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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Snagging 2

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As I continually remind people, the Alexander Technique is a technique for developing constructive conscious control. This is rarely why people come for lessons in the first place. Usually it is for help with some other sort of problem, often to do with posture, musculoskeletal pain, voice work, breathing, stress or improving a skill such as horse riding or playing a musical instrument. In all of these cases, constructive conscious control is initially a means whereby a problem can be solved rather than an end in itself.

This is how it should be; it was how the technique came into being, with a practical problem that Alexander had with his voice. It was a problem he imagined he might solve himself, by observing his use in the mirror and reasoning out how he might use his voice well, so it no longer would cause him problems. In terms of his approach of imagination, practical experimentation and reasoning it was and is 'scientific' as John Dewey noted.

In reasoning out the use of himself, Alexander took a step towards putting his health and healthy functioning first. He was by this time all too well aware of how potentially crippling and disabling poor health could be in terms of his voice and his aim to be an actor. His aim initially was to look after himself in performance and as he more fully understood the concept of use that he was elaborating, he realised that he had to look after himself in all his activities.

Everybody who comes to learn the Alexander Technique in order to develop some level of conscious control, as Alexander intended it, goes through a similar set of transitions based on the increasing awareness of their use that goes with ‘thinking in activity.’ Transitions and increased awareness go together. While knowledge of the need for a transition often precedes increased awareness; increased awareness is always the basis for the transition; without it, we are unable to properly inhibit what we do not want, where we cause ourselves harm.

Inhibition plays a dual role here; firstly, it provides the pause where we can become aware where we are prone to habitually tighten, pull down and hold our breath in wanting to do something. Secondly, within the awareness that inhibition creates, inhibition is the stilling of the newly discovered or rediscovered habit in its subtlety that can itself be inhibited in action and activity.

It is the subtlety of habit that often catches us out, where we snag ourselves both at the beginning and in the continuing of conscious control. In these transitions rushing and increasing our effort closes out awareness, hiding it within our attention, when we direct it onto ourselves or overly exert it in the outside world. Only by STOPPING in the caesura and lacunae of existence do we create the time and space of awareness that allows for conscious control to develop. With the application of both inhibition and direction, we find our way forward both in the world and in the use of ourselves through imagination and reason, as Alexander did. We can then get to the plane of Constructive Conscious Control, where we can direct our use, improve our functioning in all its aspects, as we go about our business in the daily act of living.

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.


The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.


I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.