Freedom from excess tension leads to peak efficiency in both thought and movement, and all forms of performance, both sport and the creative arts, can benefit from the technique. Movement in its purest form requires that thought and motion work as a unity, while unwanted tension will tend to divide this process.
Through the technique dancers, actors, sportsmen and women, musicians and singers, can all learn to let the 'idea' become pure motion and expression.
I find the Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you. - John Cleese, comedian and actor
I first came across the Alexander Technique through my piano teacher, Rae de Lisle. I was fifteen years old and she related this extraordinary story of a performance injury she suffered while reaching for her professional concert career in London.
She had been practising hard for her debut recital at Wigmore Hall, the programme was a demanding one, with a particular Bartok concerto that required impeccable technique throughout some very awkward hand positions.
Partway through her lead up to the concert, her piano teacher noticed a change in the sound she was making at the piano, and said to her "I can hear pain in your arms." It was decided she must stop for some weeks and rest, then bring the pieces back in the final week for the concert.
This she did, and reached the day of performance. In the middle of the concert itself there was a moment of critical transition and Rae suffered a genuine performance injury. In her words to me, she said she felt like "a gun had gone off inside both arms."
She was able to continue playing, no doubt terrified of what had happened, and the inevitable sensation that an irreversible bridge had been crossed. The next morning she awoke to arms that were bruised from fingertip to shoulder, and swollen to twice their normal size.
It was a disastrous prospect for a burgeoning concert pianist, and became all the more poignant over the following months as nothing seemed to help to reduce the swelling. Playing the piano was impossible.
She finally tried an Alexander Technique teacher - this was back in the early 1970s when they were still thin on the ground and even less well known than they are now. In fact the technique was regarded with some suspicion at this point.
Within half an hour the swelling in both arms had almost completely gone. The teacher in this case was as surprised as Rae - this was very speedy and satisfactory result, seemingly miraculous.
It is worth noting that the general concepts of 'end-gaining' and 'means-whereby' that are fundamental to understanding the technique, are very often mistreated in training in the arts and in sports. Singers, dancers, actors, musicians, sportsmen and sportswomen, acrobats, all require their whole selves to function at optimum efficiency. Techniques are practised in relation to instruments, the voice, sports equipment and more, while the Alexander Technique is the technique of the self in relation to gravity.