"Suit the action to the word, the word to
(Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2)
with Anne Battye: Friends Meeting House, London, 13th
By Hiranya Jayasinghe
encounter with the Alexander Technique was attending the
weekend City Lit course, led by Brita Forsstrom, in January
2009. I had no specific motivation for attending, just a
realisation that the technique is not something that can be
book-learnt, it has to be experienced. Watching the "use"
of other attendees -walking, sitting and standing -I
became aware of the different "masks" they had on; the
defence mechanisms that the technique could unveil, in order
to reveal their "authentic selves". By contrast, the
teachers leading the weekend had a presence, a sense of
poise and physical confidence which looked a lot like
Intrigued by the invisible iceberg beyond the surface, I
embarked on an Alexander journey. Since then, after around
50 lessons, I have witnessed an increase in confidence, a
"freeing" of my voice and have "grown" a full inch! This
has given me a desire to train as an Alexander teacher, and
it was with this mindset that I attended that AT Friends
event on Tuesday 13th October.
guest speaker, Anne Battye, had trained with Marjory Barlow,
qualifying in 1964, and, unsurprisingly, possessed a wealth
of experience and thinking which she generously poured out
upon us. The evening was structured as a talk, followed by
"hands-on" work, concluding with summing up discussion.
talk, Anne addressed the meaning of the phrases "to order"
and "to give directions". For her, "orders" are perceived
as a command, an intention arising from a chaotic state and
a choice to inhibit old habits. The "directions", on the
other hand, are like a recipe, a process towards an ordered
state and a kind of centre-ing. She explained how, when she
first started training, she had to give herself the "orders"
without any expectation that anything would happen.
Gradually, however, the words began to link up with her
reminds me of the three stages we go through when learning
to ride a bicycle. First, our parent (the teacher) says the
instructions "keep peddling" etc as we wobble along without
stabilisers; later, we say the words to ourselves as
reminders; eventually, the words become so internalised that
our bodies respond to our intention to ride. We need, no
longer, say the words out loud; the thought and the
experience are one.
Following a "hands on" experimentation with these ideas,
Anne led an interesting discussion on the "mean-ends"
paradox. She explained that, "we must have ends, without
ends we have no stimulus." Nonetheless, our focus is on the
"means", those "directions" -to "free our necks", "head to
go forward and up", and "back to lengthen and widen" -as
steps, used almost like a mantra, which can bring us into a
meditative (or ordered) state.
this philosophy which so fascinates me about the technique.
During the "hands on" work, Anne reiterated, over and over,
that we are always "going into the unknown", rather than
harkening back to an old or habitual experience of what
those "directions" might bring about. A child-like state.
The idea of experimenting, indeed playing, within a safe
environment; of exploring the "infinite abyss" without fear
of "getting it wrong." In my opinion, it is in maintaining
this "state of being" that the Alexander Technique truly has
a gift to offer the world.