So, within the Alexander Technique we definitely have the idea of Psycho-physical unity, that's the mind and body as a singular entity, which for shorthand we call the Self, but some of us like to take the idea a bit further. Like I said, it's not formal Alexander Technique, but I've yet to find a teacher who would argue against it. I've had quite a few positive responses about it discussing it online with fellow teachers, and that is the idea that we have Self-Environment Unity. We are not separate from our environment, and our functioning is entirely in accordance with the environment. And by environment I don't mean green issues, I'm talking about the space we have to move in, the fact that we have an accelerating surface coming up underneath us to support us, and gravity doesn't actually drag us down. I'll link to my video on gravity because that's something you need to understand, that as part of our environment we're not being dragged down, we're actually being pushed up, and our structure is formed and evolved based on that. We move not because we have arms and legs but because obviously there's something out there to interact with.
It's not a formal AT idea, but a while back I did ask some colleagues online, on a Facebook group, what would be a good word for this. We've got Self for Psycho-physical Unity, what can we call Self-Environment Unity? There was some great discussion, but in the end I didn't get any great ideas that were succinct. But I realized actually there's a word we already have that's perfectly prosaic, and perfectly useful, and that is Being. So my idea of Being encompasses that Self-Environment Unity. Of course, as an idea it's not a particularly new one, I'm sure many other philosophies probably have a similar view. Particularly in the East, I think it would not be particularly novel, going back quite a few thousand years, certainly hundreds. But Being is Self-Environment unity, and it's important because it affects the way we think of movement. Obviously people come to the Alexander Technique to help them with their movement, often because the movement, the patterns of movement, have left them in pain.
A phrase I like to use, and I think I've used it before in videos, is the idea we want to be like a fish in water. When you think of a fish in water you think of a functional whole, the fish and the water. Take the fish out of the water and suddenly it's a not a very well functioning fish, but when we think of ourselves and fellow Humanity, we kind of think of ourselves separated and not embedded within our environment, like somehow we could just walk about and do stuff if there was no planet there, which is obviously ridiculous. If we were floating around in space, needing a spacesuit for it, obviously we need oxygen, so that's one thing already failed, we'd actually find we would become quite ill, quite quickly. We're completely evolved to be part of this environment and not having an accelerating surface, "gravity", to operate against we end up with all sorts of problems including pressure in the brain and the eyeballs, that causes issues, we end up with brittle bones. So we need to be part of this environment, we need to learn how to embed ourselves in a way that our movement is based on finding ease within the environment. You think of fish swimming and of course it's easy, it's fully adapted for it. Who would consider that you could use yourself badly if you're a fish in water, or a dolphin in water, or a whale in water, and yet somehow Humanity has managed to take its environment and somehow ignore it, and and not be in accordance with it and moving against it in ways that generate pain in the long run.
You don't move because you have arms and legs etc, you move because you've got space to move in and that's where your mental engagement needs to be, not in worrying about joints and muscles, it's knowing you've got something to interface with, and that you can do it while supported from the ground underneath. So that's the thought to mull over. If you have any disagreements with that leave a comment, we can get into a good discussion about it. But I really can't see how, personally, anyone could be in disagreement with that, that we are somehow separate from our environment, because our entire form..., we exist as human beings because of the environment. If we were in a different environment, say different levels of gaseous quantities between oxygen nitrogen etc, we had different gravity for example, different levels of heat and light, we would not be this form. We would be another being, we would not be Humanity as we know it. So think that over and see if you can get a better idea of when you're moving, you're moving with a reason, and the reason is to interact with your surroundings, and be part of it, not separate from it.