The Alexander Technique And Qi Dao
see also introduction
The Alexander Technique is a Western method of body awareness and education. Alexander Technique teachers educate clients primarily through light touch and verbal instruction. F. M. Alexander created the technique through personal observation and experimentation. The technique has since received a fair degree of validation from the scientific community and is commonly used by actors, musicians and others who wish to use their bodies effectively.
Similarly to Qigong Master Coach training at the Academy of Qi Dao, Alexander Technique training courses generally involve an intensive three or four-year long program. These courses focus on giving the student direct, hands-on experience in improving their “use of themselves.” Once prospective teachers have sufficient competence in the use of themselves, they can begin learning to guide and educate their clients’ proprioception. Alexander teacher training thus provides its graduates with a well-understood career path supported by professional organizations such as the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AMSAT).
Alexander Technique does not consider Qi or any spiritual concepts that don’t fit within the traditional Western model of the human body and health. As a highly rational system, the Technique also does not use the concept of the unconscious mind. Still, we can see many aspects of the Alexander Technique’s Western, scientific framework that have correspondences with the Daoist, Buddhist and Shamanic principles underlying Qi Dao (1). The key principles of the Alexander technique are: Inhibition, Direction and Primary Control.
By Inhibition, Alexander Teachers mean choosing not to act on an impulse rather than fighting an impulse by a counter-impulse. This meaning of inhibition matches closely the concept of non-doing, again, choosing not to take an action. Alexander Teachers encourage their clients to inhibit the habit of “end gaining” – the mind-set of being so focused on the result of an action that you forget to be aware of what you are doing (“the means whereby”) and thus forget to use your body effectively. This concept corresponds to the Qi Dao principle of switching from intention directed towards future events and instead becoming present and attentive to the moment.
By Direction, Alexander teachers mean to “visualize movement and mentally guide the flow of force through the body” (see the wikipedia article). The conscious aspect of the Alexander Technique uses a series of “directions” developed by Alexander – “Free the neck, head forward and up, torso lengthen and widen, release the legs and knees away from the hips.” While Qi Dao does not have a term directly corresponding to direction, Qi Dao encourages the person to find the dream that each part of the body wants to express and encourages them to be in the flow of the big dream called life.
By Primary Control, Alexander Technique teachers mean the head and neck as a system whose alignment is crucial to the alignment of the entire body. Qi Dao also considers the alignment of the head and neck crucial to the alignment of the entire body, though unlike an Alexander Teacher, a Qi Dao coach would not automatically begin with the head and neck. Qi Dao and the Alexander technique agree that alignment in motion is the foundation on which any kind of elegant activity needs to be based. Qi Dao would view the Alexander Technique as another approach to helping a person to let go of holding patterns of tension. However, Qi Dao would view the Alexander paradigm as essentially linear – the student gradually learns to let go of “wrong” ways of using themselves and learning “correct” ways of using themselves. Thus they learn by the example of their teacher as well as through the principles of the technique to get closer and closer to perfect use. By this token, the student only “improves” to the extent that their teacher is “correct” and the principles conform to their situation.
Qi Dao does not view any approach as wrong or right – moreover this approach may be exactly what some students need to experience. However, Qi Dao does offer a different perspective to the exploration of one’s holding patterns.
In Qi Dao, we do not view any holding pattern or way of using the body as wrong. Instead, Qi Dao coaching offers the clients a process of exploration intended to allow them to determine for themselves for works for them. In this process, the clients often end up letting go of undue tension. Their processes are individual yet follow similar paths. They may begin by exploring the implications of particular alignments (or lack thereof), starting with the most obvious or the ones that require the most immediate attention – sometimes as physical or emotional pain, sometimes as limitations of movement of other expressions. Pain is regarded as an invitation to pay attention to the particular aspect of one’s being, to learn the lesson it involves, and to let go of attachments. The general principles that Qi Dao teaches – alignment, grounding, rooting and beyond – are learned through such a non-linear adventure in self-knowledge and self-empowerment.
One of the advantages of the latter approach is that the students is encouraged to explore what works best for them without necessarily being bound by the limitations of their teachers or being forced to conform to a particular standard of right and wrong. Ultimately, the choice of a bodywork method comes down to what approach resonates most with a person.
Hans Solbrig, Advanced Qi Dao Student
Please note, the author of this article is not a certified Alexander teacher and so can only claim an educated layman’s knowledge of the subject. I do have considerable exposure the Alexander technique and the general principles of the technique are clearly set-out in many references that don’t require great technical knowledge. back