The Primary Control of the Use of the Self

The experiences which followed my awareness of this were forerunners of a recognition of that relativity in the use of the head, neck, and other parts which proved to he a primary control of the general use of the self (The Use of the Self, 1946, p. 9)

In Alexander’s work, the central organisational law of this complex system of ours is the relationship between our head, neck and back the primary command or ‘control’ we share with all other vertebrates which ‘is indirectly responsible’ for the ‘working of all the other parts of the organism’. (The Universal Constant in Living, p. 161) When we don’t interfere with this central command, the control of our complex organism is rendered comparatively simple. Yet, judging by these stories, not interfering with it is far from easy, for how we use it is inextricably bound up with how we mentally respond to what is going on in our lives. 


A teacher's story reinforces this when, having graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher, she talks about a long bicycle trip that she undertakes and finds on it ‘the poise of my head in relation with my body in movement, really was the key to freedom and ease of motion!’ And a student finds with his teacher, for most this primary relationship is central to Alexander Technique lessons from the beginning: ‘Early on my teacher introduced the idea of “primary control” and the relationship between neck, head and back.’ Initially sceptical, another pupil perseveres and finally perceives results from her changes in thought as well as her physical habits. At that point, she says, ‘I imbibed this perception and began to use the AT to change the poor habitual use of my head, neck and back, which was producing the back pain to begin with.’ 


A virtuous circle begins with the thought of allowing the neck to be free, so that the head can go forward and up, and the back can lengthen and widen. It is, in one students words , ‘a life sentence after all, one that I welcome, one that I enjoy’.