Let's talk about "directing" or "giving orders."

“Directing” is an action of thought that recognizes & demonstrates how intention is the first part of any movement response. Tricky to describe in words, it is often experienced differently by each person.

Essentially, Directing is a thinking directive about physical action, done before any action happens. But Directing is purely thinking Directions, without any overt action or movement attached to it. In Alexander Technique, what you’re thinking while directing often contains a sort of living anatomy template about how easier motion can happen. Direction is a series of orders in words, designed to undo extra effort usually present in movement preparation.  In a way, it is similar to visualizing, but it is more specific. Goals and actions are not involved, only present tense awareness.

As an example, here’s an off-shoot of Directing, called Posture Release Imagery, invented by an Alexander Technique teacher named John Appleton.  This is a very specific practice of imagining one’s own body to be a different shape than it really is, and noting the results.


Why would it work so well to undo extra effort by thinking of doing something without actually doing it? Because thinking is connected to response. Something happens as a response to pure thought, but it happens often below the level of the person’s ability to sense it. In fact, from brain research, we get ready long before we consciously know we’re doing anything. What we have is “veto power.” Moments right before we are going to do something, we can stop.

The point of Directing is to reorganize how to “get ready” to make a move in an easier way, beyond the clutches of habit and expectation. In a way, Direction is a strategy to take away the need to get ready, to expect. By interrupting the overt “call to action” that the habit is usually in charge of doing, other internal responses of getting ready for the action will occur anyway….but without the habitual preparation. Directing reorganizes thinking to get ready in a non-habitual way. Then when you do stuff after Directing, the most appropriate way to move can be spontaneously selected, using improvisational means.

So how do you know what happened, if so much went on underneath your conscious awareness? You can use your other senses to offer you feedback, in addition to your internal sense of movement and location in space. You can use your environment.  External feedback – such as a video camera or a mirror is handy.  Or they can cross-reference their other senses, which may result in an odd sense of synesthesia.  For instance, one musician described Directing as being a symphony conductor who is using a sort of inner moving x-ray skill to bring a present-tense all-points awareness to bear on the way he was about to do a suspended goal. Then when he did that goal – it happened in a new way, without the unnecessary habitual preparation that was unrelated to the goal anyway.

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