In the Alexander technique, the term ‘directions’ is used with different but intersecting meanings. Firstly, the ‘directions’ are the mental instructions that we learn to give our selves before and during the performance of an action in order to bring about improvements in the way we use our selves while performing the action. These instructions also indicate the physical ‘direction’ in which we wish to allow our body to lengthen and release; for example, allowing our shoulders to release out sideways and away from each other and allowing our torso to lengthen and widen.

The directions are also sometimes referred to as the ‘orders’ – again with two overlapping meanings, in the sense of being mental instructions and also in terms of hierarchically ordering the body, with the orders or directions to the head, neck and back being primary.

The Alexander directions themselves are thoughts and ‘allowings’ (rather than ‘doings’) and allow us to lengthen and widen and expand – this is what everything in nature does naturally under ideal conditions and it is only our habitual tensions and our over-doing that interfere. (Note: trying to ‘do’ the directions leads to muscular activity, a contraction, that causes more tightening, shortening and narrowing of the muscles. This is the opposite of what is intended.)

The Alexander directions enable us to become more aware of our surrounding environment and how we are moving through three-dimensional space over time. We also become more aware of the special organisation that occurs within all living creatures, with the head leading the rest of the system and a sense of the spine extending naturally to its full length, led by the crown of the head.

Over a period of time, when combined with the inhibition (stopping) of our habitual misuse, working with the directions build up a new and improved use of our psychophysical selves. We get out of our habitual ruts and learn to think and move along new pathways – with new direction – throughout our activities in our daily lives.

Also see primary control. Find other glossary terms and definitions.

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