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Let Your Life Flow - The Physical, Psychological and Spiritual Benefits of the Alexander Technique

by Alex Maunder

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[Image: Let Your Life Flow - The Physical, Psychological and Spiritual Benefits of the Alexander Technique]

FM Alexander wrote four books in an attempt to explain with words what is best explained with the hands. Among those who are interested in the Alexander Technique (AT), only a minority will read even one of his books.

They have the reputation of being difficult to understand. Alex Maunder thinks that the fault lies in "Alexander's naturally dated use of language and obscure explanations of the core concepts" and his "…rather ponderous and long-winded Victorian style of writing". Keen to introduce the AT to a larger public, Maunder has written his book in order to "…winnow out the truth and explain it in simple, modern language, so that the modern reader can clearly understand it…"

In the Introduction, the author boldly states that his book is the first "…that seeks to explain the subtlety of AT in clear, up-to-date language and concepts." It's a tall order. According to RM Hodge, writing for the New York Times Book Review during Alexander's lifetime, the technique is "incommunicable on paper". Frank Pierce Jones, an AT teacher and author of the excellent Body Awareness in Action (which, regrettably is not in the bibliography of Maunder's book) wrote that "the problem of how to use words to convey sensory experience to some- one who has not had the experience before, continued to plague Alexander and all who have written about the technique since, and it has not yet been solved."

Maunder explains the AT in terms of energy flow. While the New-Age- and-Positive-Thinking-orientated readers will love his book, the more sceptical and scientifically-minded ones might well be irritated by it. It is claimed on the back jacket that it is the first book to look at the psychological and spiritual implications of the AT. This is not wholly true. For the psychological aspect, Alexander himself always stressed the mental factor and wrote that "the mental habit must be first attacked, and this mental habit usually lies below the level of consciousness; but it may be reached by introspection and analysis…". And Glen Park explored the emotions and the spiritual dimension in relation to the Alexander Principle in her book The Art of Changing. But there is no doubt that Maunder's book is highly original and ventures into new and daring interpretations of the AT.

Let Your Life Flow is a large format book, illustrated with clear drawings and photos. Chapter 2 tells Alexander's story; Chapter 3 exposes the "tyranny of habits" and introduces us to our unreliable sensory appreciation; Chapter 4 covers the "Basics of the AT" which are, according to the author, Balance, Breathing, Directions, Mental Calmness and Primary Control – and I am surprised that the concept of inhibition which is central to the AT, although mentioned in the text, is not part of Maunder's Basics. In Chapter 5, he proposes an "Energy Mode" of the Technique and explains Alexander's terminology. Chapter 6 is the most practical and down-to-earth and goes into the usual basic movements used by Alexander teachers to teach the principle behind and beyond the technique. The remaining chapters, up to the conclusion, venture into psychological and spiritual aspects of the technique as understood by Maunder. Whilst I feel these are contentious, I can enthusiastically endorse his suggestion that "more people could go back to the land and live simply, growing their own vegetables…".

The author gives prominence to the Chakras, Pranayama and other Yogic techniques and interprets many concepts and effects of the Alexander Technique in their light. Yet, Alexander was not impressed with Yoga. He thought that the fakir's feats were "abnormal manifestations", "a dangerous trickery practised on the body". I am convinced that the Chakras are another name for the autonomic nervous system and its functions. Since Alexander strongly believed that the conscious control he advocated was not to intrude on and interfere with automatic functions, his technique and the yogic concepts make uncomfortable bedfellows.

Maunder has to be commended for offering a new version of the AT. Anyone with an interest in the subject and an open mind should read it. Being a sceptic, I must confess however that I find many ideas that do not fit with the technique as I know and understand it. For example, the AT uses 'Directions' which are simply mental guiding orders, mainly of a preventive nature. Towards the end of his career, Alexander simplified his 'directions', and the main one became "not the head back, not the back forward". Maunder does the opposite and proposes lengthy and complicated ones which, to me, sound like incantations or mantras and belong more to Couéism (from Emile Coué, the father of positive thinking) than to the Alexander Principle. For re-educating the body-mind-spirit, Maunder says that visualization has a key role to play in spite of the fact that Alexander warned his pupils that "…'visualizing' would necessarily be dependent on the same unreliable sensory appreciation which had led to the errors it is desired to eradicate." (The Universal Constant in Living). The author is fascinated by the medulla oblongata which he locates "inside the atlanto-occipital joint" – in my opinion, a bit too low for comfort – and says that "The mouth of God" [from the Bible] is a reference to the medulla oblongata and that it is exactly the point that Alexander called the 'primary control'"!! But Alexander's Primary Control is not an anatomical entity but, simply, a precise relationship between the head, neck and back.

All curious teachers of the AT should read Maunder's book which could act as a spring-board for arguments, debates and discussions. But I think that new comers to the AT should perhaps first read at least one book from Alexander himself or Pierce Jones before embarking on Maunder's highly personal interpretation of the AT.

About the ReviewerJoël Carbonnel is a practitioner of the Alexander Technique, the Mézières Methode, Morphopsychology and Natural Hygiene, from which disciplines he has developed Orthomorphics, centred around the close relationship of Use, Form and Function. He practises in London and Haywards Heath and can be contacted on Tel: 020 8747 8583; E: joelcarbonnel@hotmail.comReaders wishing to purchase this book can contact CW Daniel Co Ltd on Tel: 01799 521 909; E: W:

Joel Carbonnel
The CW Daniel Company Limited
ISBN 0 85207 357 7

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