This entry covers the use of anatomy and physiology both for understanding the workings of the Alexander Technique and for the purpose of teaching the Technique.
History – F. M. Alexander
F. M. Alexander did not refer to anatomy in his writings, except for two very simplified explanations (on how ‘the thoracic and abdominal cavities as one fairly stiff oblong rubber bag’ in MSI, and using a piece of paper to illustrate the spine shortening and lengthening in CCC.). He did not regard anatomy and physiology relevant for teaching the Alexander Technique. He famously said:
They may teach you anatomy and physiology till they are black in the face – you will still have this to face: sticking to a decision against your habit of life.
However, he did not appear to mind that other people wrote on Technique, explaining it in anatomical and physiological terms. Alexander also used the term ‘anti-gravity’ muscles in his teaching (it was a loose anatomical term for what later was called ‘postural’ muscles, that is, mainly the ‘non-fatiguable’ extensor muscles of the back).
History – Walter Carrington
Walter Carrington started to teach anatomy related to the Alexander Technique at his teachers training course, the Constructive Teaching Centre, using the RAF Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. He sometimes called these informal talks ‘Anatomy without tears’. Walter Carrington also gave talks on Raymond Dart’s articles from the 1940s (e.g. ‘Voluntary musculature of the human body: The double-spiral arrangement’). Later teachers such as Don Burton, David Gorman, and Jane Saunderson gave lectures on anatomy at CTC and at other training courses. A number of teachers who qualified from CTC subsequently included anatomy (and sometimes physiology) on their teachers training courses.
History – Later teachers
Anatomy and physiology both for understanding the workings of the Alexander Technique and for the purpose of teaching the Technique became more popular in the late 1970s and in the 1980s. David Gorman’s three-volume The Body Moveable was the first, but not the last, book on anatomy by a teacher of the Technique. David Garlick contributed articles on physiology in Direction 1988–2002. He also published the booklet ‘The Lost Sixth Sense’. William Conable and Barbara Conable developed the concept of ‘body mapping’ in the late 1980s; a concept which was used in several subsequent books. The first body mapping book was How to Learn the Alexander Technique. Also in the late 1980s some anatomy began to be included in introductory books to the Technique. Raymond Dart’s articles from the 1940s were republished in 1996. In 1999 Ted Dimon published Anatomy of the Moving, and this was followed up by a number of other books on anatomy and physiology by Dimon. The inclusion of some anatomy in an introductory book to the Technique is now not unusual.
Some anatomy teachers also included the evolution of the human body as a way to understanding human structure and design.
David Gorman –Anatomy and physiology
The Body Moveable (1981) by David Gorman is three-volume hand-drawn anatomy book.
‘In our own image – A series on human design and function’ by David Gorman in The Alexander Review:
‘In our own image –Part 1’.
‘In our own image –Part 2’.
‘In our own image –Part 3’.
‘In our own image – Part 4’.
‘In our own image – Part 5’.
‘In our own image – Part 6’.
‘In our own image – Part 7’.
‘In our own image – Part 8’.
They were also published in his collected papers, Looking at Ourselves by David Gorman.
David Garlick contributed a column, ‘The Garlick report’, to Direction. For details of these reports, See David Garlick.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 1.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 2.
‘Dr David Garlick: From the laboratory’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 3.
‘The Garlick report: General outlook’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 4.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 5.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 6.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 7.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 8.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 9.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 1, no. 10.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 1.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 2.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 3.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 4.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 5.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 6.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 7.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 8.
‘The Garlick report’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 9.
‘Science the future and AT’ in Direction vol. 2, no. 10.
‘Recent physiological research into the Alexander Technique’ by Dr David Garlick discusses various physiological mechanisms (perception, receptors, muscle spindles, gamma motor fibres, red and white muscle fibres), and reporting on the study ‘Observations on the use of respiratory muscles in posture’ (also in ‘The Garlick report’ by in Direction vol. 1, no. 2), in which they ‘found that a person with higher back muscle activity had greater abdominal respiratory movements and these were at a lower frequency’.
‘In form and moving’ is a series of articles on anatomical design and function.
‘In form and moving – Part 1’ in AmSAT News issue 45; on the structure of our upright design.
‘In form and moving – Part 2’ in AmSAT News issue 46; on the extensors, head and spine, and stretch reflexes.
‘In form and moving – Part 3’ in AmSAT News issue 47; on flexors, the suspensory function of the flexors, the significance of front length.
‘In form and moving – Part 4’ in AmSAT News issue 48; on the shoulder girdle.
‘In form and moving – Part 5’ in AmSAT News issue 49; on the pelvic girdle.
‘In form and moving – Part 6’ in AmSAT News issue 50; on the upper limbs.
‘In form and moving – Part 7’ in AmSAT News issue 51; on the lower limbs.
The above articles were also published in STATNews, vol. 6, nos. 1–7 (2000–02).
Anatomy books by Theodore Dimon
Anatomy of the Moving Body by Theodore Dimon Jr.
The Body in Motion by Theodore Dimon, Jr. (North Atlantic Books, 2011).
Anatomy of the Voice by Theodore Dimon Jr. on the anatomy and mechanics of the voice, breathing, larynx, throat, face, and jaw.
‘The human embryo’s use of its self’ by Dr Brian Freeman; on growth-movements of the embryo, and how they are natural precusors for all subsequent functions.
‘Using the arms: The ancestry of the human arm’ by Jamie McDowel; on the evolution of the anatomy of the arm.
‘Feet up’ (no author) in The Alexander Journal considers the anatomy of the foot from the point of view of the Technique.
‘Not the medical model, not the scientific model’ by Peter Ribeaux presents the early stages of a model of how the anatomy and physiology of the human organism might function if it were based on Alexander’s concepts and mirrored their interrelatedness.
‘Towards a functional anatomy of the Alexander Technique’ by Peter Ribeaux considers two different systems, the support system and the movement system, how they interact, and may interfere with each other.
‘The emancipation of the upper limbs: “Hands on the back of a chair” revisited’ by Malcolm Williamson considers the evolution of the arms (with reference to F. Wood Jones’ Arboreal Man, 1926) and its implication for the practice of HOBC.
‘Biotensegrity and the Alexander Technique’ by Carol Boggs; how tensegrityand biotensegrity (biological tensegrity, tensegrityin organisms) can inform the Alexander Technique work, especially as a model for biomechanical support of the body.
‘A view on a conceptual understanding of anatomy for facilitating a constructive kinaesthetic behaviour’ by Zadok Ruben; on developing a conceptual understanding of the biostructural nature of the body construct, which is congruent with a constructive kinaesthetic behaviour (use of the self) as a whole.
‘Towards the development of a conceptual view of the body construct as aliveness in movement’ by Zadok Ruben; with reference to tensegrity, on understanding our organism, our anatomy, as a multidirectional suspensory construct characterised by a composition of four affinities: expansion, compaction, flexibility, tonicity.
Body Mapping was developed by William Conable or by Barbara and William Conable and was first referred to in writing in How to Learn the Alexander Technique by Barbara Conable (1991). It was first developed as an adjunct for teaching the Alexander Technique. William Conable said of Body Mapping in 1993: ‘These ideas are not central to understanding the Technique, nor do they substitute for its essential teachings: primary control, inhibition, orders, and the like; but they can be important pedagogical tools.’ Later it became a stand-alone technique for improving performance in dancers and musicians, without needing any prior knowledge of the Alexander Technique. A series of books entitled What Every . . . [pianist, flute teacher, violinist, etc.] Needs to Know about the Body were published. The primary premise being that ‘If your [body] map is accurate and refined, your movement will be fluid and free, as well as balanced and expressive, and it will be easy to reach your goals.’
‘Body mapping’ by William Conable.
‘Decoding dancerspeak’ by Robin Gilmore; on using body mapping for dances, using the example of the spine having curves.
‘Body mapping’ by Robin Gilmore; an introduction to the body mapping and its importance for hands-on practice.
‘Body mapping and the Alexander Technique’ by Amy Likar; an introduction to body mapping, the agenda chart, the three core concepts, and examples of body mapping.
‘The breathing dance’ by Robin Gilmore looks at breathing using a mixture of bodymapping and movements such as ‘childpose’ and ‘leg-spiral’.
Criticism of anatomy books written for Alexander Technique teachers
Cathy Madden, when using anatomy books for her groups, writes: ‘I prefer to use medical texts for my anatomy references in class. When I use an Alexander Technique anatomy book, even if the representations are well done, people could get the impression that Alexander anatomy is somehow different from regular anatomy.’
For the use of physiology as explanations for the mechanisms of the workings of the Technique, see The science of the Alexander Technique.