A feeling worth seeing

February 24, 2009

There are a few reasons why Alexander teachers use hands-on contact when teaching. People often raise a sceptical eyebrow when you mention that its partly because the teacher’s pattern of use is to some degree transmitted automatically to their student via the sense of touch. Generally, if you are using yourself well (and the back is lengthening and widening, for example) a similar process of release can be stimulated in another person just by touching them.

Lucy Brown, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College in New York, who has a research interest in the Alexander technique, made mention of this phenomenon during a panel discussion at the Alexander Congress in August 08. She believes it is an example of something neuroscientists call “sensorimotor contagion” (a bit like the “emotional contagion” that occurs when we  automatically and unconsciously mirror the emotions of people around us). At the moment we can’t see how this kind of sharing of kinaesthetic experience works, she said, but she believes it will be possible to observe it in the future, using brain mapping techniques like neuroimaging.