"As fish dart through the water, they are forgetful of the water; as birds fly on the breeze, they are not conscious that there is a breeze. Discern this, and you can transcend the burden of things and enjoy natural potential."
- Huanchu Daoren
Innocent of deep thoughts or lofty ideas, fish and birds conduct themselves through the water and on the breeze free of burdensome things such as, for instance, physics. Fins and wings down, they seem to win the battle against gravity, collapsing only on the brink of death. People, on the other hand, appear to be slowly but steadily fighting a losing battle as they age — losing agility, stature and marbles along the way. It needn’t be that way— our bodies are just as well suited to withstand earth’s pull as any other living creature.
Disregarding golden koi and crested cranes, F. M. Alexander nevertheless came to the same elegant understanding –just as birds get up and about by resisting the air that supports them, and fish get around by resisting the water that supports them, we conduct ourselves by resisting whatever happens to be supporting us at the moment; the ground or the floor, your favorite chair or your dance partner. (Skis, parachutes, scuba equipment, crutches, skates, and other ingenious inventions can help with lower density environments or physical restrictions.)
We are designed to carry our own weight to the surface in a manner that optimizes the rebound effect of our impact, making gravity an energizing ally. Problems arise when we offer too little or too much resistance, and compensate by bracing, tensing, or straining. Learning to stop these unconscious, habitual behaviors and to apply appropriate effort is best facilitated by experience. An Alexander Technique teacher can help you physically and intellectually discern natural, unburdened, conduct.
Many people who study the Alexander Technique find it to be a Western equivalent to Eastern philosophies such as that of 16th century Chinese philosopher Huanchu Daoren. The Technique, while practical, is a method that can lead to increased body-mind coordination, alertness and equanimity, expanding self-knowledge to better fulfill our potential and to age with grace and dignity.