by Stacy Gehman
What makes the Alexander Technique unique in a world replete with diverse ideas about who we are, how we work and how to become whole, fully functional human beings?
For me what is unique about Alexander’s work is his adamant insistence that by relying on our ability to observe and to think, together with a bit of specific information about the way in which we are coordinated, we can continually work to improve ourselves.
That specific bit of information, which Alexander called the primary control, is an organizing principle of movement that is amazingly simple in concept, and wonderfully powerful, but subtle, in its application. Knowledge of that principle organizes the observations I make about myself and how I make them, the questions I ask about what I observe, and the direction I take in my experimentation – that is, the entire way I go about making changes in the way I do what I do.
That organizing principle is that the quality of movement of my head in relationship to my body is the controlling factor in the coordination of any activity in which I am engaged. That principle is always operating either to my advantage or to my disadvantage; it is the “universal constant in living,” as Alexander titled one of his books. It operates to my disadvantage if I tighten my neck, thereby restricting the movement of my head in relationship to my body; and it operates to my advantage if my neck is free, allowing my head to move freely and effortlessly in relationship to my body. However this principle does not operate in isolation. I cannot divide myself into a head and a body, or into thoughts and actions, but I am instead an indivisible unity. When I bring my attention to the relationship of my head to my body, then I need to include all of me in my attention, as well as what I can observe about myself in relationship to the world in which I act. However, a change in the relationship of my head to my body is where I begin my every action, whether I know it or not. If I don’t know it, odds are good that I’ll start by tightening my neck, thereby setting up throughout my organism a habitual, adverse reaction that actually impedes my action. If I am aware of the change in that relationship, then I at least have a chance to find a new, more coordinated way of doing the activity, one that can be free of the domination by habit. 
 For a detailed account of how to apply these ideas to investigate the way you do a particular activity, please see “Consciously Guided Observation.”