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Release Into Balance

An Introduction to the Alexander Technique

Robin John Simmons, audio CD and booklet, 52 mins, 20pp, £15 + £2 p&p, 2-5 copies £3.50 p&p. David Reed Media, St Christopher House, Ridge Road, Letchworth Garden City, Herts, SG6 1PT. http://www.davidreedmedia.co.uk

Review by Anna Cooper (first published in Statnews, January 2008).

 

This is an adjunct to lessons which many teachers will be happy to recommend to certain pupils. The CD is a workthrough, mainly of semi-supine, and the booklet -intended to be read first -gives "more comprehensive underpinning". I particularly liked the way the booklet offers explanations of a kind the teacher rarely finds time to deliver in any systematic way on the whys and wherefores of lying down. The second part has illustrations and notes on the procedures described on the CD. I personally appreciated jargon-free expressions such as "de-compressing", "re-programming the system", "a balanced arrangement", and "toned expansion".

 

The preface states that the set is designed to back up lessons, though the CD may be helpful as an introduction to the Technique. To test this I gave two lessons to a novice, then asked for her reactions.

 

She found most of it very clear: lengthy and repetitive perhaps, but helpful. Points she found unsatisfactory were: a hierarchy of orders -neck, head, spine, back, knees, shoulders given in the booklet, and a conflicting sequence on the CD. She was uncertain how the arms might "rest out sideways", and she could not make sense of the head going "forwards and outwards", despite the sketches, explanations and two lessons. Instructions to move the books to accommodate the lengthening torso, given in the booklet, were absent from the CD. Most of this, though, was cleared up with a few explanations.

 

She could not, however, see her way through the maze of instructions about getting up. I sympathise, as I found myself grotesquely contorted trying to follow them, and feel that they were probably too prescriptive. Nor could she cope with homolateral crawling.

 

Robin stimulates an interesting debate when he suggests that most people will be alright with approximately 4-5cm of books under the head, that the hands should not touch one another, and that the eyes should remain open and alert (for up to 20 minutes!). My feelings are that while this height may apply to some learners, people with rounded shoulders, for example, would be forced to arch their neck. Should the hands touch each other? Surely it depends on how they are placed and the individual behaviour of the shoulders? Is resting the arms out sideways best for everyone’s subscapularis? With regard to books and hands -and quite a lot of other things -much can be gained from flexibility and observation. And as for the poor old eyes …

 

So who is this CD/booklet really for? Not every pupil, not beginners. I think the ideal consumers are trainee teachers, or learners who are advanced and curious to deepen their understanding of the Technique. In my view it’s unrealistic to expect most people to perform a useful whispered "Ah", walk on tiptoes or get benefit from homolateral crawling without a lot of lessons and a teacher at their side. Nothing is said about breathing until the second side when it prepares for the whispered "Ah". Inhibition is not mentioned, although it is arguably implied with the constant enjoinders to act quietly, slowly etc. For someone who is aware of these responsibilities and applies them, however, Release into Balance is a valuable Alexander experience.

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© Anna Cooper 2008

 

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