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How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (May 23, 2007)
Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 0.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Fresh and Comprehensive
As a long term student of the Alexander Technique I have read all of F.M. Alexander’s books and innumerable contemporary texts on the subject. This book is a refreshing approach even for the skilled teacher or student. The book is a meaty 322 pages and yet the chapters are short enough to maintain interest and they often segue into the next chapter subject. Although the experiential quality of the Alexander Technique is impossible to adequately define, Missy Vineyard does a superb job describing what it is about and how it works. She does this by imparting her own experience, the latest findings related to neuroscience, and with stories about the challenges and successes of her students. Naturally she elaborates on the principles of inhibition and direction, but she also presents several unique and useful approaches. Missy explains the effectiveness of the prone position and how, unlike semi-supine, it is not weight-bearing on the spine. She describes how we can become trapped in habitual experiences that are injurious and establishes four sensory error categories. She talks about how to avoid triggering the four expressions of fear produced by the amygdala in the brain – attack, withdraw, freeze, and submit. Missy spends considerable effort clarifying the mysterious aspect of the principle of non-doing. She effectively communicates just how to think of not doing something while you are doing it in order to alter the faulty behavioral loop that keeps one tense without knowing it. She elucidates an idea of the “Helper” inside us that can take over after we get out of our own way and quit end-gaining.
Perhaps most innovative of all, Missy shares her concept of how to use the prefrontal cortex, or the “attic” as she calls it. She submits that this place is like an observation deck from which inhibition and direction can be most effective. From the attic one can send an “output” thought signal that is directive in nature instead of relying on an “input” feeling signal from the body after it has already occurred. To direct, we should send a signal (a thought) rather than focus attention on a result (a feeling). Missy elaborates on how to distinguish between deciding to do an action versus framing an intention to move in one’s mind. She coins the term “bodily sensation” as an inclusive definition for kinesthesia, proprioception, and interoception. She suggests modifying F.M. Alexander’s initial direction of, “Let the neck be free …” to “I want NOT to tighten my neck …” claiming that it is more effective to begin with a self-instruction that is inhibitory.
In addition, the book includes some easy-to-follow self-experiments to practice inhibiting and directing and some wonderful neck and back extender muscle exercises. Throughout the book there is an occasional word here and there that is bolded and can be looked up in a handy glossary in the back. There is also a nifty index.
The best book on the technique I have read
I was introduced to the Alexander technique by a friend about 15 years ago following a car injury in which I suffered a herniated disc, severe pain in the arm and significant loss of muscle strength. I contemplated surgery which most of the doctors were recommending but decided to opt for less intrusive approaches including physical therapy and lessons in the Alexander technique.
Over the last 15 years I have had numerous lessons and profited immensely from the wisdom of two highly talented instructors. I have also read about a dozen books. This one is the most practical and clearly written one. The author communicates effectively by using lots of real life examples and suggests exercises which, while time consuming, are extremely useful. Like other teachers she makes it clear that the technique is not a substitute for medical advice. But my own experience suggests that it can complement such advice along with other approaches including meditation, tai chi, yoga and others. In that sense the basic tools–inhibition, direction, lengthening of back and neck–can form the core of a holistic approach that can include many of these other approaches. There is nothing in the technique that conflicts with any of these. Indeed most of the ideas, once explained by a good teacher seem to be just applied common sense. The trick, of course, is in disciplining yourself to practice and training the mind to affect the body before it gets stiff and makes you uncomfortable.
This book is the perfect handbook to help anyone who has some basic knowledge of the Technique become much more effective in using it. Ideally, it should be accompanied by occasional lessons from a skilled instructor
How You Stand Is A Good Intro to the Alexander Technique
As a student of the Alexander technique, I highly recommend this new book on the subject. There are many excellent, detailed illustrations that make this book user friendly and a stand out among books on this topic. Also, there are plenty of self-experiments suggested throughout the book that make it a fine book for beginning students as well as a great review for experienced students.
great method and excellent new thinking from a leading teacher
Missy’s book is a terrific introduction to the method. While nothing replaces working with a teacher, her book has plenty of insights and exercises that bring the concepts home. As a small example, I tried the baseball exercise with my six year old daughter, with surprising results.
Adopting AT helped me make a significant shift in my thinking about chronic back pain, and as a result make great progress in reducing it. A very, very valuable adjustment in perspective, the mark of something deep.
More at: Reflections on Alexander Technique and personal productivity[..]
If you are reading this, then you need to purchase the book!
This book came with some very high recommendations so on the one hand I was filled with a certain expectation but on the other I was a little apprehensive as often highly recommended things can end up being very disappointing. However, this book turned out to be even better than I had expected and I am thoroughly enjoying reading it.
It is well thought out and easy to read, with self-observational-experiments that are enlightening and practical. The book is particularly useful for those who are already having Alexander Technique lessons as well as for those who are thinking about starting. There is no better place to start a journey of self-discovery than this book. If you have an interest in the Alexander Technique, then this is the book for you.
My position on this book
Clear, readable, enjoyable. This is something rare – a textbook that is hard to put down. Full of helpful drawings, personal stories. I liked it.
A must read for all who care about their ability to function optimally, physically and mentally
I have had back issues since I was 17 (now I know it was due to one short leg)and when I was about 30 I tried Alexander Technique. Now 30 yrs later I finally have in this book an explanation why this helped and a revelation about how far reaching this technique can be in confronting normal and abnormal body usage. Beautifully written with a deep understanding of much that Neuroscience has learned in the last few years.
Best Alexander Technique book available
I highly recommend “How You Stand. . .” for anyone interested in learning about the mind-body connection. Whether this is your first introduction to the Alexander Technique, you have taken lessons or you are an experienced Alexander Technique teacher, this book will help you further understand the fascinating link between how you think and how you live. The book is clear and descriptive, offering interesting neurological data, personal stories and numerous “do-it yourself” activities that help the reader begin (or continue) their journey of learning. It is a book to read again and again!
Engaging and well written.
As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I found Missy Vineyard’s book extensive, creative and inspiring. Vineyard uses anecdotal examples from her practice, interspersed with experiential activities and explanations of the concepts of the Alexander Technique to cover a wide range of aspects of the Alexander Technique while keeping the reader engaged in a variety of ways. Her practical explanations and use of analogies to convey the often elusive Alexander principles effectively and expertly. I highly recommend this book to all students and teachers of the Alexander Technique.
Life changing because the explainations align age old concepts with current research on brain chemistry and anatomy
Alexander Technique is often difficult to understand without a teacher and many lessons. Missy Vineyard takes the reader a step closer by correlating current research with Alexander’s discoveries about how to make optimum use of ourselves. She suggests ways of organizing what we are thinking with what our bodies are doing in order to achieve radically better results.