Alexander Technique is all about improving your posture, isn’t it?

In the TV series ‘Ugly Betty’ Wilhelmina tries to book an Alexander lesson for another character because ‘I noticed that your posture needs improving’. The joke is that Wilhelmina is a nightmare control freak whose probable motive in booking the lesson is just another way of controlling the other character.

If part of the Alexander work is learning to let go of our habitual reactions to stimuli then it’s safe to say that there is a massive collective fail when the ‘p’ word is introduced. Cue lots of defensive Alexander teachers losing their collective cool while they say, rather testily, that it’s not about posture.

There’s even a facebook page of an Alexander teacher based in London where title of the header graphic is ‘It’s not about posture’.

I started wondering why this is. After all, everything vaguely similar to the Alexander Technique has students/clients who show up with distorted ideas about what it is. They expect certain results without having the remotest clue about the processes they are going to have learn in order to get those results.

I started having fun with thinking about what if it were true that the Alexander technique was all about posture.

In the spirit of Byron Katie, is it really true that the Alexander Technique is not about improving posture?

No, I can’t know for sure that the Alexander technique is not about improving posture. If someone tells me that the Alexander technique is about improving posture, who am I to correct them? Posture is one of those words where we think we know what it means, but do we really? If I don’t really know what the word means, why am I so upset if someone tells me that part of my job is sorting out their posture?

What happens, who do I become when I believe that the Alexander technique is not about improving posture?
I feel confused. There’s a part of me that, after 30 odd years of learning the technique, still thinks positionally and posturally. I try and pretend that I don’t do this, but if I look at my family photos there are generations of us all with iposture / text neck well before such a term became fashionable. I’ve been trained by my family and of course by society to think posturally. It turns out to be a very deep set habit. It’s so deep, that even though every Alexander teacher I’ve ever had is at pains to tell me that it’s about relationships and qualities and not about posture, there’s still part of my brain that is trying to figure out what the right position for my head and spine.

What’s the turnaround?
The Alexander Technique is about improving posture.
Posture is the most visible outward change from having lessons. Yes, I’d like to point out the more subtle benefits like increased choice, calmness, less pain and more ease in life. Unfortunately, these more subtle qualities are often very much in the eye of the beholder. One common meaning of posture is to take a position, an attitude to something. So, yes, I definitely improve someone’s attitude to life.

If the Alexander Technique is not about improving posture, why don’t we just lead with our definition in the first place? It’s not down to us to change other people opinion or ideas, in fact that’s neurologically very difficult. It’s much easier to change people’s ideas or opinions by giving them new information rather than asking them to stop thinking about something they have already invested time and effort in believing.

So, what we need is a universally agreed, short and positive definition of the Alexander Technique. This definition will then allow us to ask potential students and the media to update their current definition with a much better one.

What could be easier? Well, that’s the next article. Will the correct definition of the Alexander Technique please step forward?

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2018

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