Create A New Action

Mostly, we go about our days thinking and noticing very little about our movement - we do what feels natural until something bothers us. Then, we squirm around a bit until the uncomfortable feeling passes.

Sometimes though, we want or need to change our movement. The thing is that movement is largely an unconscious process full of habits, old perceptions, and challenges of balance and tensions. So in reality, it doesn't just change with a snap of our fingers.

There are many ways to change movement and get some kind of result. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. But to create a completely new expression of movement is a real art.

What happens:

First, before we move, we unconsciously predict and sense: Ourselves, our movement to come, and the environment we move in.

Then, we move, and perceive our senses to see if they match what we thought would happen.

If what we sense doesn't match our guess, then a new movement may have happened and we learn.


A completely new movement is different that what we thought would happen. Otherwise it's something we already know, and it's not really a new action.

Thus, to create a truly new movement or action and learn something new, we have to be wrong about both what we think will happen, and what the movement will feel like.

The game is catch yourself as you guess wrong, then to stay out of the way of trying to fix it to make it 'right' let a new movement (or pattern of movement) show up on it's own.

Photo by Andrey Larin

Movement vs. Skill

When you learn the Alexander Technique, or become more advanced and apply it to 'work' on your coordination, the focus is often on specific movements; such as lifting an arm, or moving from sitting to standing.

It's easy to forget that the outcome of working with these specific movements is to:

  1. Put the movements all together to do a skill

  2. Apply the alexander technique in a broader way to influence an overall pattern of movements (a skill)

Photo by Mark Jefferson Paraan

It can be easy to get lost working on the 'therapeutic' or 'cognitive' aspects within a specific activity; forgetting that the outcome still needs to make something happen (i.e do the skill).

Other students get lost in the overall pattern of movements (the skill), not taking enough care to refine the movement within the skill they want to improve.

Because of this, it can be helpful to get clear on what the difference is between a movement and a (motor) skill.

Movements are learned first

Movements are behavioural characteristics of specific limbs or parts

Movements are the building blocks of skills

Skills are voluntary goal-directed movements

Skills need head, torso, and/or limb movement to achieve an outcome

Different kinds of movements can be used to do the same skill, to achieve an outcome

So which area do you need to focus on today: The movement or the skill?

What movement are you going to apply the Alexander Technique to?

The Alexander Technique uses your movement (and postures) as a framework to enhance awareness and influence over the connection between thought and physical action.

With skill, you learn to use conscious intention as a way to create a positive change in your coordination; towards more ease in movement.

Students most often use their everyday movements (or utilitarian movement) as the main 'framework' to apply the technique to. This is great, because for the majority of your day we're usually just running the same old patterns of movement, posture (and behaviour); so to make even a small consistent change in everyday movement can really add up in your favour.

That said, the times when I've made the biggest leaps in my practice (and thus improvements in how I feel and move) have been when I also applied the Alexander Technique to more physically dynamic movements such as running, swimming, various types of exercise such as body weight training or yoga, hiking, sports, etc..  Usually for about 3-6 focused months for a single activity at a time.

Often, I find students shy away from applying the Alexander Technique to more dynamic activities for fear of 'doing it wrong'; but in doing so they miss out on the opportunity to discover how to 'do it right'. If done with learning and Alexander Technique principles as the primary focus, then 'the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward' seems to apply.

The Alexander Technique was created with movement in mind, and is designed so that all your movements and activities become a playground for self-understanding, exploration, and development.

So what do you want to apply it to? 

What movements are you going to grow your practice and self through?

Alexander Technique Key Terms Reference Sheet

Here's download link for a 2 page reference sheet on key Alexander Technique principles/ jargon.

Alexander Technique Principles... are ingredients that make up the Alexander Technique.  With practice you learn to understand and use them in new and creative ways to create the conditions for new movement and actions to show up. Have fun, and when lost, come back to principle.

Heads-up, this particular reference sheet has way too much info on it. It's recommend for students who have taken at least 10 lessons in the Alexander Technique, have some handle on what these terms mean from an experiential viewpoint, and are seriously motivated. If you haven't had a chance to do these things yet no worries, there's other info on the blog that will be a better use of your time. 

Alexander Technique Research: Mini-Collection

Here's a collection of some research on the Alexander Technique.

Understanding the science behind the Alexander Technique is a real passion of mine, but if this seems to you like the most boring thing ever, no worries! Check out other posts blog, and feel free to get in touch about something you're curious about. If this is your cup of tea though, I hope this helps you better connect with some of what's out there. Read on and enjoy!


  • Chronic Neck Pain Alexander Technique Lessons or Acupuncture Sessions for Persons With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial (2015)
  • Medical and Health‐Related Conditions Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review (2012)
  • Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain Randomized controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain (2007)
  • Musicians and Performance Anxiety The Alexander Technique and musicians: a systematic review of controlled trials (2014)
  • Parkinson's disease (2015) Lighten UpSpecific Postural Instructions Affect Axial Rigidity and Step Initiation in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease
  • Parkinson's disease Randomized controlled trial of the Alexander technique forIdiopathic Parkinson's disease.Clinical rehabilitation (2002)
  • Parkinson's disease Retention of skills learnt in Alexander technique lessons: 28 people with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (2005)




Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique Research Page and Directory
Above is the website of the UK Alexander Technique governing body. I've linked you right to a nicely organized page that contains a lot of decently up to date research. It also includes some nice writing on the early history of 'science and the Alexander Technique'.

Alexander Studies
Above is a website being developed in collaboration with the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. It aims to develop a platform for further publication and research opportunities to further understanding the Alexander Technique.

Lack of choice makes strain habitual

Awareness Through Movement is a book by Moshe Feldenkrais. There are many gems in it and deep, fundamental overlap with F.M. Alexander's early writing. Here's a short blurb from Moshe on habit for you to think over:

Lack of choice makes strain habitual (Pg. 84)

'As long as superfluous effort is invested in any action, man must throw up defences, must brace himself to great effort that is neither comfortable, pleasurable, nor desirable.'  

'The lack of choice of whether to make an effort or not turns an action into a habit, and in the end nothing appears more natural than that to which he is accustomed, even if it is opposed to all reason or necessity'.

'Habit makes it easier to persist in any action, and for this reason it is extremely valuable in general. Nevertheless we can easily over indulge in habits until self-criticism is silenced and our ability to discern is diminished, which generally turns us into machines that act without thinking.'

Feldenkrais, M. (1972). Awareness through movement (Vol. 1977). New York: Harper & Row.


Free Resource - The Anatomy of Directing

The Anatomy of Directing (30min): 

A nice, short, downloadable free e-book by Ted Dimon, an Alexander Technique teacher from NY.

It has several mini-movement and body mapping experiments an comes with a few pictures. You can read it and test out the experiments in each section a chapter at a time.

I think most is too advanced for brand new students; dependent on your experience/ background/ motivation-level. Still, a useful and worthwhile quick read.

Don't forget to actually try it out and figure out why (or why not) it's working for you. Alexander Technique knowledge without application is not the Alexander Technique.

Much thanks to Ted Dimon for sharing this work,

Some Book Recommendations

I'm not sure if people read books on the Alexander Technique anymore. The truth is that even if they're outdated, there's a tremendous opportunity for students to get ahead by learning from these books. If you're serious about developing a practice, then I recommend you start with the introductory books.

Also, books on the Alexander Technique have the most impact after you've studied for a little while, and are almost always confusing if you're brand new to the technique. If you haven't taken a lesson, then don't both reading a book...go for at least one lesson; it's best communicated experientially (like music).  Student's tell me reading helps with making sense of their experiences. That was (and continues to be) the case for me too. - Mark

Introductory Book(s):

The Alexander Technique: A Skill for Life  By Pedro de Alcantara

Body Learning: An introduction to the Alexander Technique By Michael J. Gelb (*The science/explanations are dated but still a good into read for students).

The Use of the Self By F.M. Alexander

Think, Feel, and Move

In an earlier post I spoke of using separate aspects of awareness: thinking, sensing, and feeling as a way to better articulate your self-observations when engaging in activity.

The problem with this is that most people are so used to using the words feeling and sensing interchangeably that a distinction between the two is complicated. Too complicated = less useful/used.

Instead, start with something simpler:


Observations of your thoughts, feelings, and movement (and the connections between these three aspects) can be a tool that enhances your personal understanding of how you do what you do.



Just Right


Feels good + Simple = Self-motivated change and results

I can't remember where I read this, but it's a great goal for the learning process. The truth that people don't always mention (as anyone knows who's tried), is that changing habits of movement at times be more like:

Feels strange ( 'not normal or habitual') + Confusing (complex habits) = Real life

So how to deal with this?

The key is matching your present state and ability with your level of challenge such that you (at least) start each day in the first one (Feels good + Simple). This removes a large initial obstacle from which you can then ramp up the challenges from there.  Many people have spoken along these lines and I would recommend checking out the following if you're more interested:

Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


As you get going you build skill/confidence and tackle more complex, sometimes strange challenges. In some ways, as you build up and up you gradually turn complex challenges into simple ones.  Furthermore, overtime you train yourself to feel great when performing movements/behaviours that feel un-habitual and often strange.  That's when things really start to happen.

So start in a place that feels good and is simple..then ramp it up.

Deep Practice vs. Application

The Alexander Technique is meant to be applied, and this is the focus/goal of the work. But...dependent on your stage of learning (and life circumstances) you can speed up your development by better balancing your Alexander Technique 'deep practice' with you AT 'application'.  You can think of this like the difference between practicing your instrument (deep practice) for the show, and actually performing the show (application).

Now you could just practice in your basement and never play any shows, but you'd never develop your ability to handle and enjoy interacting with other people and environments. On the other hand, you could just play a whole bunch of shows and never practice but, especially in the early stages of learning, you simply might not give yourself enough clarity with the work to improve on the mistakes you keep making. Thus, you ingrain bad habits and slow your progress.

The truth is the answer to what your balance should be is something largely based on and determined by your goals.  The key is really to not completely ignore one for too long.

My balance this morning is at about 5% deep practice and 95% application.  These days when I'm really 'on' it's probably more around 10-15% deep practice and 85-90% in application; for instance I shift the balance more this way so that when I teach i'm definitely 'on' for my students (teaching keeps me sharp!).

When I've gone through big learning jumps, especially in the beginning, it was likely closer to 40-50% deep practice and 40-50% application; and usually I took it too far.

So what's your balance between deep practice and application?

Beginner's Mind

Beginner's Mind isn't a new idea, and it's certainly not mine. In fact, I hesitated to put this post out because the idea of beginners mind is so overly discussed that it's practical application is easily lost. Nonetheless, I would argue the beginner's mind concept is essential if you're aiming to  self-generate new experiences of movement.

Here's a simple explanation of two major pitfalls and beginners mind in practice. From Andy Puddicomb (spoken when describing meditation practice):

".... it’s really tempting if we’ve had a few days perhaps where the exercise has felt really nice, left us feeling really kind of good, and we might turn up to the exercise wanting to re-experience that....and rather than allowing a natural process unfold, instead we try to project  onto the exercise what we’d like to experience."

"Alternatively, if we’ve had days when it’s been difficult, we’ve felt like there really hasn’t been much change, we might turn to thinking, ‘well it’s going to be the same again’..we go into the exercise rather than allowing something to happen organically... projecting our own ideas onto the exercise."

"So beginners really the idea that every time we turn up to the exercise we leave behind what has come before, and we simply follow the exercise through, allowing it to unfold in the way it unfolds on that this moment...right now."

Thinking - Sensing - Feeling

It might be the case that the largest barrier to changing habitual movement and reaction is a limited awareness of ourselves.

It consistently surprises me how most of us (myself included) feel we clearly know what we're doing with ourselves/body/etc in action... However, it appears that when push comes to shove we're much less able to articulate the awareness of our actions than we think.

Most of the time we go about our actions on autopilot. Sitting, walking, picking things up with little direct attention to what we're doing.  It's not necessarily always bad, and it might be the most appropriate allocation of attention (if not certainly a personal or characteristic configuration of our attention in activity), but in any case it's just what is happening.

There also appears to be large differences of self-awareness between different people, and for the same people between different activities, times of day, and pressures.  Quality, accuracy, and depth of awareness is flexible, is generally underused, and can be trained like any other skill.  One way to get more detailed with your self awareness it is to articulate your observations as thinking, sensing, or feeling.

  • Thinking = Observing thoughts (i.e. thoughts about future, past, present, etc..)
  • Sensing = Any of your senses (i.e. what you see, hear, feel/touch, taste, and locating body segments and yourself in space *what's closer to the ceiling, my right shoulder or left shoulder? And does a mirror show me the same thing I'm sensing internally?)
  • Feeling = Any emotional/affective colouring

Nursing Home In a Post-Texting World

OK, I admit this picture is a bit dark, but don't give up texting quite yet, the relationship between movement and posture isn't quite that causal (2).  That said, the comic does reminds us that our postures (and behaviours) are not just a single event, but the end product of movement and choices expressed over a lifetime.

Each time you text, each step you take, how you move at work or at the gym;  over time, you are shaped in the ways in which you consistently perform these acts.  It’s an incredible and continuous act of learning that occurs between you and your environment, with and without your awareness and attention (3).

The opportunity lies here:  With each and every movement you're offered a fresh chance to observe, learn, and develop how you interact in the world.  This can include expressing new movement, positions, and behaviours that taken over time, can positively influence how you perform and experience the things you do; including how you use and shape your 'body'.

The opportunity is for the taking.

Resources/ People/ Ideas related to the Alexander Technique in this post


2. Massion, J., Alexandrov, A., & Frolov, A. (2004). Why and how are posture and movement coordinated? Progress in brain research, 143, 13-27.

2. Krakauer, J. W., & Mazzoni, P. (2011). Human sensorimotor learning: adaptation, skill, and beyond. Current opinion in neurobiology. 21(4), 636-644.

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Posture Without Bracing?


Forcing yourself to sit or stand up straight simply doesn’t work well. We've all tried (myself included), yet despite this strategy failing to work we pretty much continue to do the same thing.

Sure, a select few people with will-power of steel have successfully 'fixed' themselves upright.  Unfortunately this usually results in a stiff bracing with limited freedom of movement, restricted breathing, and elimination of the sense of ’naturalness’ in posture or poise.  Try it out yourself (though I recommend doing your best not to become desensitized to your own stiffness in the process).

Now Einstein supposedly said something to the effect of ...'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results'.  So are we all insane? Maybe, but I think we've actually got quite a few tools to re-imagine this problem.  Here's one:

Re-imagine Posture as Readiness For Movement

The science behind how posture works is tricky business and there’s still much to discover.  Sometimes what’s found seems counter-intuitive to our normal approach.  For instance, some research suggests that overly bracing yourself may actually work against your own automatic (largely subconscious) postural control; sort of like interfering with your own postural auto-pilot.¹

Excessively contracting your trunk muscles to hold good posture may be causing more ’noise’ in your system, limiting the ability of your brain to do this skilled balance work for you.¹

One idea to re-frame what ‘good' posture means in your own life is to view it as a state of readiness for movement.² For instance...

If you’re slumped, collapsed, or (it’s opposite) stiffly braced, then you’re less ready for movement in any and all directions.  If you’re balanced, engaged, and lighter on your feet or seat, you’re more ready for movement in any and all directions.

In standing, sitting, working at a desk, and everything in-between, a fuller expression of ‘good’ posture is often a simple by-product of being more ready to move.


So the next time you catch yourself ‘fixing’ your posture, instead of ingraining a worn out old strategy, why turn an old idea on it's head? Re-imagine posture without bracing and test out a new state, position, or set-up to access your readiness to move.

Resources/ People/ Ideas related to the Alexander Technique in this post

1. Reeves, N. P., Everding, V. Q., Cholewicki, J., & Morrisette, D. C. (2006). The effects of trunk stiffness on postural control during unstable seated balance. Experimental Brain Research, 174(4), 694-700.

2. Jones, F. P. (1997). Freedom to change: The development and science of the Alexander Technique. London: Mouritz. *"posture as a phase of movement”.

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Posture, Expression, and Experience

Like Father Like Son Like Grandfather

You engrain and intertwine the ways you move and posture yourselves with the ways you express and experience your life.  This affects how others perceive you, and how you perceive yourself.

A common reason people learn the Alexander Technique is to improve posture.

What's interesting is that at some point in learning to improve you posture, you might end up gaining insight into the relationship between your postures and how others perceive you:  It can be a surprising moment when you become acutely aware of how your own postures and movements are so visible to others, yet much less so to yourself.

What's really interesting though is that your postures and movement go beyond how others see you; your movements and postures appear to influence how you see yourself.  In fact, they may influence your self-perceived levels of energy, the types of memories you recall, and the extent to which you feel assertive and powerful in stressful situations.

"Professor of Health Education Erik Peper found that simply choosing to alter body posture to a more upright position can improve mood and energy levels.” He argues that it’s not just the brain that influences the body, but the body that influences the brain; it's a 'two way street'.1 

For instance, in one study found that walking in a slumped manner “... actually increased feelings of depression and loneliness, and decreased subjective feeling of energy”,  but by changing postures subjects could experience greater levels of energy.2

Sitting Texting

This relationship goes even deeper in that postures may actually affect the kinds of memories you think of.  A study in 2009 found that “...posture significantly affects the recall of positive or negative memories... when sitting in a collapsed position and looking downward, it was much easier (for people) to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories...”

 Clara Shih

Clara Shih

The opposite was true when people sat more upright and looked upwards, from which position, ‘... it was difficult and for many almost impossible to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories and easier to recall empowering, positive...” ones.2,3 

In her 2012 Ted Talk, researcher Amy Cuddy described how the relationship between movement, posture, and self-expression is a fundamental factor that shapes who you are. She found that by taking on empowering movements and postures you can actually make yourself feel more powerful and empowered, which over time, can become part of how you go about your life.4

Like a 'who came first, the chicken or the egg?' scenario it seems postures are not only positions that happen after something happens, but also positions from which different kinds of feeling and memories arise.

Movement Awareness Training

Photo by Stig Nygaard

There are many ways to explore movement, and the Alexander Technique offers one unique lens on this process.  Regardless of the approach(es) you choose, developing clearer awareness of how you move is a fundamental skill.  Here's a common example.

Hidden in Movement and Posture

You massage your over-tense back and it brings relief, but later in the week the problem returns... You have a nagging injury that always seems to ‘show up’ at the worst of times... You don’t feel your movement or posture is an issue; in fact, what does how you use yourself have to do with your performance or health?

When an underlying performance or health issue relates to how you normally use yourself in activity (e.g move or posture yourself) it can often lie below your level of awareness.

When this is the case, then downstream issues from the underlying issue can be excessively frustrating and difficult to deal with.  Your everyday level of awareness may still show you the symptoms, but these symptoms often hide the underlying problem even more.  One way to break this cycle is to learn your own patterns of movement and posture inside and out; so much so that you discover what is normally hidden to you.

Movement Awareness Training

Movement Awareness Training is about making a switch from unhealthy self-judgment and self-criticism, to a healthier state of non-judgment (or suspended-judgement) when observing your movement. It's about training yourself to be curious or even feel good when you observe your movement and 'mistakes' in movement, rather than beating yourself up with your observation to avoid having to do the hard work of training your movement awareness.

This is more than someone telling you that you’re out of alignment, that you should have better form, sit up straight, or be more 'present or grounded' when your perform.  This well intentioned advice simply points out what we're not aware of in ourselves.  It often fails to make lasting change because this external advice doesn't match up with how we internally perceive our movements and postures; leaving our issue still largely 'hidden' to us.

What's empowering is that if a performance or health issue is related to how you use yourself in your activities, then to an ever growing extent you can learn to sense how, when, and where these issues may be arising. You can build your awareness like a muscle.

In some instances you may even be able to develop your baseline level of self-awareness to the degree that it simply doesn’t feel right to move, posture yourself, or do your activities in many of the same old limiting ways.  And when it no longer feels right to do things the way you always have, then you'll change how you do them; you prevent the underlying problem from happening and catch off the symptoms in the process.

Remember, if an underlying problem is hidden in your movements, postures, and way of using yourself in your daily activities then problems often seem to come out of nowhere.  But by developing your self-awareness of personal habits of movement and posture you can increase your independent understanding of why these issues continue to come up.

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