What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique helps you transform. 

Physical and mental tension transform into freedom of movement and mind.

The Alexander Technique is a skill set that helps you perform at a higher level. Or get out of pain.

The Alexander Technique goes like this:

identify tension ------> pause the usual reaction -------> direct yourself to explore a new movement or thought 

You'll stop habits of harmful muscular tension. Which leads to decompression of your joints.

Which leads to elegant movement in any activity.

Walking, running, sitting at a desk or on stage...you'll have more freedom and fuller breath.


Why would the Alexander Technique help your breath?

You might slump. Or you might take on a military-like posture, which pushes the ribcage forward. Both of these postures cut off your breath.

FM Alexander was an actor who kept getting hoarse. Voice issues are deadly for an actor. His doctor told him to rest his voice. But he had to work. So he figured out the Alexander Technique.

He was often called "the breathing man" because he helped people breathe fully.

These are the steps. You can try them. 


Become aware of a physical or mental habit that puts you in pain or distress


Pause your initial reaction (it could be a movement or thought reaction)


Redirect yourself into a new, better choice for movement and/or thought

Why do you need me, if you can learn on your own? 

Because it's so difficult to see our own habits.

The good news is, once a habit is recognized it's on the way to changing.

I'll help you identify habits.

You'll have power - to take yourself out of anxiety or pain.

Because you'll learn to coach yourself. To stop yourself from going into habitual tension. 

You'll enjoy sophisticated cognitive and physical skills. 

The results are decreased pain & anxiety, improved mobility, a better voice. The Technique impacts your entire body/mind. 

It's an incredible investment in your life. 

Why haven't you heard of the Technique? 

Actors and performers use the Technique throughout their careers. It's often called the actor's secret. It's taught at Juilliard, Yale Drama, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Mannes School of Music, New School of Drama and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

How do you know if the Alexander Technique is for you?

The Alexander Technique is ideal for:

  • actors & performers
  • people with performance anxiety
  • people with breath or voice issues
  • people in pain
  • stress management
  • self-mastery

The Alexander Technique helps people from all walks of life.

I use the the Technique to stay out of pain, manage stress and short-circuit anxiety. 

Pain Relief with Alexander Technique

Many people, like myself, use the Alexander Technique to get and stay out of pain. 

Neck and Back Pain: Case Study

Melinda had tremendous neck and back pain.

When using her mobile phone or tablet, she crumpled her body into a slump. 

When she was working in cafes, she was dropping her head towards the laptop to see the screen.

Her head felt like a weight, pulling on her neck and back muscles. By the end of the day she was in excruciating pain, irritable and often had a headache. 

Through Alexander lessons with me, Melinda became aware that her habit of allowing her head to drop down was causing a lot of pain.

The laptop had become a stimulus for her to “dump” her head – when she’d start working on her laptop, she dropped her head down.

She realized that she could choose not to do this, and learned a better way to work. 

I taught her to balance her head at the top of her spine. To breathe while working. To release her jaw. 

Now, Melinda gets more done because she’s not in pain. She proactively prevents pain, and her productivity is increasing.

As a bonus, she looks and feels elegant and youthful. All the time, not only when she works. Because she understands how to use her body in an efficient way. 

Melinda is tremendously satisfied with her Alexander Technique investment, as you can imagine.

Free Resource

In my article, The Enjoyable Jaw, I give you techniques to stop jaw tension. No matter what kind of pain you're in, coaching yourself to ease jaw tension is a wonderful skill that will help ease pain in other areas of your body. And, if you're a performer, you'll want to have a super free jaw!


Get curious

We tend to lock our minds and our bodies.

In reaction to a trigger.


An impolite person on the train keeps tap tap tapping you with her big overloaded bag. You look at her, hoping she’ll take the hint and stop. But she doesn’t.

By the time you get to your train exit you’re super irritated.

You talk to yourself: “I should’ve told her to stop hitting me. Doesn’t she know how to ride the train?”

Your back, shoulders, jaw tighten.

So, you’re in a prickly mood.

Big deal. It’s going to change. 

That’s the law: impermanence. Like clouds in the sky - thoughts and reactions can dissapear and return. 

But let me tell you something most people don’t think about. Ever. 

To help you stay balanced:

Get curious. 

About the way you react. 

About people around you. 

Curiosity bypasses the judge in your brain.

Ask yourself: 

How can I be curious? 

Curiosity is a state of awareness - one of the principles of the Alexander Technique. First, we simply become aware of how we're reacting. Get curious. 

Then, once you're curious, this is a way to bypass the critical, judgmental part of your brain. It stops your first reaction. In the Alexander Technique we call this type of stopping inhibition.

Curiosity helps you transform your reactions into new and most likely more beneficial reactions. You'll be more available to direct your thoughts, rather than your thoughts directing you. This is the third principle of the Alexander Technique - direction.  

It helps you stay present.  


How to Feel Happier in 27 Seconds - Reach for the Sky, Literally

We spend a lot of time working inside. Being outside has so many benefits and looking up at the sky has become a lost art.

I remember when I was little my mother and I would spend time laying on the grass and watching the sky - it was so fulfilling.

When was the last time you looked up at the sky? 

When we look down too much - well, it's easier to feel down. Looking up can bring our spirits up. 

I made this video for you to inspire you to enjoy the sky - and expand your perspective by literally expanding what you see. 

Shouldless Days, Creativity & Presence

“I should have _____ (read my script instead of staying out too late, eaten less, called my parents).” 

Does that sound familiar?

Some of us aren't aware when we should on ourselves. And it can be damaging. 

Should statements generate a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil in your daily life. When the reality of your own behavior falls short of your standards, your shoulds and shouldn’ts create self-loathing, shame, and guilt.
— David D. Burns, MD in Feeling Good

When we start talking to ourselves, "I shoulda done this, I should do that, it takes away from the present moment."

Try it

Tell yourself a few shoulds right now to verify that you'll split your mind into two directions - you're in one place and your mind is in what I call the House of Should.

Shouldless Days

Actor Ellen Burstyn says she feels lazy if she isn't doing something, so it's hard for her to get away from saying should to herself.

So Ms. Burstyn schedules shouldless days - she can do whatever she wants at any time all day long.

Should-less days, I recommend them. Because, what I figured out is we have wiring. I have wiring in my brain that calls me lazy, if I’m not doing something. God you’re so lazy—can’t imagine whose voice that is? And that wiring is there. I haven’t been able to get rid of it. But what I can do is I can put in another wiring, I can put in should-less days, so when that voice goes off and says you’re being lazy, I turn to the other wiring in my brain that says, no, this is a should-less day, and I’m doing what I want.
— Ellen Burstyn's Lessons on Survival via Death, Sex & Money on WNYC

Try a shouldess day. You might really like it.  

Enter the House of Shouldless - Step by Step

When you slip into saying should statements, notice the effect of saying should to yourself on your posture, breath, and the clarity of your thinking. You might find that you are holding your jaw tightly - and that has an impact on your breath. 

Simply noticing the habit can begin to change it. 

When Should has a Purpose

What if you are using shoulds to get things done? Rather than telling yourself what you should get done, make a plan: write down the task and decide when and where you'll work on it. Commit to 15 mins as a starting point.

Next, enjoy the moment immediately after writing down the task. Give yourself a bit of time and credit for recognizing and modifying the habit. It's a big deal - you're choosing to explore alternatives and most people stay entrenched in habits for decades.

Finally, tell yourself that there's no reason to hold any unnecessary tension in your body - you have a plan and you're doing your best.


In the House of Shouldless (above), there's a lot of room for creativity. 

Shouldless days can be strange or unpredictable, because we're used to having to do stuff v. choosing to do what you want.

relax notes

When you free yourself from should, it can help you relax, which leads to feeling more present. And when you're more present you're more creative.

I recommend Ellen Burstyn's interview with Anna Sale on Death, Sex & Money, where she talks about should less days, acting, getting out of an abusive relationship and other life lessons.

Confidence lesson for an audition, interview, performance or anytime, really


What do you do before an audition, interview or performance? 

One habit many people have is to get on their phones. 

If this is your habit, don’t let the phone trigger you into a slumped, shrunken posture. 

“Your physical posture sculpts your psychological posture…the next time you reach for your phone, remember that it induces slouching, and slouching changes your mood, your memory and even your behavior.” - via Amy Cuddy

Let's look at challenges and solutions to help you stay expansive.

Challenge: I'm not breathing well!

Most of us hold our arms very close to our torsos when we’re on the phone. This tightens our back muscles and can make our breath shallow. The tightness transfers into your walk, the way you sit, and the way you stand. And, by shrinking yourself, you change your biochemistry to decrease your confidence

Solution: allow space between your arms and torso - don’t pull your arms into your torso. 

We often sit, stand and move in two ways:

The C-Shape

If you’re slumping into a C-shape, then that cuts off your breath. Less breath = more anxiety.

Military Posture

This is when we adopt a military-like uprightness. It’s the opposite of a C-shape, we push the rib cage forward and it is often accompanied by arching the lower back. This is a deceptive posture because it can feel like we’re taller, but in reality we’re shortening our spines by arching the thoracic spine (the part of the spine where the ribs attach) forward. 

Solution: Get out of the c-shape or military posture

Stretch your arms overhead whether you’re sitting or standing. If you’re standing notice the contact of your feet on the ground and don’t go back on your heels or lock your knees. If you’re sitting, notice your sits bones on the chair. 

Go into the victory pose (see the image above) and / or a pose like Wonder Woman - (hands on hips) and do this for two minutes. 

Why Two Minutes?

Before you go into a high stakes situation, take two minutes to do power poses. Amy Cuddy, a researcher from Harvard, found that when people do power poses for two minutes, the poses lead to hormonal changes (an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol) that convey confidence and power to one’s own brain and also to the people around him or her.

I can’t stretch right now!

Let’s say you can’t stretch because it’s inappropriate - you’re in a meeting surrounded by coworkers or you're on stage - and you feel your confidence dwindling.  

Solution: If you’re sitting, don’t cross your legs, remember your width from shoulder to shoulder, and left sit bone to right sit bone, your long spine from tailbone all the way up to the top joint of your spine. Enjoy your full stature and allow your jaw to be free and easy.

Shrinking is a very very common problem, but it can be overcome with awareness. Stay present, listen, look, remember your directions you’ve learned with me, and if a situation compromises your confidence, use the tips above to refresh it.

Read More:

Your iPhone is Ruining Your Posture---and Your Mood by Amy Cuddy via the New York Times

Jessica on a Tightrope with Wolfgang Weiser, International Alexander Technique Congress, Limerick, Ireland

I like to gently push myself to try new experiences so that my teaching stays sharp and alive. 

The key was to breathe on the tightrope - fear didn't touch me, especially since Wolfgang, another Alexander Technique teacher, has a light and happy style. 

It is a thrill to teach my amazing clients more and more about balance, breath and performance. This experience definitely helped me reach a new level.


This is my dear friend and colleague, Lena Bruncardi Hart with her baby, Olivia. She's an Alexander Technique teacher in the Bay Area.

We like to squat. 

If you can squat, do it! But don't hurt yourself.

Squatting...we think of as very primitive. But children squat very well, and in cultures where people still squat, women don’t have problems in labor. So squatting is really healthy. People around the world eat, work, and wait squatting, but the West views that as a sign of poverty and being “less developed.” An anthropologist named Gordon Hughes studied postures around the world, and he argued that the West really needed to look at the work postures of other cultures and integrate them into our life. Kneeling, squatting, sitting cross-legged... — these are all perfectly useful positions.
— Galen Cranz, Ph.D. Professor of Architecture, University of California at Berkeley, Alexander Technique Teacher, author of The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design

Read more about The Chair in Portland Spaces

Photo: Joe Bruncardi

Copyright © Jessica Santascoy, Habit Specialist
If you repost this article or use phrases or ideas from it, please credit the source. 

The Enjoyable Jaw


Most of my life, I didn't give much thought to my jaw.

Sometimes I noticed it was tight, moved it around a bit, and that was it.

But in learning the Alexander Technique, I have realized something startling: The jaw can be a source of enjoyment!

The first person to point this out was my mentor who has been an Alexander Technique teacher for 37 years. One day we were discussing the merits of listening more and speaking less during a conversation. He said, “At times, it’s nice just to enjoy the jaw rather than talking.”

I am starting to catch glimpses of what he meant. Of course, before experiencing enjoyment, I needed to become aware of the habits of holding I had. Maybe you, too, would like less tension, and even to be able to tell people "Hey, I can enjoy my jaw!" 

It's very common to hold tension in our jaws. A tight jaw may feel uncomfortable or painful to some people while others may not notice any discomfort. But, when the jaw eases, it becomes obvious - to yourself and to others. Easing jaw tension can help you feel more energetic and less stressed. 

Three steps to ease your jaw:

1. Notice when, where and why you are tightening your jaw.

2. Direct yourself - Tell yourself it’s unnecessary to tighten your jaw. Say, “ I wish my jaw to be free.” 

3. Invite more breath - Invite yourself to breathe more fully. Tightening the jaw is often paired with shallow breathing or holding our breath. Notice whether you are doing this - if you are, tell yourself, “I don’t need to impair my breathing, I can breathe freely and continuously.” Easing one habit impacts others.

Special thanks to Bob Britton, my mentor to whom I refer. 

Copyright © Jessica Santascoy, Habit Specialist
If you repost this article or use phrases or ideas from it, please credit the author.

Lupita Nyong's Glamour

Lupita studied and probably still studies the Alexander Technique. The way she stands, sits and moves are part of her charm and glamour. 

Imagine if Lupita were slumping in the photographs below. Her presence wouldn't be as regal and dynamic. 

Here's Lupita twirling elegantly at Cannes. 

Lupita is poised and genuine, whether she's in a still photo or on video. I like how she admits that she had the imposter syndrome (below). 

Free Stuff for You

idNYC - This is New York City’s free ID. This ID is useful because it provides a free one-year membership to cultural institutions including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You must be a NYC resident. Sign up soon, because the offer expires December 31, 2015.  

Approaching Shakespeare is a free class on iTunes University. I needed an analysis of Macbeth to help my student prepare for the role of Lady Macbeth. Lecture #9 helped me understand how Macbeth is a play about agency. You get the entire class, 45 lectures, for free from Oxford University. Enjoy. 

I saw this Marc Maron interview at AOLBUILD and I thought you’d find it interesting, too. He mentions the Alexander Technique. I like that. He talks about his career and how he kept going despite numerous setbacks. You may find it inspiring. Or depressing. 

How to stop saying um, uh, like and other fillers

Uh, um, so, you know, like. These are filler words that many speakers use, sometimes to begin a speech or conversation.

Want to connect with people, get people to listen and communicate clearly? Drop the fillers.

How to stop using fillers

Ask when

Identify when you are using fillers. Get specific - was it when you were talking on the phone to a friend, or to start off a speech, or during an interview on a podcast when the host asked you a question about your background?  

Ask why

Ask yourself why you used a filler. Did you feel rushed? Were you nervous? Unsure of what to say next? What thoughts (most of the time the thoughts are unrecognized) preceded the use of a filler? Identifying thought patterns behind a habit is one of the keys to changing a habit. If you know what “silent” thoughts are behind the filler, then it’s easier to change. 

Record the fillers

Ask a friend to write down the number of fillers you use during a phone conversation or write them down yourself. You can write on a piece of paper or a notepad app, like so:

Monday, talking to Barry 

//// //// //// ////

Monday, practicing my speech

//// //// //// //// //// ////

Enjoy speaking without the fillers.

In Love: Stay Cool and Keep Your Relationship Hot


On a recent trip our hotel shower drain backed up and smelled like sewage. Very unromantic. When we told the hotel clerk the situation, he upgraded us to an executive suite. Which smelled like smoke and liquor. There was very bright light coming through the poorly fitting drapes, so that we couldn’t tell when it was day or night. 

Not an ideal lovebird’s nest. I called the hotel manager and asked for another room and he told me that it was the last room available in the hotel. 

Neither my partner Joe nor I got upset - it was a situation that we couldn’t control if we didn’t want to change hotels at 11:30 pm. At breakfast the next morning, Joe said, “I really like the way you handled that. You didn’t get upset. We dealt with the problem and when we got the 2nd room, you still didn’t get upset.” 

One of the important skills you learn with the Alexander Technique is to choose your reactions, both in thought and habit. 

It’s easy to wear your partner out if you have a habit of inappropriate actions and reactions. Keeping your perspective can often be difficult, especially if you have a habit of blowing things up. So how can you begin changing a habit of taking your brain into an unproductive zone? 

1. Notice your foremost thought about the situation, and replace it with a more realistic one or a more positive one. One thought that can bring you back to earth:

“This is an unpleasant situation, but it’s not the end of the world.”

2. Pause before you speak. Notice where you are holding tension. Noticing a habit is the first step to changing a habit. 

Most people hold tension in their jaws and around the mouth. Do you purse your lips or clench your jaw?

3. Direct yourself into expansion. 

Use the standard directions, or use

your personalized directions that you’ve learned in Alexander Technique lessons with me.

The standard directions: "I allow the neck to be free, so that my head may balance delicately at the top of my spine, so my whole torso may lengthen and widen."

4. Breath is a major factor for interrupting and changing habits, so

understand your breathing patterns.

It’s worth taking the time to ask yourself how your actions and reactions affect your relationship. I know that a thoughtful, calm approach helps keep our relationship steady. If I were to make a big deal out of things, that would stress Joe out in a negative way. More importantly, it’d stir me up in an unproductive chain of thoughts and habits. 

Of course, I am not perfect and sometimes I overreact, but my intent is to make our relationship as easeful as possible by practicing the habits I've shared with you. That keeps the chemistry cooking. 

Talk to me

  • Do you modify your behavior to make things easier between you and your partner (of course you do!)? How, when, where...?
  • Or, do you wish your partner would modify his or her responses more so that you can have more fun and there's better communication between you?

Alexander Technique - Basic Concepts

"You can think of the Alexander Technique as a way to rewire your system. Choose your responses instead of slipping into unproductive habits." -  Jessica Santascoy

"You can think of the Alexander Technique as a way to rewire your system. Choose your responses instead of slipping into unproductive habits." - Jessica Santascoy

1. Recognition of the force of habit

We develop many habits over the course of our lifetime, some of which are helpful and some of which are not. Our habits come to feel right or normal. Recognizing habitual reactions is a first step in enabling change.  

Jessica, your Alexander teacher, will most often recognize your habits before you can.

2. Faulty sensory appreciation

The force of habit interferes with the accuracy of our kinesthetic feedback. This often results in a faulty sense of how we are functioning and limits our ability to make productive change.

3. Inhibition

We often react automatically and habitually to the various stimuli of life. The Alexander Technique teaches how to take advantage of the space between stimulus and response to choose a course of action. This is inhibition. It is a skill that we already have and can learn to develop and refine.

4. Direction

We all have the ability to send a message from the brain through the nervous system to our muscles. The Alexander Technique teaches how to use this ability more effectively, resulting in more efficient functioning of the muscular system.  

5. Primary control

The relationship among the head, neck and back is what F.M. Alexander called the primary control. The quality of that relationship — compressed or free — determines the quality of our overall movement and functioning.

List of concepts via the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT)

Image via 3D4Medical

Stay Warm for Better Posture

Frijolito, our cat, knows how to stay warm. Notice that his body is at ease even though he is coming off of the radiator. Dropping off unnecessary tension is a skill that you can learn. 

Frijolito, our cat, knows how to stay warm. Notice that his body is at ease even though he is coming off of the radiator. Dropping off unnecessary tension is a skill that you can learn. 

Staying warm when it's cold outside can help you enjoy good posture and freedom of movement. 

Here are a couple of unnecessary habits that tend to kick in when we’re feeling cold:

Hunching the shoulders

You might find yourself hunching your shoulders towards your ears. It seems natural to try to keep warm by moving the shoulders up, toward the neck.  

Tucking the chin 

Another thing you might do is tuck your chin against your throat, in an effort to shield it from the cold. It’s common to pair this habit with looking at the ground, and even to add a slumping back to the mix. 

These habits are in an effort to try to keep your throat and your body warm. Neither habit is horrible especially if we are moving freely in and out of tucking and hunching. But many people stay semi-hunched and tucked throughout the day even if they mean to stop doing that once out of the cold.

A warm scarf and ear muffs in addition to the appropriate coat can help keep you from unnecessarily tensing your neck and shoulder muscles. 

It's also prudent to stay warm while you're working out. If you are exercising to lose weight, then it may be particularly beneficial to stay warm as this article on the Well blog points out.

How do you stay warm when there's snow? Enjoy this slideshow I made for you of snowy NYC in Fort Tryon Park. 

Lessons from the Cheetah: What is a free neck?

Many of us walk around with our heads pulled back into our necks, with our neck muscles in a contracted position, rather like a turtle retracting its head. This chronic position is inefficient.

Unnecessary tension is a waste of energy. It can lead to discomfort or pain.  Or limit your range of motion. And it strains your voice. 

In the Alexander Technique, we allow ourselves to have a "free neck." This refers to freedom from excess muscular tension. It also refers to the notion of having a head that is delicately poised at the top of the spine and can therefore move freely in any natural direction effortlessly. 

When we look at the cheetah, it is apparent that its neck is not retracted. While it may have appropriate tension in its neck as it runs, we know that cats have fantastic ability to completely relax the muscles when they are at ease.

It's easy to see that this cheetah is only tensing its neck muscles as is necessary for the specific purpose of pursuing its presumed prey.

We can imagine that when it is done with this feast, its neck muscles will drop off unnecessary tension and its body will remain well-coordinated. 

Thus, we can strive to be like the cheetah!

Special thanks to my mentor Bob Britton who taught me how to think about cheetahs in relation to human movement. 

photo via flickrfavorites

More breath more joy

Enjoy breathing.  Image: Banku Patchara

Enjoy breathing. Image: Banku Patchara

One of the easiest ways to work with your breath is to become aware of when you hold your breath. You may be surprised at how often you hold your breath. It’s usually held for a couple of seconds or more. You may be holding your breath because of postural habits or it could be that you have too much tension in an area. Or you simply have the habit of holding the breath rather than allowing it to cycle in and out freely. 

Notice when you hold your breath

There are a many keys to allowing breath to be easeful, but the first step is to notice if you hold your breath:

  • as you work at your computer or on your mobile
  • when listening to people
  • on the train
  • before you're about to speak, especially when you’re speaking publicly or performing
  • when you're working out

More breath more joy

Notice if you drop off tension throughout the day by noticing your breath. Are you happier or less stressed at the end of the day?

Read more: How I teach breathing 


image: Banku Patchara

Staying Young: Run or Speed It Up

Interesting research on running and speeding up your workout from the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, California:

When the researchers compared older runners’ walking efficiency to that of young people, which had been measured in earlier experiments at the same lab, they found that 70-year-old runners had about the same walking efficiency as your typical sedentary college student. Old runners, it appeared, could walk with the pep of young people...

The good news for people who don’t currently run is that you may be able to start at any age and still benefit, Dr. Ortega said. “Quite a few of our volunteers hadn’t take up running until they were in their 60s,” he said.

And running itself may not even be needed. Any physically taxing activity likely would make you a more efficient physical machine, Dr. Ortega said. So maybe consider speeding up for a minute or so during your next walk, until your heart pounds and you pant a bit; ease off; then again pick up the pace. You will shave time from your walk and potentially decades from your body’s biological age.


Jessica's tips: Before you start running or walking, think of your directions: “I allow my neck to be free, so my head may balance at the top of my spine and my whole torso may lengthen and widen.” Enjoy the environment and look out and around you rather than getting lost in thought. 

How to be a better public speaker using the Alexander Technique

Using the Alexander Technique is one of the most effective ways to help you become an elegant public speaker and connect with your audience. This 5 step process, identified by FM Alexander, can help you become a more polished speaker or get over stage fright.

Think of a sentence that you might begin your presentation with, such as “As I was leaving home this morning...”

1. Pause before you speak the sentence. Don’t say it yet.

2. Instead, say the Alexander Directions to yourself: I free my neck to allow my head to balance delicately at the top of the spine, to allow the torso to lengthen and widen.

3. Continue to say the Directions until you are fully engaged in the intent and purpose of them, and more committed to this new state in your system than achieving the result of speaking.

4. Then say to yourself, “I might speak, I might not” or “Shall I go on or not?” The point is to recognize how the thought of giving a presentation may tighten your neck and the rest of your body, and give yourself the option (in your imagination) of not speaking so you can notice your habits. 

5. Decide :

a. not to say the sentence and continue to direct

b. to do something completely different, like “lift your hand instead of speaking the sentence” and continue saying the directions

c. to say the sentence and keep saying the directions

Practicing these 5 steps will help you notice your habits, and you can replace them with the new, efficient habits which are more easeful. When you’re easeful, audiences connect with you more because they sense that you are enjoying yourself. 

These directions and the 5 steps have been modified by Jessica Santascoy and Brooke Lieb. The 5 steps as written by F. M. Alexander are on pages 45-46 in The Use of the Self.


The Anger Habit

Do you turn into a monster when you get angry?  Photo by J Santascoy, T-shirt by Hans verschooten 

Do you turn into a monster when you get angry? Photo by J Santascoy, T-shirt by Hans verschooten 

Anger is a seductive emotion because it can feel powerful to get angry. But the price we pay for spewing anger is high: loved ones may get scared, thinking turns muddy and the biochemical changes can be damaging, especially over time. 

Because the Technique is largely based on changing the way you think about situations and movement, it is a good tool to use to work with anger and other emotions.

Here are four steps to help you change the anger habit:

1. Awareness of anger is the first step to changing it.

  • When do you get angry? Does bad traffic trigger your anger? How about waiting in a long line? Whatever the situation, notice when or what brings on anger.
  • What do you say to yourself? Most people tell themselves things that add to their anger. Here are two very common categories of self-talk to watch for: 
    • Labeling people. Do you say, “These people are stupid”? Labeling people as stupid (worthless or selfish) can cause you to overreact. “When you label other people, you invariably generate hostility (Burns, 40).” 
    • No time. Another very common way we fuel anger is to say to ourselves, “I don’t have enough time.” When we feel like we don’t have enough time we can become impatient and quick to anger. 

2. Don't judge or try to change your feeling of anger, just notice it. Notice that you are talking to yourself. It may sound like a movie script if you’ve been saying the same thing to yourself for many years. That’s okay, notice your script and move along to step three.

3. Stay with your feeling of anger. The idea is that if we don’t push away an emotion it has less of hold on us. “Staying” with an emotion may seem counterintuitive - we perceive something as being harmful or uncomfortable and we want to rush to stop it.

4. Say the Directions to yourself. Rescue yourself from your anger script by using the Directions: “I allow my neck to be free, so my head may balance at the top of my spine and my whole torso may lengthen and widen.” Notice how it is to be angry when you say no to tightening and yes to allowing expansion.

Buddhist theory can be helpful in understanding anger. Norman Fischer, a Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center, provides insight in his book, Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to Navigate Life’s Perils and Pitfalls:

“On close examination…most of the time anger is a mask for fear. We don’t want to feel fear, which is disempowering and uncomfortable, so we get angry instead. But, what are we afraid of? Things don’t go as we would like them to; the world is not cooperative with our wishes and needs. There is nothing we can do about this. This is a frightening fact. Furthermore, we know that we are vulnerable, subject on a daily basis to unwanted change and finally to death. Our situation is fundamentally shaky and this is terrifying- so instead of facing all this we get angry or irritated about this or that that has gone wrong. Fear is deep and fundamental…”

What is anger? It is the powerful urge to harm. This distinguishes toxic anger from what we might call “righteous anger,” which is a motivation to right injustice rather than to harm. The most important aspect of reflection on anger is to recognize its harmful nature; anger is destructive to self and others; anger never heals. The Zen precept is not “do not be angry.” It is “do not harbor anger.” Do not fan it or add more fuel (605).”

The Zen approach of staying with the emotion is similar to the approach I use in the Technique. Fisher says, 

“As much as possible try simply to be aware of the concrete unpleasant experience of anger without moving from it to blame and then to speak or act angrily (606).”

So, try out the steps above when dealing with anger and notice what happens. Emotional habits are some of the hardest to change, but the benefits of changing the anger habit are many - I’m sure you can think of some! 


Fischer, Norman. Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to Navigate Life’s Perils and Pitfalls. North Atlantic Books: 2011. Pages referenced are on Kindle for iPhone. 

Burns, David. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Harper: 2008.