- Ainesh Madan
AT and Meditation
Meditation was a part of my life before I joined the Continuous Learning Programme. While I found the meditation practice immediately beneficial to my life, it was when I began to apply the Alexander principles to the work that it really began to blossom.
Photo © Dayita Nereyeth
Meditation, like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong, is a technique. Like all techniques, it has many forms that vary from teacher to teacher and school to school. In this way, it is similar to the Alexander Technique, because depending on where and from whom you are learning, the vocabulary and ideas can change. That said, the Alexander Technique is more foundational, which is why it is often referred to as a pre-technique. We can bring Alexander thinking to meditation, but not the other way around (although the Alexander Technique may well inadvertently serve as meditative). Without inhibition, meditation is not meaningful, but we do not have to chant a mantra or hold a mudra in order to practise the Alexander Technique.
Inspired by yogic principles, my meditation practice has its roots in eastern, and particularly Hindu, spiritual practice. We could, in the same vein, consider the Alexander Technique a western form. As such, on introducing Alexander principles into meditation, we can let both western and eastern influences inform the practice. However, FM’s work facilitates taking this a step further. One of the central principles of the Alexander work is the idea of unity, which could allow for the merging of dualities. Introducing the Alexander Technique permits letting go of eastern and western divisions to consider meditation a practice in wholeness.
The use of the hands is quite important in both mudra meditation as well as Alexander work. My practice of mudra meditation involves various hand gestures to promote energy flow through the whole self. Each gesture evokes unique benefits in the being. In Alexander practice, we employ our hands to connect to our environment and, in more advanced work, other people. The critical difference, however, lies in the fact that with meditation, the hand gestures are ends in themselves. When you ‘hold’ a particular mudra, you open up your being to receive the benefits of that particular orientation. In AT, the hands are not ends but means for practising the work. You cannot practise mudra meditation without using the hands to form mudras, but you can practise Alexander work without the hands; I find that there is more freedom in the latter. Photo © Dayita Nereyeth
My meditation study has been primarily based on learning mudras from a book, so my engagement has been relatively limited; still, I don’t deny that there are many other forms of meditation that I could explore. My Alexander Technique education, however, is ongoing in every moment, and can inform any activity I choose. The sense of infinite learning and the nature of work itself, as a living entity, is a distinguishing feature of FM Alexander’s discoveries. It is perhaps the reason why the work continues to be studied even today, over a hundred years on.
1. Cain Carroll and Revital Carroll. 2013. Mudras of India. London: Singing Dragon UK. https://www.shaktibhakti.com/shop/mudras-of-india-paperback
2. John Nicholls. 2019. ‘AT and Meditation.’ 13 May. https://www.johnnichollsat.com/2019/05/13/at-and-meditation/