Buffaloes in the Alexander Technique

If you watch any nature program that involves buffaloes (or bison, musk ox etc), sooner or later they will show footage of the mating season, in which two very determined animals run towards each other at great speed and DONOT BACK DOWN.  There follows a head-on collision, usually of quite enormous proportions.

71 buffalo pic2

Sometimes, my lessons are a little like this.  My student and I have an argument, which becomes a head-on collision.  Always with respect, courtesy and a genuine desire to learn.  Usually with a lot of good humour.  But very definitely in total and utter disagreement.

I blame FM Alexander.

You see, quite a number of his most fundamental ideas fly in the face of commonly accepted knowledge.  They flatly contradict what society as a whole believes to be true.  Often these ideas are considered so blindingly obvious, so utterly self-evident that there cannot be any other explanation.

It’s not the student’s fault.  A whole lifetime of being told vague but forceful instructions by parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, employers, partners and the media has its effect.

I’ve started collecting buffaloes:-

Put your back into it!
you can add in extra power to what you are doing without tensing every muscle in your torso to its maximum

Sit up straight! 
your spine is designed to be curved, not straight, and it will keep itself there if you let it

If I don’t hold my head on tight it will fall off (or my chin will fall onto my chest)
your head is balanced on top of a very strong pole; it takes only the lightest of guidance to keep it there

You have to devote your entire mind to thinking one thought
if you have ever driven a car while eating a bar of chocolate, changing CD and talking to your passengers, you have already disproved this

You have to know what you are doing in order to stop it
Alexander lessons are full of people stopping things they didn’t know they were doing in the first place – just watch next time you are in a group class

There are more, many more.

So why would I go head-to-head with my students over these ideas?  Because I believe FM Alexander was right.  And because I have seen many people achieve many wonderful things once they experiment with the idea that these “facts” that underpin their life are not facts at all.

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Alexander thinking, asking questions, change, effort, experiment, improvement
One comment on “Buffaloes in the Alexander Technique
  1. Sonia says:

    Thanks Karen – thought provoking as always!
    My reaction to seeing such buffalo behaviour is usually to think how dumb masculine responses to life are … so a question … how does crashing head to head change people’s minds? I agree that it is part of what you do in teaching but you aren’t trying buffalo-like to beat us into submission, but rather take us with you somewhere else. The conflict is an important part of making us stop and question what we think we know to be true. But to challenge entrenched beliefs without making people feel defeated – that requires much more skill than you get from a buffalo!

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