The Alexander Technique – Quotes and Resources

I had no idea of the Alexander Technique until two Alexander Technique teachers (H. and M.) described this to me a few years ago.  Thanks to them and their periodic comments on the Alexander Technique, my interest in this has grown.  It seems to be:

  • Something extremely valuable for my posture, physical and mental well-being in general – with strong relevance to kendo as well,
  • A place of being, non-doing, presence and lightness from where we can express our movements and spar in an unencumbered, natural and free manner,
  • An approach to undoing our “bad” habits and returning to our innate, natural habits and
  • A more physical approach to returning home to our true nature.

Some notes.  The following words by Noma Hisashi sensei echo the teachings of the Alexander Technique:

One must achieve a posture free from tension and strain and one from which complete freedom of movement is possible. Noma Hisashi [Noma, p. 14]

When I apply the direction starting with “Let the neck be free, …” (described in the quotes below from Judith Stransky) before I strike a men-uchi, the strike seems to proceed with more ease and a nice pop  (though I could be imagining it).  I had heard of its relevance for those in the performing arts of theater, dance, singing and music.  However, I noticed many online articles on its relevance for Aikido, Karate and Martial Arts in general as well as golf, skiing, running, horse-back riding and sports in general.

Here’s a compilation of quotes on the Alexander Technique by author and a concept referred to as “Inhibition” – based on my readings of articles and books on this topic.  Additional quotes can be found at [Alexander_Quotes], [Bloch_Alexander] and [Plake_Quotes].

Resources can be found in the References in addition to these ones:

As usual, this compilation will likely grow as I discover additional quotes and resources.

Wishing you ease in motion!


Quotes on the Alexander Technique (in General)


Cecile Raynor from [Raynor_AT]

  • The core of the Alexander Technique is non-doing
    • Whether we are still, moving, or engaged with the world around us, doing something in a non-doing way means without excess tension, therefore without mental or physical grasping. 
    • This absence of tension allows the body to release into expansion organically and effortlessly. The mind that makes the absence of tension possible is in a state of expanded awareness attending to the unfolding movement.  It is present to the moment.
  • (W)hen we are in the moment, we become the movement as it happens; we experience an unmistakable sense of effortlessness, despite the muscle activity needed for the movement to happen.
    • We have stopped controlling the skeleton with tensed muscles.
    • When we choose to embrace peripheral vision, another world opens up to us, and suddenly we are no longer separate from our surroundings.
  • The state of non-doing can be one of the most profound experiences for a human being. 
    • It allows us to experience the effortlessness and peacefulness of being in a state of intuitive awareness. 
    • By practicing the Alexander Technique and teaching it to others, we can help ourselves and others stop over-using our minds and bodies, over-processing everyone and everything. 
    • For our own benefit and the benefit of the world we live in, we can promote freedom from the harmful habitual pattern of unconscious thinking and acting!

Judith Kleinman and Peter Buckoke from [AlexanderNow]:

  • For performance to be healthy, spontaneous and creative, it needs to be free from rigidity of mind, body and intention.  Alexander thinking facilitates all of these freedoms.
  • The work develops awareness that we can choose the responses to stimuli in our lives rather than responding automatically.  Another way of describing the state we might choose to be in is ‘truly present’.
    • The work starts by developing an understanding of the nature of habit and the identification of any negative personal habits.
  • Performance anxiety is a perfect example of an automatic ‘response to stimulus’ and can be tackled with this psycho-physical approach – like any other habit.
  • Alexander work tends to free the mind, body and spirit from automatic repetition and gives one the feeling of being alive and ready for anything.

Judith Leibowitz and Bill Connington [Leibowitz_AT]

  • The Alexander Technique offers relief for these problems (excess tension and stress) … by getting to the root of the problem:  misuse of the body. p. xv
    • (It) is a subtle method for changing habits and attitudes, which releases the body and mind, enhances body awareness and functioning, and gives the body new freedom, coordination, and energy. p. xv
  • The body functions with maximum efficiency when all its parts are in dynamic balance with one another.  When excess tension is released, it as if a heavy weight is lifted off the body. p. xvii
    • The Alexander Technique helps you achieve this freedom, not through programmed exercise, but through a mind/body awareness of how you are functioning in daily life. p. xvii
    • The method is not just for people who are suffering from pain or stress;  it can help anyone who is interested in learning how to move more freely and easily, look and feel better through improved posture and movement, feel more energized, and explore the connection between body and mind. p. xvii
  • We are often unaware of excess tension because we haven’t felt the absence of tension. p. 53

    • We often don’t feel pain because we have not felt the absence of pain.  Having experienced the absence, we must recognize the process that allowed the letting go take place.  It is the Alexander teacher’s job to demonstrate to students how their unreliable sensory awareness is leading them astray and to guide students into different sensory experiences by helping students to lengthen and widen themselves.

Bill Connington [Leibowitz_AT]

  • “I don’t want you to do anything.  What I want you to do is nothing.  I want you to leave yourselves alone.” Eventually I discovered that she was asking us to release all the unnecessary tension in our bodies so that we could function more easily and efficiently
    • Most of the other teachers at the school were asking us to try hard to get something right, and here was someone who was asking us to *not* to try so that the release would do itself. – Recounting his first class with Glynn MacDonald, an Alexander Technique teacher on p. 11.
  • The main tool that the Alexander Technique has given me is the freedom to make choices. 
    • I have made bold choices in my professional and personal life – choices that have come from my true self and that could be made because of the lifting of the old bond of restrictive habits.  p. 15

Judith Stransky [Stransky_AT]

  • It teaches you to unlearn the poor habits that you have developed, caused by tension and causing more tension, and to experience again the free, easy and natural way of moving that you once had before the poor habits set in. p. 4
  • “Let the neck be free.  Let the head go forward and up.  And let the spine lengthen.” p. 19
    • Just “think” these directions.  Say them silently to yourself.  … it is essential that you do ‘not’ try to “do” any movements in these directions, except for that slight downward nod, which releases the neck muscles in the back, “allowing” the head to go forward and up and the back to lengthen upward.
    • … saying the words to yourself in your mind “without” trying to bring about any change, or moving muscles in any special wayp. 20
  • “What to you think that essence (of his work) was?”  I think it was Nondoing. p. 11
  • If you could “let” in a stressful situation, there would be no stress. p. 50
  • The concept of “let” comes slowly to students in the first lesson.  They tend to try to “make” the neck be free … “Letting” it happen is the key.  It releases the neck.  The neck becomes naturally free.  “Letting” means *not* doing anything, *only* direction with your mind, *only* saying the words. p. 50

Eileen Troberman


Peter Buckoke [Buckoke_Learning]

I believe that his following comments in the context of music can be applied to kendo, sports and most areas of life.

  • We all learn effortlessly about anything that genuinely captures our interest.
  • I see learning a skill, such as playing an instrument, as building a huge variety of reliable repetitive responses (a collection of habits) to different but connected stimuli.
  • Our repertoire of habits can be recognized as character or musical personality.  Described in this way, recognizing habits that we would like to change is part of what is involved in developing as a musician.
  • How to change habits:
    • Noticing the existence and nature of the negative habit empowers us to change.
    • We also need to see there is a moment of choice between stimuli and our automatic or habitual response to it -­ that is, potentially, the moment of change.
  • A research project carried out at the Royal College of Music about 60 years ago concluded that the Alexander technique should be the basis of the education of all musicians.

Glynn MacDonald [MacDonald_Alexander]

  • On End-Gaining and Means-Whereby, p. 35
    • “End-gaining” describes the process in which a person is preoccupied with goals and disregards how the goals are attained – the means-whereby. …
      • When you “end-gain,” you can block results because you generate excessive muscular tension in your determination to get what you want.
    • (Editor’s Note:  I think the following is incredibly important for those who may find work and certain “tasks” unpleasant)
    • Often it seems to us that our day consists of a long list of activities, things we have to get done. 
      • We rush through these tasks as quickly as possible with the thought of enjoying ourselves afterward.  We end up not enjoying our daily activities because they have become unpleasant tasks.   Often … because of the excessive muscular tension we have created as we rush to try to get them over and done with.  It is a vicious circle that can be broken by attending to the means where we gain our ends.
    • We strive to be “on time,” fearful of being late and tend to forget that we also need to be “in time” and “in tune.”
  • On Standing, p. 58
    • You are not trying to correct your posture, but rather discovering how a dynamic posture emerges out of your awareness of what you do not need to do.

On Inhibition

The concept of “Inhibition” in the Alexander Technique seems quite related to that of ta-me (溜め) in kendo.


Judith Leibowitz and Bill Connington [Leibowitz_AT]

  • Inhibition is not a muscular effort nor is it a passive decision:  it is a mental decision to withhold consent from behaving in a particular fashion. p. 46
    • It is a decision to leave oneself alone, rather than to respond habitually to a specific stimulus.
    • Having said no to the habit, you can then say yes to a new response.
  • Inhibition is a non-doing of a habit It is a skill that can be learned and developed to help free us of habit.  Until we can give up our habits, we have no free choice.  Inhibition gives us that capacity.  p. 48

Tim Soar from [Soar_Inhibition]

  • non-doing is the simplest form of inhibition. It involves coming back to neutral, not allowing one anxious reaction to build on top of the last, not interfering with the natural balance of the body and senses. It may be simple, but it’s not easy.

From [AlexanderWiki_Inhibition]

  • (It) describes the principal idea of how to prevent what he (F.  M. Alexander) had mistakenly trained himself to do. 
    • The founder offered the story about his choice of the word:  inhibition is the action an animal hunter might do to strategically choose the exact moment to spring for prey.
    • It involved stopping the urge to instantly and instinctually satisfy its natural hunger by prematurely jumping too soon ineffectively.
  • Inhibition techniques in the context of Alexander Technique lessons commonly use:  a pause, a full stop, deliberate suspension, an active “allowing” = meaning, to be free and do nothing instead of reacting, a deliberate choice to do something different or unexpected.
  • inhibition is … the (mental) discipline of stopping habitual reactions to any stimulus.
    • Once we stop for a moment, our Inner Observer has the chance to notice what (and how) we wanted to do something else other than what we were about to habitually do. 
    • Inhibition is any action (or inaction that) drives a wedge of choice between stimulus and reaction, making a new or less obvious option possible.

Glynn MacDonald [MacDonald_Alexander]

  • Inhibition is the practice of pausing before an action. p. 33
  • By stopping our habitual reactions, we give ourselves a chance to stop rushing into things and a chance to make a choice about how we do things.

References

[AlexanderNow] “What is the Alexander Technique?” AlexanderNow.org.

[Alexander_Quotes] “Alexander Technique Quotations,” AlexanderTechnique.com.

[Alexander_Technik] Alexander-Technik Blog – Alexander Technique and the Mind Body Arts and Sciences

[AlexanderWiki_Inhibition] “Inhibition,” Alexander Technique Wiki, Mar. 7, 2010.

[Bloch_Alexander] Peter Bloch, “What some well-known people have said about the Alexander Technique,” peter-bloch.co.uk.

[Buckoke_Learning] Peter Buckoke, “Learning how to learn,” (PDF, 3 pages).

[Breaking_WhisperedgAh] “Alexander Technique for Well-Being,”  BreakingDepression.com, Jan. 13, 2014.

[Dias_WhisperedAh] Georgia Dias, “Voice work in the Alexander technique.” (PDF, 6 pages).

[Fisher_Voice] Jeremy Fisher, Gillyanne Kayes, This is a Voice:  99 Exercises to Train, Project and Harness the Power of Your Voice, Profile Books, 2016.

[Josefsberg_Breathing] Mark Josefsberg, “Alexander Technique Breathing,” MarkJosefsberg.com.

[Kabat-Zinn_BodyScan] “Jon Kabat-Zinn Body Scan Meditation GUIDED MEDITATION,” July 18, 2016 (45:27 mins).

[KendoNotes_Awareness] Young, “Awareness and Who am I?” KendoNotes.com, April 14, 2019.

[KendoNotes_Meditation2] “Reflections on Meditation – Part 2: Some Experiences and Catching the Ninja,” KendoNotes.com, June 16, 2019. 

[KendoNotes_MushinQuotes] “Quotes on Mushin, Flow and Open-Focus – Overview,” KendoNotes.com, Dec 13, 2017.

[KendoNotes_OpenFocus] “Open Focus, Mushin and Kendo,” KendoNotes,com, May 3, 2016.

[KendoNotes_PMR_Quotes] “Quotes on Progressive Relaxation,” KendoNotes.com, Jan 25, 2021.

[KendoNotes_SoftEyes] “‘Soft Eyes,’ A Way of Seeing and Being – Quote and Resources,” KendoNotes.com, December 21, 2018.

[Leibowitz_AT] Judith Leibowitz and Bill Connington, The Alexander Technique, Harper & Row, 1990.

[MacDonald_Alexander] Glynn MacDonald, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Alexander Technique – A Practical Program for Health, Poise, and Fitness, Barnes and Noble Books, 1998.

[Mindful_BodyScan] “The Body Scan Practice,” Mindful.org, Nov. 7, 2012.

[Noma] Noma Hisashi (1910-1939), The Kendo Reader (PDF, 55 pages)

[Plake_Quotes] Bill Plake, “The Alexander Technique – Quotes & Aphorisms,” AlexanderTechniqueFoothills.com.

[Raynor_AT] Cecile Raynor, “The Alexander Technique, Non-Doing, and Expanded Awareness,” AmSAT News / Summer 2010 / Issue No. 83 www.AmSATonline.org

[Samuels_MindsEye] Extract of Drs. Mike and Nancy Samuels book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, by John Living, in2it.ca,  (PDF, 14 pages).

[SanJoseUniv_PMR] “Progressive Muscular Relaxation,” KIN/HS 169, San Jose State University.

[Soar_Inhibition] Tim Soar, “Inibition,” Alexander-Technique-Online.com, 1999

[Stransky_AT] Judith Stransky, The Alexander Technique: Joy in the Life of Your Body, 1981.

[Timeline_Jacobson] Laura Smith, “This doctor pioneered the idea of relaxing and doing nothing—to be more productive,” Timeline.com, Nov 7, 2017.

[Wildstress_Jacobson] “Muscle Man, Edmund Jacobson,” Wildstress.com.

[Wildstress_Quieting] “Quieting Inner Chatter and Dimming Inner Visions – Which Muscles to Relax,” WildStress.com.

Keywords:  Peace, Heijoshin

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