Students often wonder how the light touch of an Alexander Technique teacher can communicate so much. Simultaneously, you might experience a wave of relaxation, an emotional sense of being seen and accepted for exactly who you are. Suddenly your breath becomes easy and your spine seems to grow tall. When you move to walk around the room, you feel inflated with helium.
You might ask the teacher what they are doing with their hands. They might say something like, “I’m having a conversation with your nervous system,” or, “I’m seeing your potential, and I’m projecting that,” or as Marj Barstow famously proclaimed, “Just a little bit of nothing.” It’s true that Alexander Teachers spend three years learning to communicate through a form of touch that is empty, yet energetically directed. But perhaps the reason students experience so much through so little lies in the way that we, as a species, entrain with each other.
Physical entrainment, on the extreme edge of the spectrum, can show up as a neurological disorder called mirror touch. In mirror touch a person feels the detailed body sensations of other people. For example, as a friend chews food, you might feel unwelcome sensations in your own mouth. However, a lesser degree of entrainment is quite normal, and is probably related to species survival and social intelligence. When people gather together, breath rate, heart rate and movement pace all synchronize. As we converse, our faces automatically match expressions, and our emotions follow. One is left wondering if a feeling stems from within or is absorbed via emotional contagion.
Physical entrainment might explain how the light non-manipulative Alexander touch can do so much. For a more detailed exploration of this phenomenon, listen to the new podcast Invisibilia – Entanglement To experience effortless improvements in movement and posture, contact an Alexander Technique teacher.
Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.