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.  



I started using the word throughness in my teaching several years ago. I didn’t know if it was a real word or not, but it was the best word I could come up with to describe what I experience and what I observe happens when we are free and directed. There is a sense of openness and of the flow that goes through the body without resistance from gravity to the sky, from the sky to the pull of gravity, from body part to body part, and so on.

I finally looked throughness up in Google and found that it is actually a real word used in horseback riding. It is where the rider senses the ground through the horse. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“In equestrianism, throughness is an absence of resistance in the horse to the rider's commands.”

Click on this Wikipedia link to see how the lines of flow and energy go from the rider into the ground and back up again through the horse.

It is interesting that Alexander was such a horse person and was probably on a horse the day after he was born. He must have been aware of sensing through the horse, and I’m projecting a little bit, but I think he must have naturally sensed the same throughness in people when he started to put his hands on them during his teaching.

Finding the state of least resistance, the appropriate amount of force and pressure, easiness and an uninterrupted flow of energy, are elements we look for in our movement and activities. This applies to our thinking, internal movements and actions as they relate to our environment. Remember the lack of resistance doesn’t mean to collapse or become limp like a noodle. We need to have the appropriate amount of tone to accomplish our activities. The issue is that most of us use too much force and pressure pursing a direction that isn’t helpful. Thus, we miss the feeling of throughness which allows for amazing freedom of movement, flow, and direction.

The concept of “release into the direction” could also be “release into the throughness.”

As you move through your day, discover your throughness by thinking of your body as a whole and allowing for less resistance. This is undoing and non-doing. The directions will support you.