AT Terminology

Alexander Technique terminology refer to concepts, principles, and skills that are taught in AT lessons. Here is a list of common AT terminology with links to articles that are relevant to a particular term as they are published.

For an overview of research on AT organized around terminology, see Rajal Cohen’s, Science Catches Up.

All specialized fields have specific terminology. Jargon has its benefits when it is shorthand for longer explanations. But jargon is a barrier to communication if people don’t understand the term. In particular, AT jargon presents some specific challenges when connecting the Alexander Technique to scientific research.

AT terminology was first used by F.M. Alexander (1869–1955), the developer of the Alexander Technique. He was influenced by the nascent fields of psychology and neuroscience in the early twentieth century and as a result many of the terms have a scientific feel. The terms, however, are not scientific terms and do not, on the whole, correspond with similar terms in science, historic or current.1For example, antagonistic action refers to oppositional spatial directions, not the reciprocal relationship between agonist/antagonist muscle pairs. Psychophysical unity refers to the indivisibility of mental and physical phenomena, not to the field of psychophysics. And faulty sensory appreciation has more in common with what modern scientists consider body perception problems, rather than problems with sensation per se. For a glossary of current scientific terms that are relevant to understanding AT, see this list by Tim Cacciatore.

In addition, AT jargon can link the practice to untested or out-of-date models and ideas.2This may be the case with the primary control, a term inspired by now out-of-date research by the physiologist Rudolf Magnus. Jargon can also be confusing if there isn’t widespread agreement on a term. AT teachers sometimes mean different things by the same term. And AT terms are often quite broadly defined, referring to a wide range of experiences or phenomena.

Because of these challenges, one of the goals of this site is to describe AT experiences and observations in terms of physiology and avoid a reliance on jargon. This is an ongoing project. As part of their workshops, Patrick Johnson and Tim Cacciatore are actively soliciting descriptions of experiences from AT teachers and students. Read more from Patrick Johnson on “Describing Alexander Technique Phenomena Objectively,” 

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