What We're Reading: Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones

jones_72by Kim Jessor and Jessica Santascoy


What book do you recommend for new students?


"Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones," which was the first book I read when I began studying the Technique in 1977. Since then I have reread it many times, (as evidenced by my very dog eared copy!). It is a book we read and discuss in our training course, as well as one I return to as a means of clarifying my thinking and teaching.


Why do you recommend "Freedom to Change?"


It is a classic; a comprehensive, thoughtful, and clear book. It is well-written and accessible while being extremely thorough and detailed. Freedom to Change gives an introduction to and a context for so many aspects of the Technique for someone new, while remaining an essential reference for teachers. For example, I often reread the section on the reflex response, or on the center of gravity of the head. That section in particular reminds me to convey to students that it is the nature of our design, with the center of gravity forward of the spine, or what Debby Caplan calls "the elegantly unbalanced head," that facilitates the lengthening of the muscles of our spines when we are not interfering through tension.

Jones approaches the Technique from multiple angles, so it can appeal to people with different interests and perspectives; those wanting to know the history and development of the Technique, the scientifically-minded wanting to understand what he learned from his experimental studies, the educator, those who want to understand more about the relevant anatomy and physiology, the curious potential student looking to improve health, as well as the trainee seeking a more in depth understanding of the process of teaching this work.

Jones’ own story is fascinating, and chronicled in the book. A classics professor who came to the Technique in the 1930s to deal with his own fatigue and pain, he trained to teach with F. M. Alexander himself and his brother A. R. He knew the brothers well, and carried on a lengthy correspondence with FM Alexander.

Jones taught the Technique for over 30 years. During this time he learned the scientific method in order to design studies which measure and validate the effect of the Technique. Like Alexander he had great persistence to pursue his goal of precisely defining the Technique and measuring its effect, in order to bring it to the attention of the larger world. His contribution is significant and I feel it is important for students to know his work.

Jones's descriptions of his own first lessons with both F. M. and A. R. Alexander and his impressions of them bring the brothers vividly to life, as well as his accounts of his learning process. He also writes about influential people who were proponents of the Technique, such as John Dewey and Aldous Huxley, and it's fascinating to see how his work impacted their thinking.

The chapter on experimental studies is the most technical part of the book. Photographs enhance the text, showing us the multiple image photography Jones used to measure changes in movement patterns, as well as x-rays, charts, diagrams, and images of Jones teaching. He also includes the list of adjectives the subjects were asked to use to describe new kinesthetic experiences resulting from AT lessons (ex. being lighter, less familiar, higher and smoother). It is a model for how to quantify the seemingly magical experience of the Technique.

Additionally as a skilled and experienced teacher, his chapters on "The Re-education of Feeling" and "Notes on Teaching" articulate his approach with great clarity, which is illuminating for students.


How does this book speak to someone who is not yet a student of the Technique?


I think the book intrigues the potential Alexander student who is truly looking to change. Jones often emphasizes the pleasure in the learning. He states that the pleasure of the greater ease in movement is an immediate reward of applying the process, and says of the Technique “It brings into learning some of the pleasure and excitement which children feel when they do things for the first time-and begin to explore the world (196)."

Jones also states in the chapter "Learning how to Learn":

“Alexander’s discovery (as Dewey pointed out) is comparable to the discoveries that were made during the Renaissance and that caused men to change their ideas of external nature. When you look through a microscope or telescope for the first time you are forced, if you accept the evidence of your senses, to revise your views of the universe outside yourself. Alexander discovered a way of using his hands to give a person new experiences which force him to revise his ideas both of himself and the universe (188)."

It seems to me that sentiment might inspire someone to try to find out what the Alexander Technique is all about!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Kim-Jessor.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]KIM JESSOR has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 30 years. Certified at ACAT under Judith Leibowitz, she is a member of ACAT's senior faculty and former director of the Teacher Certification program. Kim teaches Alexander in the Graduate Acting program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and maintains a private practice in Manhattan. She has a varied practice and specializes in working with performing artists. Kim has taught at the Mannes College of Music, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and the Miller Health Care Institute for Performing Arts Medicine. Contact Kim at kj292@nyu.edu.[/author_info] [/author]

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/santascoy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JESSICA SANTASCOY is an Alexander Technique teacher specializing in the change of inefficient habitual thought and movement patterns to lessen pain, stress, anxiety, and stage fright. She effectively employs a calm and gentle approach, understanding how fear and pain short circuit the body and productivity. Her clients include high level executives, software engineers, designers, and actors. Jessica graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique, holds a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Media Studies. She teaches in New York City and San Francisco. Connect with Jessica via email or on Twitter @jessicasuzette.[/author_info] [/author]