by Robert Rickover
The gravitational field in which we live exerts a force tending to draw us toward the center of the earth. That force shows no signs of changing any time soon and so a fundamental question we all face is: “As I go through life, what is the best way for me to function within that force field.”
One way to think of the Alexander Technique is that it’s a process of learning how do that – how to stand, sit and move with as easily – and lightly! – as possible.
Most Alexander Technique teachers and many Alexander students have given some thought to gravity – and in particular to the location of the head’s center of gravity, and the implications of that location for understanding how gravity affects our head as it rests on top of our spine.
In order for our head to respond efficiently to gravity, our neck needs to be free of excess tension. This allows us to utilize the gravitational force on our head’s center of gravity to make things easier for the rest of our body.
The quality of our head/neck/torso relationship is a central focus of the Technique. Anyone who teaches or has studied the Technique has experienced the beneficial effects that flow from learning how to stop habitual interfereces with that relationship.
In my experience, many Alexander Technique teachers and students are less well informed about the role of our body’s overall center of gravity, or indeed of the importance of being able to locate it with any precision.
This is perhaps surprising because F. Matthias Alexander, the founder of the Technique, was well aware of role played by our center of gravity. In his first book, Man’s Supreme Inheritance, he refers to the center of gravity five times, in addition to several references to the force of gravity and the law of gravity.
Here’s a typical center of gravity entry, from the section of the book titled Notes and Instances:
…respiratory education or respiratory re-education will not prove successful unless the mind of the pupil is thoroughly imbued with the true principles which apply to atmospheric pressure, the equilibrium of the body, the centre of gravity, and to positions of mechanical advantage where the alternate expansions and contractions of the thorax are concerned.
His sense that gravity could used to work in our favor is clear from this passage, also from Notes and Instances:
…the primary principle involved in attaining a correct standing position is the placing of the feet in that position which will ensure their greatest effect as base, pivot, and fulcrum, and thereby throw the limbs and trunk into that pose in which they may be correctly influenced and aided [emphasis his] by the force of gravity.
Oddly, references to gravity disappear almost entirely in his later books. It’s just speculation on my part, but perhaps that’s because he hadn’t worked out how to use the center of gravity to improve posture and coordination or how to teach others to use it.
Up With GravitySM is a process I’ve developed for filling in this gap. It teaches you how how to harness the power of gravity – in Alexander’s words, to be “aided by the force of gravity” – and use it to release tension from your body.
At the risk of over-simplification, the Technique is primarily about improving the internal self-organization of the various parts of our body – head, neck, torso, arms and legs – whereas Up With GravitySM is more concerned with how we can enhance our entire body’s relationship with gravity.
I’ve found this process to be extremely practical, to have immediate effects, and to be very easy for most people to learn and to use. No previous experience is needed, and once someone has learned how to use it, they can often teach it to others.
It consists of 3 stages. My guess is that the first stage – learning to locate and consciously direct our center of gravity – will be seen by many Alexander Technique teachers and students as quite compatible with the Technique.
I’m also guessing that the second stage – which involves generating some physical effort – will be seen as more problematical. But I encourage you to persevere to the third stage, in which basic Alexander Technique principles strongly re-assert themselves.
Here’s an audio interview about F. Matthias Alexander and gravity:
Have fun exploring the Up With GravitySM process – and please let me know what you discover about yourself using this contact page. If you are a teacher, and are motivated to teach all or part of it to your students, let me know how it went.