Chapter 6: Physiology and Physiologists

1. What is Alexander’s opinion about the usefulness of studying anatomy and physiology vis-a-vis learning the principles of the Technique? What reasons or explanations does he give in support of his view?

2. How does Alexander claim that he is meeting the demands for proof in exactly the same way as an inventor or scientific engineer?

3. What is reasonable to contend, as an initial step, in the matter of orthodox scientific proof? How does Alexander’s technique meet the criterion of this step?

4. According to Alexander, what does the study of physiology imply? What does this serve to explain?

5. What leads to errors and misleading information in the field of physiology?

6. What does Alexander say his life work has dealt with?

7. Why does Alexander say that knowledge of the names or of particular functions of each muscle does not help us very much with regard to employing the principles of the Technique?

8. What does reaction mean in any attempt to discover what constitutes a “normal working of the postural mechanisms?” (p. 138)

9. What does Alexander posit as the reason for the failure of anatomy and physiology to discover the existence of a primary control of the organism?

10. Why according to Alexander do anatomists and physiologists not understand the normal working of the postural mechanism?

11. What are the results of separating the human organism into parts?

12. What might have happened if anatomists and physiologists had tried to gain a knowledge of the normal as well as the abnormal working of the postural mechanisms?

13. What, according to Alexander, can physiology not indicate?

14. When does the working of the complex mechanisms in the use of ourselves become complicated and give rise to difficulties?

15. What is the fundamental premise in any deduction on which physiologists should base the solving of their problems?

16. What is the important knowledge that cannot be gained any other way that physiologists could acquire once they gained the experience of employing the primary control and comprehended the nature of its influence upon use and functioning?

17. How do Alexander’s discovery’s correspond to Coghill’s findings?

18. What task still lay before Alexander after he had made his valuable findings?

19. Why is Alexander’s practice and theory not affected by the question as to whether or not reflexes are primary and integration of the “total pattern” secondary in behavior?

20. Why can any attempt to restore right functioning specifically by direct means be only palliative?

Thought Questions

1. Alexander does not give high marks to anatomists and physiologists in this chapter, and does not feel that a study of anatomy would be of much help in his study of how to improve his own use and that of others. Do you agree or disagree with Alexander’s assessment? Is a study of anatomy helpful to a teacher of the Alexander Technique? If it is helpful to teachers, why would it not be helpful to students? What level of anatomical or physiological knowledge is necessary for a thorough understanding of the Technique? If we can equate anatomy with our structure (bones, muscles, etc.), and if “use” is how we “think” or direct ourselves in movement, i.e., direct our structure, might it not make sense to say that we need to know more about how we “think” than about how we are put together? How much does what we believe about how we are put together influence how we direct ourselves in movement? How did we come to the beliefs we hold about how we are structured? Can a study of anatomy and physiology help us change our beliefs about how we are put together, or do we also need the experience of directing ourselves in a new way, which would create a new sensory experience, to change our anatomical beliefs?

2. Alexander takes anatomists and physiologists to task for separating the human organism into parts. Why do they do so? Is there a way of studying parts in a whole context and if so what is it?