Minding the gap between a thought and the resultant action is one of the skills we learn through the Alexander Technique.  When we practice inhibition in the AT sense, we adjust our mental process by inserting our awareness between our thoughts and actions.  This expands our self-awareness as well as our awareness of our environment. In the beginning, we may need to slow down in time in order to register these changes.

As our awareness grows, our mental and sensory perceptions affect both time and space. Taking ourselves out of automatic pilot mode and into the open field of possibility requires increasing our awareness to perceive moments that have so far been unknown.  Learning to expand our field of awareness can be a satisfying activity and can lead to greater mental and physical ease.  Opening our awareness loosens the grip on how we perceive reality and gives us more choice as to how we respond to different situations.

In this entry we will focus on the thought process involved in minding the gap. Experiment with these instructions. First, notice that you can register an individual thought. Then, notice that you can also observe the time/space between that thought and the next one that follows. This perception can occur as part of mental conversations you are having with yourself and conversations you have with others. It also occurs with thoughts that lead into actual actions. 

Warning: all thoughts you have, whether or not they necessitate a movement through space, will have a physical effect you can perceive.

It takes practice and vigilance to develop expanded awareness. From here, it's possible to cultivate a process F. M. Alexander calls “inhibition”. Awareness is necessary to effect change of any sort. We have to observe our response to stimuli, whether internal or external.  Stimuli can come from any or all of our senses.

Noticing the gap between one thought and the next is the first step in a process that allows for a continuous flow of responses to stimulus. It is a process that helps us move past our current habits (what F. M. Alexander calls our current ”constant in living”) to learn and embody an easier, thoughtful and more fluid ability to respond to the world.

This more optimal use of ourselves leads to physical, mental and emotional freedom from our ingrained habits of stimulus/response that basically run our lives.

It is not necessary to go into slow motion to discover the space between our thoughts and our thoughts and actions. However, it can be helpful to slow down at times to give ourselves the opportunity to find out what is occurring.  The Alexander Technique is sometimes confused with moving in slow motion.  That is not at all the intention of the training.  It does take conscious time and focus to learn how to insert our awareness into our activities. However, new thoughts and expanded awareness can happen very quickly.

Here is an activity to experiment with. Take a look at the sequence below. Find the gap between your thoughts in this non-emotionally charged process of asking yourself if you would like a glass of water or a cup of coffee.  What happens between your thoughts, where do you go?


1. Thought/Stimulus:  Seeing a glass or water or cup of coffee in front of you


Response:  Registering you could have some if you would like

2. Thought/Stimulus:  Would I like something to drink?


Response: (Your response)

3. Say your answer was “yes”:

Thought/Stimulus:  Impulse to reach for the glass or cup


Response:  Begin the movement to pick up the cup

 4. Thought/Stimulus: Making contact with the glass or cup with your hand


Response: (Your response)

If you couldn’t observe  a gap between your thoughts, slow down until you discover where you go mentally when you think and how the decision was made. Take your time. How did you arrive at your response?

This process applies to every decision we make. We can become more conscious of the moments between our thoughts, and between our thoughts and actions. In order to discover what happens in the gap we have to keep ourselves from jumping to our first immediate choice.  Only then will we be able to notice what is occurring. Once we can tune into these moments, we will be able use them to make new decisions and choices.

More to come!



Where is Up?

Where is Up?

Up is a word we use often in the Alexander Technique: Go up, think up, up off your leg, up and out, up and over and just plain up, up, up!

In talking to people about where up is, it has become clear that we sometimes perceive things very differently. It might seem obvious to say up is toward the sky or up is out the top of your head. These are the same thoughts when you are sitting or standing, but what about when you are lying on your back or tilted forward to do a task?

Do an experiment: lie down on your back and look at the ceiling or the sky. Then take your arms up. Where do they go? Do they go:

1) toward the sky away from the center of the earth, or

2) above your head parallel to gravity toward the wall or space?

There is no right answer.

It is, however, interesting to see what each of us uses as a reference point to define parameters like up or down. Once you understand this, it will help you to be clearer when giving and receiving directions. It is fascinating to realize we don’t all perceive things the same way.

If you are on your back and take your hands up toward the sky, you are using what might be called the Standard Cross of Axis, where up is always toward the sky and down is always toward gravity.

 If you are on your back and you take your arm parallel to gravity in a line that is a continuation of the direction of your spine then you are using the Body Cross of Axis as your reference.

These directions are all taken from the shoulder joint. See what this looks like if you are doing a handstand.

In terms of the Standard Cross of Axis, your arms are down. Whereas, if you use the Body Cross of Axis, your arms would be up.

As you get in and out of the chair though out the day, think of your head leading your body “up” from the end of your spine. As you tilt and come forward, the top of your head probably won’t always be facing and oriented toward the sky.

Play around with this and see what you discover.

It has become clear that we are not all thinking of up as the same thing for many reasons. That is part of what makes teaching the Alexander Technique so interesting. As we understand what we think and how we think, we begin to clarify our thinking. As we change the way we think, our relationship to ourselves and to the environment also changes.

Where is up?

We perceive and embody our understanding of “up” in different ways. Being mindful of this difference can make it much easier to communications with others.

Closing the Gap

We are closing the gap between our different ways of defining things and also closing the gap between what we think is happening and what is actually happening around us.


Alexander Technique and Acting Video

Click on video above to watch Ann Rodiger give an introduction to the Acting and Alexander Technique website, Freedom to Act Conference and classes.


5 things to learn from the Oral Seal

In the chapter on breathing in Walter Carrington's book "Thinking Aloud" he writes about the oral seal and indicates there is a lot to learn from the oral seal.  
The oral seal is when you close off the oral cavity from the nasopharnyx. To make the seal touch the tip of your tongue against the back of your lower teeth. There should be no pressure against the teeth and jaw. Then let the back of your tongue come up to gently touch your soft palate (behind your back molars). Keep the tongue wide and soft as it contacts the soft palate. Allow the larynx to hang from that contact point. You will then be breathing in and out of your nose.  It may feel at first as if you are “doing” something to keep the oral seal in place. This is most likely because you have been pulling your tongue down habitually. Play with this and see what happens. I think the natural and optimal tongue place is when the tongue is quite high and wide in the back.
The oral seal:

  •  Identifies and sensitizes the inner landscape of the head, neck, tongue and jaw. This is an area many of us haven’t considered that we can actually sense and direct.
  • Takes pressure off the top of the spine so you can find a higher and more accurate sense of the atlanto-occipital joint where the head and spine meet. Check to see that you are not pushing your tongue down to make the oral seal.  The back of the tongue goes up and back from the tip of the tongue reinforcing the up and back of the whole body.
  • Identifies the length of your air column/tube.  With the oral seal the column comes up to the back of your nose along your spine.
  • Helps you notice if you are sucking or pulling the air in and out when you inhale and exhale.  Leave your tongue alone as much as possible.
  • Contributes to the “up the front” direction of your body.  As you release up into the oral seal there is a sense of coming up the front of the body which balances the lengthening and widening of the back. 

Dart Procedures Lecture

We had an excellent Freedom to Move conference last month. Enjoy this Dart Procedure demonstration by Alex Murray.