The term ‘Directions’ is used in the Alexander Technique with two different but frequently overlapping meanings.
1 ‘Directions’ are the mental instructions we learn to give ourselves before and during an action, in order to bring about changes in the way we use ourselves whilst performing the action.
2 The instructions that are given also indicate the ‘direction’ in which we wish to release and lengthen muscles. For instance, letting our knees and thighs ease out and away from our hip joints.
It is important to notice the word ‘Allow’ in these directions. When we stop interfering with how the body wants to work, we allow it to function as it was designed to.
- Allow my neck to be free
- Allow my head to go forward and up
- Allow my back to lengthen and widen
- Allow my knees to ease out and away
After experimentation, Alexander discovered he could change his habits of misuse, in which he pulled his head back and down when speaking, that resulted in his having vocal problems. First he had to inhibit, stop his habit, then give himself a set of new directions.
In Alexander’s rather convoluted language:
‘Once this misdirection was inhibited, my next step would be to discover what direction would be necessary to ensure a new and improved use of the head and neck, and, indirectly, of the larynx and breathing and other mechanisms… and in its place employ my reasoning processes…. to select… the means-whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about’ and then ‘to project consciously the directions required for putting these means into effect.’
During lessons, Alexander teachers aim to give pupils the experience that Alexander describes. First pausing and inhibiting their old habits of misuse. Then ‘projecting the directions for the new and more satisfactory use in their proper sequence, primary, secondary, etc “all together, one after the other”… whilst the teacher at the same time with his hands makes him familiar with the new sensory experience’.
F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self pp. 25/ 64