Just the other day something very alarming happened to me. I found myself, in a lesson, telling a student they really need to BE MORE STIFF(*).
Eeeeek. Alexander teachers don’t do that!
But this one did. For that student. At that moment.
The lesson in question was a lesson on wringing out a floor mop. For the uninitiated, you need your mop to be damp but not soaking. So serious moppers have a gadget that fits in the bucket; you put the mop in and twist, and it wrings out the worst of the water.
The problem was a small lady with a large mop. Arm-and-wrist strength wasn’t enough for the job, so we agreed that turning her whole body was a logical next step.
However, when it came to trying it out, there was a lot of twisting in the body, but not much twisting in the mop. Hmmm. Experimentation, observation and analysis followed, and the culprit was tracked down. All her extra twisting force was being lost in bending her elbow.
For this student doing this task, the best strategy was to consider her whole arm an extension of the mop handle, and keep it as rigid as that handle.
So what’s going on here? How can a Technique that teaches the benefits of being loose and free in our movements suddenly say “be more rigid”?
The answer is the difference between rules and principles. “You must be loose and free” is a rule. A good rule, but still fixed. It doesn’t pay any attention to the circumstances. However, a principle like “Look closely at what is going on, and reason out the best way to achieve it”(**) allows you to be free when you need it, and also to be stiff when you need it.
How much easier would your life become if you worked to sound principles that allowed you to be what you need, when you need it?
(*) Yes, you can snigger, but only if you read the rest of the article
(**)FM Alexander phrased it as:
1. to analyse the conditions of use present;
2. to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about
(Use of The Self, IRDEAT edition p.423)