The Primary Control

Stablised head from Muybridge

In 20 years of teaching the Alexander technique, the practical significance of Alexander’s discovery has become clearer and clearer to me. In the world of science these insights also exist, though not highlighted or understood in a practical way. I am deeply interested in bringing this practical focus to the understanding of ‘how it works’… this applies particularly to Alexander’s concept of a ‘primary control’ of movement…

The movements of the body are coordinated in relation to the movements of the head. We are self-righting, self-balancing and naturally oriented to the environment. F.M. Alexander called this mechanism the “Primary Control“.


Stablised head from Muybridge

The head provides a primary frame of reference for movements of the body with respect to gravity. This is achieved through the combination of senses including the vestibular (inner ear), vision and proprioception (joint/muscle sense). In the picture above, the multiple frames of a running man (from Muybridge original) are superimposed at the ear canal. The line from the corner of the eye to the ear canal, an approximate indicator of the plane of the horizontal semi-ciruclar canal in the mans inner-ear.

If the conditions exist for this to occur easily and naturally are interfered with, action on earth becomes a struggle against gravity. It is possible however, to bring aspects of the spatial sense into consciousness, and learn to constructively influence the mechanisms that balance us. This leads in time, to changes in established conditions of body and mind, bringing us more into harmony with our nature.

in taking full advantage of the influence for good in correctly employing this primary control we hold the key to the bringing about of the “normal working of the postural mechanisms” as a whole

F.M. Alexander


Photo source: “The Brain’s Sense of Movement” by Alain Berthoz

Quote source: “The Universal Constant in Living” by F.M. Alexander

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