The Alexander Technique: A Technique About Nothing?

iStock_figure-with-question-mark_smaller_squareby Jeffrey Glazer For those familiar with the popular Seinfeld show, there is an episode during which Jerry and George are thinking of ideas for a sitcom to pitch to NBC. George comes up with the idea to make it “a show about nothing”.

George:   “Everybody’s doing something, we’ll do nothing.” Jerry:       “So, we go into NBC, we tell them we’ve got an idea for a show about nothing.” George:   “Exactly.” Jerry:       “They say, “What’s your show about?” I say, “Nothing.” George:   “There you go.” A moment passes… Jerry:       “(Nodding) I think you may have something there.” (Source: “The Pitch.” Seinfeld Scripts.)

Most people, when trying to make a positive change in themselves, always want to know what to do. This is especially true for improving posture, body mechanics, and generally how they carry themselves. They want to be told what the “right thing” is, and they assume that is all they need to know to successfully make a change.

But how many times have you tried to “sit up straight”, only to give up because it feels like too much effort?

In the Alexander Technique, the idea of being told what to do gets flipped up on its head. In order to make a change, the first step is to do nothing. All this involves is taking a moment to pause so you can discover what you are already doing that isn’t necessary.

For example, when I find myself slumping at the computer, I don’t go to immediately hoist myself out of the slump. Rather, I pause and take a good look at what I am doing with myself. I may begin to notice that my neck is forward, my jaw clenched, and that I am actively pulling my body towards the screen. So, once I am aware of that tension, I can begin to let it go. As I do so, my body returns to a more natural upright state, and it’s the result of letting go rather than imposing a shape on myself. In other words, I don’t sit up so much as I stop pulling myself forward and down, I do less.

F.M. Alexander, the originator of the Alexander Technique, is quoted as saying the following:

  • “Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing the things we shouldn’t do.”
  • “Like a good fellow, stop the things that are wrong first.”

And in order to stop doing the things that are wrong, you must be aware that they exist. When you find that you are uncomfortable or in pain, see if you can really pause and take a moment to do nothing. You will be better able to find out what your tension habits really are. Once you recognize the habit, you can begin to let it go.

When I first took Alexander Technique lessons, I was struck by the fact that I had never stopped to be in the present moment to look at the reality of what I was doing. I realized I was looking for a solution to my chronic pain everywhere except in the most important place of all, myself.

I’d like to come back to Seinfeld for a moment. When Jerry and George make their pitch to NBC, George keeps insisting the show is about nothing. But Jerry says, “Well, maybe in philosophy. But, even nothing is something.” (“The Pitch.” Seinfeld Scripts.)

So, is the Alexander Technique really a technique about nothing? Even though the first step is to do nothing, it leads to a heightened awareness of self and the unnecessary tension habits that get in the way of effortless upright posture, breathing, and movement that is our birthright. The awareness of and ability to let go of unnecessary tension habits is not nothing, it is most indeed something quite valuable.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]JEFFREY GLAZER is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. He found the Alexander Technique in 2008 after an exhaustive search for relief from chronic pain in his arms and neck. Long hours at the computer had made his pain debilitating, and he was forced to leave his job in finance. The remarkable results he achieved in managing and reducing his pain prompted him to become an instructor in order to help others. He received his teacher certification at the American Center for the Alexander Technique after completing their 3-year, 1600 hour training course in 2013. He also holds a BS in Finance and Marketing from Florida State University.[/author_info] [/author]