Should The Alexander Technique Evolve?

For the first time in over 10 years I've targeted my fellow Alexander teachers and long term students as the audience for this blog/vlog,  as opposed to those who are new to the Technique. It's probably a one off digression as I much prefer to help those who are just starting out with the Alexander Technique.


Some of you who know me will have heard me jokingly opine that I sometimes consider our professional society as museum curators. A bit harsh, I know, especially as it's council is run on a volunteer basis, and I am grateful for the time they put in for my colleagues and I. But joking aside, I still think it's an important question we should be asking ourselves, should the Alexander Technique evolve? I hope it's not heretical to just ask!


I've included a transcript of the video below for convenience.

Hi, Adrian here, full-time teacher of the Alexander Technique, and today's video is very much inspired by my last one, on what I called Self-Environment unity, taking our environment and us in it, as a singular entity, and that's how we function, together.


Now I'm breaking my own rule of thumb for doing these videos that normally I always assume my audience is new to the Alexander Technique. In this case, it's going to be a bit of a one-off, this is really for my colleagues and people who've been studying the Alexander Technique for a while, and you'll see why as I get further into this.


So, I've been talking to some of my other colleagues about the idea of self-environment unity, and just to recap on my previous video, it's not a formal Alexander Technique idea, but I've yet to find an Alexander Technique teacher who doesn't agree with it. In fact, my colleague Henry Fagg had in fact written an article previously, well before I'd done my video discussing it,  and he brought up the the Neo-Confucius word Cheng to highlight the idea of self-environment unity. Neo-Confucius being, in western terms, from 13th century on wards. So it's certainly not really a new idea, and I think it was Mark Jones who also let me know that there's an area of  psychological study called Ecological Psychology started by a man called J.J Gibson, so that that's an area of research and psychology for a good 70 years now looking at very similar ideas, more from a psychological point of view, but how we embed ourselves in our environment to actually be part of it. It doesn't make sense, functional sense, to discriminate between the two. The phrase I've often used is like being a fish in water, if you take a fish out of water it's basically non-functioning, it makes no sense to discuss a fish's functioning without water. 


So that aside, what I wondered was should the Alexander Technique evolve to include new ideas?  Well, "Cheng" is not a new idea,  but to include new to the Alexander Technique ideas, that really do sit within the realm of Alexander thinking? If it sits there quite comfortably should we formally take these ideas on and make them canon if you like, make them a principle of the Alexander Technique, or should we just leave things as Alexander left them in 1955?


Now,  I've always had a slight issue with that, and I'm not suggesting that this Self-Environment unity should be the one that we add to our list of principles, I do think it's a good one, but it's a broader question. Alexander said throughout his life that his work was a work in progress. So the idea that we stop in 1955 when he died, and fossilize it in amber, seems to me to actually dishonor his work in a way, and I think that's a shame. I think there's a place to evolve the Alexander Technique in small ways. I mean on the whole, things are fine as they are you know, it's not a major issue, but I still think it's important to see our work as teachers as an evolving body of work. As time goes on we get new research on neuroscience etc, we want to make sure that what we're teaching is in line with what we think is true, and in fairness the Alexander Technique has been born out of observation, not theory, so we're kind of always covered a bit there. If we're observing behavior consistently then you know it's human behavior, it is what it is, so in a way we'll, as a profession, always be safe to a degree regardless of latest scientific discoveries. But I do think it's helpful to take these discoveries on board to keep the work alive and present.  So I would like to see the idea that we could keep evolving and not fossilizing it in amber. Obviously we'd need consensus, a democratic consensus and that would take time to achieve, so it would be a very slowly evolving thing for the Alexander Technique to take on new ideas, so it's not something that's gonna happen overnight, or even needs to. Interestingly, as I'm filming this the Alexander Technique profession is having it's yearly convention in Berlin, Germany, a lot of my colleagues are getting together in person and also online, and I think this would be a fantastic discussion for our profession to have at a convention, to say should we fossilize it in amber or should we incrementally take some ideas on board? And would one of those ideas, ... seems everyone I've spoken to seems to be quite comfortable with it ... be self-environment unity? What I simply call Being.


So I would be really interested to know if you are a teacher whether you think we should just stop at 1955, fossilize it in amber, or whether we should incrementally take new ideas on board or if not new ideas, additional ideas that we think are very pertinent to our work, and not just personally helpful they need to be helpful there's no point just bringing them in if they're not helpful ideas I personally think self-environment unity as a concept is a very helpful idea it gives us reason for our functioning, it gives us context for our functioning.  So let me know what you think, I'll be really interested to know.

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