There are a number of references to scientific concepts in Alexander technique literature and websites. There is also a growing body of rigorous science about how AT works. Here we separate models based on rigorous science from persistent but out-of-date models that may have been reasonable in the past but are no longer scientifically valid.
Current scientific models:
Motor control: AT as reorganizing the postural system
Several experiments suggest that the AT affects postural systems. AT teacher training1, AT lessons1, and AT-like instructions2 affect postural tone to reduce stiffness by making the postural support more dynamically responsive. According to this model changes in movement3–7, balance8,9, and other coordination patterns10, may result indirectly from postural changes, rather than from learning to move or balance in a specific way.
Psychosomatic changes are central to the AT, however to date no studies have revealed how the AT affects cognitive, psychological or emotional phenomena. Despite this, the interplay between such cognitive factors and motor behaviour is currently a hot topic on the frontiers of neuroscience. While not AT-specific, changes in posture have been found to affect psycho-cognitive state (refs), in particular, poor neck posture in healthy older adults is correlated with worse performance on cognative tasks11. Psychophysical models of the AT will be developed as more data becomes available.
Out-of-date and/or invalid models
Magnus Reflex model
This model was first adopted by Alexander in the 1920’s to explain the strong effects that head, neck, and back coordination on the rest of the body. The model is outdated and was of dubious relevance to begin with.
This model describes postural pathologies as resulting from an overactive startle reflex. While the startle pattern is a scientifically well researched phenomenon it is not appropriate for describing postural problems.
This model asserts that there are natural movement patterns, such as those found in children, animals, or primitive tribes, that can be reactivated when acquired bad habits are inhibited. Scientifically, the word “natural” is poorly defined and there is little evidence for immutable so-called natural patterns. Also, children’s movements are demonstrably less efficient, and their balance is demonstrably worse, than adults’.
This model compares the complex force networks in the body with tensegrity models to account for observations of delocalized tension and support. However there is no scientific reason to think that the body in fact resembles a tensegrity model, and reasons to think that it does not.