F. M. Alexander Technique Michael Hardwicke B.Sc. PGCE STAT
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Right now as you are reading this, become aware and consider your use. What do you give attention to?

To understand the capacity of the Alexander Technique (AT) and why it often takes time to integrate it into our lives it might be useful to consider two expressions used by F.M. Alexander - Manner of use and Conditions of use. F. M. Alexander used both of these terms in his writing and in his explanations of the A.T.

Manner of use is the way most people initially encounter the technique and refers to how we do things. How we stand, sit, walk, direct our head, neck, back etc. From this we often see the Technique as being described as posture and think it can be just discussed in terms of snapshots and diagrams.

Conditions of use refers to the background quality of muscle tone (it can range from very tight to very lax) and we are often not conscious of the level of tone in our tissue structure.

Both manner of use and conditions of use are essential in learning the Technique and they are very clearly interrelated, inseparable and neither is of more importance than the other. Generally speaking, when we work in semi-supine (lying down on floor or table with knees bent and head on books), we are taking time to work on our conditions of use. We see how much we can consciously release our muscle system and find more space between our bones and around our organs. Often our breathing will get easier as a result. When we work on our standing, sitting, bending, walking we are dealing with our manner of use but this is so closely related to our conditions of use that we cannot really distinguish between them. In fact to do so and think entirely of position, alignment and visual interpretation would miss a big part of the picture and could result in even worse conditions of use being set up in an attempt to ‘get it right’.

In film footage of FM Alexander teaching a pupil we can see he is not just getting his pupil to inhibit their harmful manner of use when getting in and out of a chair but he uses his hands to change the standard of muscle tone throughout the pupil as well.

Conditions of use can be short term or long term. I might have excessive background muscle holding as a result of some recent illness or difficult challenge and a relatively short time of conscious work might help this to change. Long-term patterns of conditions of use might have existed since childhood and need a long period of conscious letting-go to change them. When they do we experience not just a freedom in the body but also a corresponding space in the mind and emotional capacity. This type of change is often of great value in Alexander practice and leads to the discovery that we can exist in a different way and have a conscious process to bring this about.

So when you have a moment of awareness/consciousness, remember the Alexander Technique or think, “what am I doing with myself” include both aspects of the AT to get the full potential of the process and address your whole self.

Acknowledgements to Joe Armstrong writing about this subject in AmSTAT News 2003

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  Michael Hardwicke
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