Tai Chi, a martial art which is often described as a “fountain of youth,” deals with the transmission of energy, or chi, as a circulating force throughout the body. In Tai Chi, the practitioner learns that by keeping the head loose and upright, chi rises through the chakras, creating a sense of balance, pliability and harmony.

As I have continued studying Alexander technique, it has occurred to me that there is some, or much, overlap between Alexander and Tai Chi; the latter is sometimes called a “fountain of youth,” as it slows aging through improving digestion, toning up the heart and through a number of other physiological effects. In Alexander, likewise, the image or motif of a “fountain” recurs throughout the practice: the head and feet are seen as going away from each other, the head reaching toward the sky, and there is more emphasis on the exhale of the breath than the inhale. Focus on the exhale is also common in martial arts, though for different reasons (moving fluidly toward or away from the opponent, adding power to a strike); in Alexander, we exhale in order to empty the lungs, so that the inhale can be deep and easy.

Any practice that focuses intensively on the body must deal with the body as a unity, but it seems to me at this point that Alexander has more in common with martial arts than with more rarified forms of movement such as ballet. (I have studied several martial arts, but not ballet, so I am speaking only of impressions of the latter.) In ballet, the body must be a unity, but focus is given to the head, legs, waist and feet as different entities, so that movement may have precision and specificity. In Alexander, as in martial arts, it seems to me that the body is thought of as one thing that exists in one spot, and is alive in that spot: to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and situations, changing goals of movement, thought or intention – this is a philosophy that Alexander and Tai Chi share.

I am interested to see if, as I learn more, this overlap will remain specific to skills and arts I am already familiar with or if it will branch further out into the unknown.