COMPANION

Offshoots of the Alexander Technique

‘Offshoots’ are here defined as techniques and methods inspired by or evolved from the Alexander Technique, in whole or part. This is different from applying the Alexander Technique to an activity. ‘Offshoots’ are not dependent on previous knowledge of the Technique. Some are presented below, in chronological order.

Dr Robert Henry Scanes Spicer (1856-1925)

Dr Spicer became a pupil of Alexander’s in 1904. He started to claim his own version of Alexander’s ideas as a medical discovery in July 1909 with his paper “Some Points in the Mechanics of Respiration”.[1] This was followed up in further papers. In the early papers Dr Spicer proposed that chronic friction in the throat causes cancer. He names his method “psycho-postural-respiratory training” in which the erect posture is achieved by “the willed extension of the vertical axis”… “with each in-breath until the extension becomes automatic and unconscious.”[2] Alexander accused Dr Spicer of plagiarism in two pamphlets, while disassociating himself from Dr Spicer’s curative claims. For details see R. H. Scanes Spicer.

Gerald Stanley Lee (1862-1944)

Gerald Stanley Lee had been a pupil of Alexander (probably in New York) who wrote, without acknowledging Alexander, about his exercise system which clearly is inspired by the Alexander Technique. In Invisible Exercise (1922) he talks about the ‘single control’ which is carrying the body, ‘relaxing the neck’ to lengthen it, how to sit down, how to stand up, how to lie down, and involving him stretching his ‘head forward and up and lengthen and widen’ his back.[3] Similar methods were advocated in his Rest Working (1925).[4] See Gerald Stanley Lee.

Charles Neil’s relaxation technique

Charles Neil trained with F. M. Alexander and qualified as a teacher in 1936. In c. 1947 he set up the Re-Education Centre in Holland Park (later the Dame Isobel Cripps Centre), and taught his own postural relaxation method. For details see Charles Neil.

Feldenkrais Method

Moshé Feldenkrais (1904–1984) had lessons in the Alexander Technique from Walter Carrington. Walter Carrington claimed that – subsequently to the lessons – Feldenkrais’ book, Body and Mature Behaviour (1949), contains ‘a lot of material in it that looks as though it is practically paraphrased from Alexander’s books’.[5] Today, the Feldenkrais Method may contain philosophically inspired ideas from the Alexander Technique rather than any practice. The similarities and differences were discussed in a Direction journal dedicated to the issue.[6]

Picture: Feldenkrais performing Alexander Technique-inspired chair work.[7]

Mitzvah Exercise (Technique)

The Mitzvah exercise was developed by M. Cohen-Nehemia for the purpose of correcting poor posture. It consists of standing in front of chair, then bending forward to sit down, keeping the head and neck curled down all the time; reaching the chair slowly raise the torso and head to sit upright. For standing up the procedure is reversed.[8] Cohen-Nehemia trains and certifies Mitzvah Technique Teachers.[9] M. Cohen- Nehemia worked with Moshé Feldenkrais and spent five years in London, where he qualified as a teacher of the Alexander Technique.

Body Mapping

Body Mapping was developed by William Conable[10] or by Barbara and William Conable[11] and was first referred to in writing in How to Learn the Alexander Technique by Barbara Conable (1991).[12] 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.’[13] 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.’[14]

References

[1] R. H. Scanes-Spicer, “Some Points in the Mechanics of Respiration,” in British Medical Journal (London), 11 September 1909, pp. 673–677.
[2] Dr Scanes Spicer, “The Normal Orthograde Posture,” British Medical Journal, 17 December 1910, pp. 1912–14.
[3] Invisible Exercise by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922).
[4] Rest Working – A study in relaxed concentration by Gerald Stanley Lee (The Coordination Guild, 1925).
[5] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington and Sean Carey, (Mouritz, 2001), p. 86.
[6] Direction vol. 1, no. 7, 1989.
[7] By International Feldenkrais Federation, https://feldenkrais-method.org/ - International Feldenkrais Federation, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26042344
[8] ‘A new procedure for improving body mechanics: An experimental test’ by M. Cohen-Nehmemia and N. F. Clinch in Perceptual and Motor Skills, October 1982, 55, pp. 363-368.
[9] [Old website:  mitzvahtechnique.com], retrieved 6 September 2017.
[10] How to Learn the Alexander Technique by Barbara Conable (Andover Road Press, 1991), p. 32.
[11] ‘Body Mapping’ by William Conable in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 63.
[12] How to Learn the Alexander Technique by Barbara Conable (Andover Road Press, 1991).
[13] ‘Body Mapping’ by William Conable in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 63–67.
[14] Body Mapping for Flutists – What Every Flute Teacher Needs to Know About the Body by Lea Pearson (Flutibia, 2002), p. 6.
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