Free is a small word of great significance in the Alexander Technique, and may be used many times during lessons. ‘Free’ refers to a light and alert release of muscle tension, which allows the body to balance and co-ordinate itself without interference. ‘Free’ is different from ‘relax’. Many people, when they try to relax, just let their bodies collapse heavily down so that they concertina their spine and torso, restrict their breathing and squash their internal organs. They often become quite dull and sluggish in the process. This unhelpful interpretation of the word ‘relax’ tends to create problems rather than relieving them, so teachers generally choose to use the word ‘free’ instead. In Alexander lessons, we learn to give ourselves a set of directions which incorporate the word ‘free’: we instruct ourselves to ‘have a free neck’, whatever we are doing.
In order to gain freedom of thought and action Alexander realised that when we inhibit our habitual reactions, we are free to choose the way we wish to respond to a stimulus, whether it is in relation to making a movement or in response to events in society. Alexander explored the concept of freedom, when writing during the ‘criminal outrage’ of World War Two. He believed that ordinary people could not be freed from blame because they were ‘shelving individual responsibility onto the shoulder of some leader’… and that ‘their desire to be told what to do’ made them ‘guilty in the manner of waging war’.
Alexander also believed that democracy could only come about ‘through full development of man’s potentiality not only for individual freedom of thought and action, but for that individual freedom IN thought and action in the general use and functioning of the self, which gives in process control of individual and therefore collective reaction, in the way of life essential to the practice of democracy’.