Three times per year the Murrays take a break, and on some of these breaks we all decide to get together informally with Sally Mcmahan, the Murrays’ right hand woman. Sally is a total devotee of the work of Alexander and the Murrays and has such great skill/use, which always seems to me like the truth serum of the Alexander Technique. When we met over a break this year, she started to talk about how it seems like Alexander’s directions were formed out of his own habits. I’ll explain:
Alexander found that he pulled his head back and down when he thought of speaking, so he found that thinking “forward and up” helped him inhibit and direct. He also found that taking his head off balance made him narrow his back and lock his knees; thus he thought “back back” and “knees forward and away.” On the Murrays’ course we tend not to obsess about saying these directions over and over because the thought is that then they just become a mantra that might not be connected to the experience of going up and, if taken as something concrete to think, they can lead to stiffening and trying really hard to be right. Instead Joan and Alex value giving us the experience of being directed and going up so that it is always based in skill not words.
I think Sally’s observation about the directions makes so clear the connection between inhibition and direction and gives an insight into what Alexander was responding to as he formed his Technique. In her typical way, she made something that can seem elusive very clear.