It’s longer than usual, readers, topping out at 430 words, rather than the typical 250. The opening lecture for an AT course, and often the starter for a workshop or master class, here’s the script:
Who was FM? What did he discover?
FM is shorthand for Frederick Mathias Alexander, born 1869 in Australia, where he grew up loving Shakespeare and the theatre. In his 20’s, he toured with performances of one-man shows, developing recurring vocal problems, including hoarseness and laryngitis. Consultations with medical doctors did not resolve the vocal difficulties. He decided to attempt helping himself. Through his self-observation, he made this discovery—–
There exists a primary coordination of the body which affects the use of the entire Self.
You may ask, ‘And what was this primary coordination?’
Well, let’s have ourselves an expedition, hopefully finding our heads in the process. You see your head when you look in a mirror. You know it’s up there. But do you really know where your head is right now? What I mean is, do you have a ‘felt‘ sense, a kinesthetic sense, of your skull– its size, its position, and its movement?
Lightly tap your head with the pads of your fingers, acquiring a felt sense of the dimension and heft of your skull. Are we in agreement that we find ourselves with skulls? Excellent. I’ll take those nodding heads as a ‘yes.’
Next landmark——-the spine. Like a favorite winding road through the hills, our spines are curvy. Four curves, to be precise: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and the tailbone. Cervical curving slightly in, thoracic curving outward to accommodate the lungs, the lumbar, a deep inward curve providing us with its core of support, and outward again to the tailbone.
As you sit, include in your thinking the structural fact of a multi-curved spine. Notice how this thinking alters your experience of sitting.
Find the meeting place of head and spine, and you have arrived at FM’s discovery—–head/spine is the place of the body’s primary coordination.
Gather your search party! Finger pads assemble, thumbs in front of ears, middle finger pads touching. Travel around the circumference of your head with your hands, arriving at a bump at the back. It’s your occiput, found at the base of your skull. Travel back with your hands to your top teeth, which are the bottom of your skull in the front. Go back and forth a few times with your hands. This is what balances on spine. Between your ears, and behind your nose is where head happily meets spine, if only we can stay out of the way, and not impose Downward Pull on the beautiful design.