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Live Better: Alexander Technique

Skills and Inspirations for Well-being

Joe Searby, Publ. Duncan Baird, 2007, pbk with flaps, 128pp, 170x140mm, price £4.99

ISBN: 978-1-84483-389-4

Review by Marjorie Hodge (first published in Statnews, September 2007).

This is one in a series of popular introductory books entitled Live Better: skills and inspirations for well-being. Other books in the series cover topics such as Aromatherapy, Chakra Therapy, Yoga, Reiki, and Pilates. It’s a pretty little book produced to a high standard, on quality paper. Every book in the series is set out in the same way: four main chapters, one or two pages for each topic within a chapter, and single pages with ‘inspirational’ quotes interspersed throughout the copy, alongside atmospheric photos.

This book is very well organised, and eases into the subject smoothly, obviously aiming at accessibility. Certain sections are outstanding, clear and cohesive. Visiting a Teacher is fresh and real, and expresses the benefits of one-to-one lessons compellingly. Strengthening the back is excellent: whole-person oriented as well as thorough in its explanation; it also manages to impart something about the experience without asking the reader to ‘try this’. This is an example of how painstaking editing can produce something comprehensive yet lucid in a small space.

But I kept wondering why, if all the bits seemed to be there, I had a sense of fragmentation. Missing the personality of the author as I first read it, I had a look at other books in the series. They all have the same journalistic tone, they all contain a fair amount of DIY advice, and they’re segmented into sound-bite sized pieces that obstruct continuity and obscure a sense of the greater whole. It’s hard to see anything other than the box you’re looking at.

Sadly, this style and format don’t support the author’s clear wish to convey the holistic nature of the Technique. While the editor wants to put separate little packages all in a row, the author has a struggle to link it all up. And the boxes are too small. So a couple of the concepts feel, to me, incomplete. (I do feel it’s a tragedy when the Alexander Technique is sold short: for a long time I dismissed it as superficial. It was only an appreciation of the far-reaching power of Inhibition that made me take interest.)

The ducks in a row approach has its strongest effect in the final chapter, when after numerous ‘try this’ examples which strongly emphasise the ‘physical’, you’ve forgotten the lovely principles that came before. Perhaps in the next edition they can add a bigger duck called All Together.

My favourite page relates Alexander Technique to mindfulness. Hooray! Can we have more than half a sound-bite of this please? I would welcome the portrayal of the Technique as ‘presence in activity’ rather than ‘thinking in activity’. This communicates a sense of wholeness and aliveness that can be easily grasped by athletes, artists and intellectuals alike.

We owe a debt of gratitude to any who undertake such a gargantuan task as writing a book on the Alexander Technique. Perhaps this author, who I feel has a still better book in him, will gather his courage one day to do it again, his way! Live Better: Alexander Technique is certainly friendly and vibrant, and with luck will persuade many new people to have a go.

© Marjorie Hodge 2007




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