Alexander Technique and Tai Chi compared

Sam Murphy of the Guardian has written another article about the Alexander Technique (17th Nov ’07), this time comparing it to Tai Chi on a number of parameters. Again, the article makes for interesting reading and it is good that he is discussing the Technique.

Murphy compares various research studies into the two disciplines and it is true to say that there needs to be more research undertaken into the Alexander Technique, as scientific ‘evidence’ about its effectiveness is a little flimsy.

An important difference between the two, is that the Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises but becomes more of a way of life. An important aim of the Alexander Technique is to learn how to improve the use of our bodies, whatever we happen to be doing – so we can apply it to improve our Tai Chi practice, for instance.

One statement that Murphy makes, I would like to query.  He says that ‘Good posture, at rest or in movement, is the raison d’etre of the Alexander Technique’. Certainly, our posture tends to improve as a result of learning the Technique but it is the means-whereby we bring about those changes, which is important. This is because we don’t just ‘sit up straight’, but learn to let go of our habitual reactions, along with the associated mis-use that tends to distort our natural poise.  We then give ourselves directions that bring about changes in the way we use ourselves and in so doing, we allow our bodies to re-align. Good posture is usually an outcome of taking lessons, providing the pupil applies their learning of the Technique to their daily life, but is not the main aim of the work.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to quote Alexander himself, as reported by some of his pupils:

‘There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction’

and

You are not here to do exercises or to learn to do something right, but to get able to meet a stimulus that always puts you wrong and to learn to deal with it’.

F M Alexander – Aphorisms

‘Aphorisms’ is a small book, full of fascinating quotes from F M Alexander

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