Whatever brings a student to the Alexander Technique, what is taught in
every lesson is a new, quieter way of using the whole psycho-physical
self. It's this explicitly preventive approach that has
distinguished the Technique from the very beginning.
Just over 100 years ago, the promising career of a young actor named F.M.
Alexander was threatened by a serious problem: he began to lose his voice.
Because his physician could find no evidence of infection, and because he
lost his voice only while performing, Alexander assumed he must be doing
some extra thing on stage, something that interfered with his normal functioning.
Sure enough, rehearsing in front of an array of mirrors, he saw that every
time he began to recite, his chin jerked up as his head was yanked back
and down on an over-stiffening neck. Continuing his careful observation,
he came to realize that interfering with the head's balance on the spine
radically upset his whole balance. Alexander was to later call this
critical head-to-neck relationship "the primary control."
This inherent primary control can be seen working for the three-year-old
in the picture. Because his neck
muscles aren't (yet) over-busy, his head's own weight (thanks to his
skeleton's superbly adapted shape) is acting as a counter-weight, rocking
forward and up on his lengthening spine.
This leverage action, in turn, is reflexively recruiting just enough
supple muscle tone to secure all the space necessary, for everything
inside to work in harmony.
Conversely, stiffening the neck - pulling the head back and down - pulls
the whole self "out of tune."
And all too often a child's neck begins to stiffen shortly after starting
Frequent episodes of boredom, with its neck-scrunching slump, conspire
with the ill-fitting furniture in most classrooms to degrade the
self-balancing, reflex signaling from the primary control. Computers have
greatly increased this unconscious noise with even more scrunching. To all
this interference add the instinctive, everything-stiffening stress
reactions, and it's no wonder that the child's balance gets disrupted.