Alexander used the term ‘primary control’ to refer to the relationship of the head to the neck and the rest of the body. When discovering his technique, he came to realise the way the head was oriented in relation to the body (the head–neck–back relationship) constituted a master reflex – or primary control – that determined the coordination, tone and manner of behaviour of the whole psychophysical organism. Note this master reflex is most clearly seen in action in the physical startle pattern and fight–flight–fright stress response. (Also see How the Alexander technique was discovered and how it works.)

This primary control of the psychophysical organism is only possible when we do not interfere by tightening our neck muscles, but rather allow the head to balance freely on the atlanto-occipital joint at the top of the spine. In lessons in the Alexander technique, we become aware of how we interfere with this primary control through our habitual tension, contraction and misuse. We then learn to inhibit those habits and to give directions to use our selves differently in order to allow our head–neck–back relationship – or primary control – to function as it was intended. Once the primary control is functioning more effectively, improvements to the whole organism begin to occur and a person’s overall balance, health and wellbeing start to improve.

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