As someone who has no background in Alexander, just several classes thus far, my perception of the work continues shifting week by week. Since it’s hard for me to say if or when my views of the process will settle into a more cohesive form, I seem to be reporting views that that are more or less upended as soon as I’ve gotten used to them. Nonetheless: I believe my understanding of Alexander is refining somewhat, from the sphere of theory or principle into something more intuitive. We can begin with certain physiological certainties: your heart was beating before you read this blog, it’s beating now and will continue to beat after you’ve finished reading, unless all of the adrenaline in your body is somehow magically sucked out of it. This granted, the next physiological certainty we possess is that we all breathe oxygen every few seconds. Although we know this perfectly well, we tend to act as if we don’t; as if we have to analyze the words we vocalize because we might not have enough “breath” to carry all of them and might have to “take” another one. As an actor, I can tell you that this is a core issue for most actors, and this always to some degree influences human behavior generally.
But what if you could trust that your breath was always there? It is, and you can – at some point, regardless of the complexity of a thought that’s being articulated, translated into words in conversation – you are in fact going to take another breath, and there is in fact no need to be concerned that it might not happen. But by and large we do not live in a world that teaches us to trust ourselves with even something so simple and fundamental as breathing, and so we look for recourse to “techniques” to help us rediscover what we already are and already know. It seems that Alexander is one of these techniques.
If the “technique” of Alexander teaches us to make more conscious choices, more aware and physiologically integrated choices – and I believe that it does – then the next logical question that’s in my mind is: at what point are these choices limited by those physiological processes that are automatic and not under conscious control, such as the diaphragm? The organ that processes breath is not something we can consciously direct; we can influence it, but we cannot dictate to it and “choose” to inhale and exhale as we can choose to stand up or sit down. Since this is a given, where do we find the line between actions we *take* and those processes which are inevitable? This is something I’ll be interested in exploring further.