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The fact that Alexander model disagreed both with the academical explanation of the mechanism and his feeling impression had put him out of communication with his reasoning. Otherwise he would have reflected that the widening the thwarts laterally in the boat analogy would tend to shorten the boat along its axis of symetry and not the opposite. When one tries to re-construct the reasoning with a model, reasoning should not stop at the first constraint but continue to incorporate all characteristics which must match the description given by the author. We start to read a book, but immediately we reach a point with which we disagree our more or less debauched kinaesthesia cannot control the impulses which, when set in motion, put us out of communication with our reasoning.

He did not connect the fact that a lateral widening of the struts would, in the analogy proposed by Alexander, make the principle of straightening the spine by a reverse action of the ribs completely incoherent, incomprehensible and impenetrable. In the end, what Alexander is saying is utterly counterintuitive as it is often the case , and it is only by using his models to construct experiments of conscious guidance which are bound to feel wrong, contrary to our most ingrained habit of expanding the thoracic capacity and breathing, that we can evaluate what he is proposing.

This is what a personal process of inquiry is about. This trusting attitude is fairly frivolous when one observes the coordination displayed by the supposed senior teachers and trendsetters in the modern Alexander technique community. Then the curve of the ends of the free ribs would be properly arched yellow curve which links the ends of the green ribs. When looking at the ribcage from the front we see that by increasing the distance between the free ends of these ribs, we are going to unflatten the curve linking the free ends of the ribs seen from the side in yellow color on the diagram above.

Alexander Technique Eases Back Pain

This consideration of both planes frontal and sagittal planes of the thorax is the kind of manipulation called thought-experiment which helps to make flexible decisions in our experiments. On the frontal plane, the free ends of the ribs represented without the costal cartilages are like thwarts expanding away from one another and on the sagittal plane, they are like a curve more or less flattened depending on the distance between the thwarts.

On this image used by Alexander as a model of wrong use in standing Alexander, F. The pupil must understand the given models, he must represent clearly the curve that is habitually flattened when the upper torso is pulled back and the back pulled forward in order to conceive the new movements which will be necessary to increase the curve. I do sometimes ask the pupil to place four fingers on the free ends of the lower ribs below the height rib to monitor how their concerted movements of the different parts of the torso can increase the curvature; I also ask him to register the increase in distance between the fingers which accrue when he is giving consent to the movements of the back back and the upper torso forward.

Only then will he be able to realise that Alexander words are really describing a constraint of the mechanism and he will be able to use his reasoning to order the new concerted movements which will allow him to gain previously unknown experiences by reasoning from known to unknown experiences in the process of bringing about change in his manner of use.

This result does not come about by inducing self-hypnotism, or because of some chance happening, as, for instance, the coming into contact with an outside influence, personal or otherwise, or the possession of some natural aptitude habitual reaction which is fitted to produce a certain desired result. There is one consequence of this reasoning based on the model provided by Alexander which I want to highlight: this harmonic expansion of the torso is not a consequence of the movements commonly associated with breathing but that of the coordination of the movements of the parts of the torso, and as the new movements of breathing are for Alexander not even secondary to the conditions created by the expanding readjustment , they will have to adapt to the new conditions of harmonic expansion of the thorax Alexander, F.

Succeeding here will automatically mean that he will have had to refuse to give consent to his habitual breathing movements up and outward, down and inward in order to maintain the model in this procedure. When he does contradict his feeling sense in this habitual gesture and to his immense surprise, he will measure on a video recording that the length of his breathing-out time has tremendously increased while he can take more air-in in breathing for less than a second.

About The Alexander Technique for Musicians

This conscious control of the time of out-breath and in-breath is in stark contrast with the strongest feeling of doing the wrong thing when performing the concerted orders. How could feeling so wrong lead to such an increase in the control of the breathing act? Goddard Binkley reports [12] that in just two years before F. Yet Goddard Binkley does not seem to understand what Alexander asks him to direct, and he views the instructions as sequential one after the other and not as altogether, simultaneous but on different planes.

The supporter of this easy visualisation imagines that the lower ribs should go down in breathing out and up in breathing in. These movements are very marked only in the lower ribcage and they tend to restrict the expansion of the upper ribcage. I have even seen various times modern Alexander teachers place their hands on the side of the lower ribcage of their pupils and request them to feel and contract down and expand up their lower ribs to the full, in rythmic accompaniment of the breathing pattern!

Now, if you understand the models described by Alexander and you give consent to the series of three movements which allow the increase of the curve between the free ends of the ribs and simultaneously expand the vertical distance between the thwarts seen from the front while narrowing the lateral distance between the same free ends of the ribs, you will discover that in this case, the movements in and out of the lower ribs are fast disappearing totally with a fast increase on the control of the duration of both the in- and out-breath.

On the contrary, if you want to force the habitual breathing movements to appear on the video recording, you will find that it is necessary to hollow the back, to protrude the abdomen and to pull the upper torso backward in space! Here is an example of the result of the modern Alexander technique unreasoned teaching method. This teacher has been trained for three years and she is now conveying a supposedly correct sensory experience to her pupil.

I have traced in yellow the flattening of the curve: as the lower ribs are much shorter than the ribs of the middle thorax, the vertebrae they are attached to need to be much more forward than the ones which are attached to the longest ribs of the middle torso to produce the effect of a flattened curve: the hollow in the back, the protruding abdomen, the narrowing of the free ends of the lower ribs, the reduced thoracic cavity and the pulled back upper torso are all symptoms of the same cause, the poor coordination of the different movements of the different parts of the torso.


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Apparently she is not conscious that she is giving consent to this series of movements. We can disarm the argument that breathing movements are directly associated with ribs movements in theory and now in practice. The primary movement is the organisation of the movements of the different parts of the torso to increase its mean capactiy; therefore the primary movement in breathing is not the lateral movement of the lower ribs up and down which only increases the lateral width of the lower thorax and tends invariably to narrow the upper thorax.

It is a series of movements which lengthen and increase the mean thoracic capacity both in breathing-in as well as in breathing-out. To understand this sentence, it is fundamental to have a representation of the position of the lungs in the model we are using. On this x-ray in frontal view, the patient is examined in full inspiration [13] and it is clear that the lower ribs movements in the abdominal region have next to no bearing on the total lung capacity.

The lungs are much higher than most people spontaneously believe, much higher than the free end of the lower ribs.

The Alexander Technique for Musicians: Judith Kleinman: Methuen Drama

On this x-ray, the lungs are fully inflated and the red arrows I have added show that the lateral expansion of the lower ribcage is not related with full thoracic breathing. It is not an instruction specific to the tertiary part of the process, i. It is certainly not an instruction specific to breathing. I have often witnessed a debate between modern Alexander teachers who compare their opinions on human functioning, on the question of the lengthening movement of the spine when breathing in. If this was correct, it would mean that the external outer breathing movements are a primary part of the process of establishing the conditions of the spine and torso —and that breathing out would be structurally associated with shortening the spine.

This goes against principle as I will demonstrate. When Alexander describes the torso, he is adamant that the general capacity of the upper thoracic cage should be maintained wider than the lower thoraco-abdominal part at all times. This statement makes no sense if you need to exclude the movements of breathing because you have a model of breathing out which implies a movement to narrow the outer ribcage in breathing out!

Let us, for a moment, think of the thoracic and abdominal cavities as one fairly stiff oblong rubber bag filled with different parts of a working machine which are interrelated and interdependent, and which are held in position by their attachment to the different parts of the inner surface of this bag. We will then suppose, for the sake of our illustration, that the circumference of the inner upper half of this bag is three inches more than that of the lower half. As long as this general capacity of the bag is maintained the working standard of efficiency of the machinery is indicated as the maximum.

We can at once picture the effect on the whole of the vital organs therein contained, their general disorganization , the harmful irritation caused by undue compression, the interference with the natural movement of the blood, of the lymph, and of the fluids contained in the organs of digestion and elimination. In fact we find a condition of stagnation, fermentation, etc. Model-based reasoning is associated with thought experiments. In this habit, described as two different acts —contract the ribs, expand the ribs— the primary movement is breathing itself, and the lengthening and widening of the torso, the increase of the mean thoracic capacity is sacrificed to the common misconception and to the disregard for the proper lengthening and widening of the torso.

If the breathing out movement is a lowering of the sides of the lower ribs, we find by reasoning with a model including the thoracic diaphragm that at the end of the exhalation, the lateral length of the diaphragm will be at its shortest, the worse conditions for mechanical adavantage during the inspiration phase. This should force the subject to expand the lower ribs very fast to the side to allow for a short in-breath necessary for elocution or singing —it never works in practice, forcing the pupil to gasp or sniff loudly, increasing the speed of air and not letting the atmostpheric pressure do its role.

In order to contract optimally, the diaphragm must be lengthened and widened by the antagonistic movements of its bony attachments and not bowed down on its sides at the moment of breathing in. Therefore it is reasonable that the diaphragm length and width should be optimal before breathing in: its insertion at the lower back should be furthest away from the sternum in a movement of the lower back back and its origins, at the sternum xiphoid process and at the inferior thoracic aperture along the costal margin should be moved at their highest point without hollowing the back.

Models are very interesting to reason from the known to the unknown because they can help mis-represent reality. Model-based reasoning refers to using visuospatial models to reason, to practice thought-experiments [15] , to open new areas of investigations, to form theories and to prepare controlled physical experiments. Models provide a visual-representation either in 2D or 3D , they describe the relations between certain aspects of some mechanism in nature but not others, example the x-ray , but they most of all allow us to construct appropriate vocabulary and terminology [16] to represent and test some mechanisms that seem obvious at a cursory glance but of which we understand next to nothing.

During the last 15 years, educational theory researchers have connected the great paradigm shifts in science —the radical conceptual changes— to the activity of model-based reasoning that the scientists employ when inventing new ways to understand what is happening in the world. The direction of coordinated movements of the different parts of the organism by reasoning instead of by feeling is the greatest shift in the history of gestural guidance and control. This meant that I must be prepared to carry on with any procedure I had reasoned out as best for my purpose, even though that procedure might feel wrong.

Learning the initial Alexander technique represents a leap forward and away from all the attempts at somatic education , yet, to subject the processes directing our use to the new experiment —the experiment of having the concerted movements of the parts of the torso dominated by reasoning instead of by feeling— the first need is to help our student reason correctly and flexibly with appropriate models. There is a much greater —and more fruitful— task for the teacher, that is to help the pupil free his thinking from the immediate feelings what I call the freedom from the tyranny of the feeling sense and develop his capacity to construct a strong relation between his speech and dynamic models in order to form his own system of inquiry, his own system with which to challenge his pre-conception and fixed ideas regarding what is possible or not for him.

As much as model-based reasoning plays a central role in the construction of higher conceptualization processes and in the dismantling of pre-conception and naive embodied theories about how mechanisms functions, it has also been shown that reasoning with visual models —spatial representations in the form of diagrams, graphs or physical models— is not innate, that students have great difficulty to represent dynamic models when left to their own means and even more difficulties to reason accurately from a model.

The students have not been trained to construct and employ models in order to understand complex mechanisms. The two criticisms are often correct together which should be impossible because students believe that the models which are presented are concrete representation in visual form of the mechanism they describe; the somatic teacher will in his turn use this imaginary fixity as an excuse not to reason and to reject anything which does not correspond to the doctrine he has swallowed whole without reflective thinking in his training.

You cannot reconcile people with the idea of reasoning if you do not train them to employ definite terminology and to manipulate models in their mind to find solutions to precise questions. This is the main surprise for the students of the initial Alexander technique: how many times during their lessons they are asked to reason in order to answer questions relating to a given model.

Many could imagine that this is a coincidence or a secondary trait of these lessons. It cannot be further from the truth. This form of conversation is how they will get into the habit of inquiry, of using models, questions and logical structures in order to produce decisions and to understand why these decisions must be maintained in time during the procedures of conscious guidance. The process of inquiry is one of developing and testing theories to explain phenomena.

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The difficulty lies not in the lack of theories, but on the contrary in their proliferation and in the lack of conscious control of the explanations teachers and students give of most phenomena. Duschl thinks that people are natural theory builders , [18] I consider it would be more accurate to say that they are compulsive theory builders. Nor must it be forgotten that in this process of reeducation a great object lesson is given to the controlling mind. In the very breaking up of maleficent co-ordinations or vicious circles which have become established, a new impulse is given to certain intellectual functions which have been thrown out of play.

The reflex action which is setting up morbid conditions can only be controlled and altered by a deliberate realization of the guiding process which is to be substituted, and these new impulses to the conscious mind have, analogically, very much the same effect as is produced on the body by the internal massage referred to above. The old accumulations of subconscious thought are dispersed, and room is made for new conceptions and realizations. The overabundance of untested theories in the mind of the pupil has two very serious drawbacks: 1 it encourages a form of subjective callousness and indifference to a proper evaluation of theories and 2 it does not insure a secure platform from which executing solid decisions.

Compulsive theory builders invest their theories with a lot of personal affect. They are not used to challenge the theories they support, as if questioning a theory they believe in would be a personal attack on their own self.

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This attitude does not take into account that, most of the time, naive theories are potpourri —rotten pot— of new Age and old Age misconceptions which paternity is very difficult to trace. This explains why a weak theoricist would tend to reject with the utmost force anything or anybody who is seen as representing a theoretical threat. This does not exclude a penchant to promote a relativist, all-is-good attitude regarding conceptions —why should another conception be better than mine or not coexist with mine?

To execute solid decisions, i. Alexander explains that the pupil must have formed a complete and accurate apprehension of all the movements concerned : this can only mean that he must have constructed a model which represents a mechanism relating the three movements together —what is at the beginning physically impossible for him to perform as these concerted movements are contrary to his habit of use his habit of concerted movements.

We must therefore make him understand that so very frequently in re-education the correct way to perform an act feels the impossible way. There is only one way out of the difficulty.