F M Alexander believed the relationship of mind and body was such that they act as one unit, so that the human organism functions and responds to situations as a whole. He believed that we ‘translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension’ and, as Alexander developed his eponymous Technique, he saw it as a form of psychophysical re-education.
Neuroscientists are today doing research that supports this theory. Baroness Susan Greenfield talks about the way the brain increases connectivity with learning and how London black cab drivers develop larger hippocampi as a result of learning ‘the knowledge’ – the names and location of all the London streets. It follows, therefore, that in re-learning how to use our bodies and minds, there would be significant neural changes taking places in our brains as a result.
In order to bring about any changes in the way we use ourselves, some of our attitudes, thoughts and feelings may need to change, along with any physical changes that may come about in our posture or the way we move.
Alexander wrote that ‘the term psycho-physical is used…. throughout my works to indicate the impossibility of separating “physical” and “mental” operations in our conception of the working of the human organism’ and that ‘the two must be considered entirely interdependent’ (p. 5)
When discussing education Alexander, in his inimitable manner, went as far as to argue that he considered it to be a problem that the ‘human beings to be educated’.… (have) ‘a more or less debauched kinaesthesia, in which psycho-physical reactions are abnormal and harmful’ and that ‘satisfactory education is incompatible’ with such unnatural reactions (p. 107). It is perhaps wise for us to remember that Alexander wrote this in 1923 and was expressing himself in the manner of that time!
Alexander believed that it was only when instructions given whilst teaching ‘include the correct “means-whereby” that the process of carrying them out involves the satisfactory use of the psycho-physical mechanisms concerned’ which would aid the whole learning process. (p. 109)