X-Rated Alexander Technique

Back in the day, movies and books in America would sometimes be banned by church or state authorities.*  Perhaps because of their scandalous content, or unacceptable political implications.

A banned movie or book was often one that everyone wanted to see or get their hands on.  When Henry Miller’s books like Tropic of Cancer, Nexus and Plexus were declared obscene by the US Government and prohibited from importation into the country.  But a lot college kids were going to Europe during their summer vacations and many smuggled in copies which were then circulated clandestinely from reader to reader.

As an Alexander Technique teacher, there are a few words that I encourage my students to let go of, particularly when thinking about their body, and how they can best use it. These are words that carry a lot of old and unhelpful baggage and slow down the learning process.

“X-Rated” words, as it were, and Xtremely unhelpful.

Sometimes I’m tempted to actually give my students an actual list of banned words, but to date I haven’t followed through on that.

So instead, below is a preliminary version of the list I haven’t created yet, along with brief explanations of why I think they should be “banned”.  I would love to get your comments on these words and explanations and any suggestions for additions/changes you have.

1. Right (and it’s opposing friend Wrong) “Did I get it right this time? “I did it the wrong way again!”

These two words are pretty absolute in nature and more often than not imply judgement.  The Alexander Technique is really about learning how to do whatever you do with less unnecessary tension.  There is really no “right” or “wrong” – just varying degrees of ease.

2. Position as in “Is my head in the right position now?”

As long as we’re alive, we’re in motion even when we are sitting or standing “still”. Air is coming in and out of our lungs, blood and other bodily fluids are flowing, we’re digesting food etc, and all these necessary processes involve movement.

3 Keep as in “I’ve been keeping my head in the place you showed me.”

Same reason as position.

4. Hold as in “I’ve been holding the position you showed me.”

Again, pretty much the same reason as “position”.  You can’t hold a movement, and the Technique is all about quality of movement.

5. Try or Trying or Efforting as in “I’ve been trying to use the self-directions you taught me.”

Trying is almost certainly going to activate your habitual patterns of movement – the very ones we’re trying to change.  It also suggests that you can make useful changes by effort of will, which from and Alexander Technique perspective is just not going to work.

6. Concentrate as in “I’ve been trying to concentrate on my neck.”

Concentrating almost always involves creating excess tension.  Think of someone you know who, when you look at him or her, seems to you to be concentrating on something.  Typically the visual cue is some form of tightening.

7. Straight as in “I’ve been trying to stand up straight.”

Our spines have a natural curvature (and thank goodness for that!) and when students try to be “straight” they just re-arrange their harmful tensions instead of releasing them.

8. Relax as in “I’m relaxing when I sit down.”

Relax may have been a useful word 100 years ago (indeed F. M. Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique used it at one time) but today it’s morphed into a synonym of “collapse”.

Please leave your comments/suggestions below and or on Facebook.


*Of course censorship still occurs in the US and other countries, but with the advent of the internet and social media it often backfires.  Recently, for example, a high-school administrator cut the sound from a graduation speaker as she was about to criticize the school’s handling of her sexual harassment complaint.  Just as anyone in her age group would do, she re-did the speech at home and posted it on YouTube. And naturally it immediately went viral.

Finally, no blog is truly complete without a Country Music song.  In this case it’s “Rated X” by the fabulous Loretta Lynn:

Image Copyright: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo


X-Rated Alexander Technique — 3 Comments

  1. It would seem Robert that there is a common frustration that also included Alexander in his teaching. In constructive conscious control, chapter on incorrect conception page 79 he writes of fixed beliefs of students and the inevitable limiting effect on their capacity for “listening carefully”. That is for receiving the news as the teacher is trying to convey them. Also a reference to the pupil hearing only what he wants to hear.

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