mandag 29. juni 2015

Bake kake søte

Min niese kaller meg kakemonsteret. Det har delvis sin naturlige årsak i at min bror, hennes far, er en utmerket kokk, og kan, når han blir inspirert, kreere de lekreste kaker, gjerne dynket i konjakk. Jeg har langt fra de samme ferdighetene i kokkekunsten. Jeg arvet ikke matlagegenet. Til gjengjeld er jeg veldig god på å spise kake og ta oppvasken.

På tross av manglende ferdigheter på kjøkkenet (eller kanskje nettopp derfor), finner jeg den kulinariske prosess ytterst fengslende. Et antall ingredienser, noen ganger få, men ofte ganske mange, omskapes til noe som er mer enn summen av delene. Gjennom en kreativ prosess skjer en metamorfose der råvarer og redskaper, ferdigheter og kunnskap, fysisk energi og kjemiske prosesser går opp i en større enhet av smak og dufter.

En time i Alexanderteknikk er også en skapende prosess, en metamorfose. Eleven, et menneske med utallige ingredienser, møter lærens hender og kunnskaper. Forskjellen er kanskje at vi jobber mer med å ta vekk noe enn å tilføre.

Hjulpet av berøringen fra lærerens hender kan eleven begynne å oppdage alle de små uvaner man gjør som man ikke behøver å gjøre og som bare er til hinder for god koordinasjon. Eleven får hjelp til å begynne å legge merke til de små tankene som hjelper og de som ikke hjelper. Eleven vil begynne å legge merke til nødvendigheten og nytten av å være oppmerksom i egne bevegelser. Gradvis kommer eleven tilbake til en enklere utgave av seg selv. Tilbake til rene råvarer. Kanskje oppdager man ingredienser man ikke ante man hadde.

Etter hvert blir eleven sin egen lærer og står selv for forandringsprosessen. Alexanderteknikkens prinsipper og elevens tanker er redskapene og metamorfosen skjer gjennom elevens egne bevegelser. Å bruke Alexanderteknikken kan ses som skapende prosess der man gradvis omskaper eller gjenskaper seg selv, om ikke til noe mer, så i alle fall til noe bedre. 

Så utbryter man gjerne: nam nam!

Relaterte blogginnlegg:

lørdag 20. juni 2015

The Nobel Disease

Why we should stop quoting Tinbergen

The 1973 Nobel Laureate Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907-1988) is often quoted for supporting the Alexander technique. Alexander technique teachers seem to be unaware that this can have some negative aspects. I've been planning to write about this for some time, but was prompted into action by a short article last week in Norway's leading newspaper titled "Stupid Nobel Prize Winners" (Dumme nobelprisvinnere).(1) The article puts the technique in a less than flattering light.

The article was about Nobel Prize winners who promote or support pseudoscience and quackery. Quite a number of prize winners have done so over the years. So much so that the phenomenon has got a name: The Nobel Disease.

The most well known cases are Linus Pauling and Luc Montagnier. Pauling was twice Nobel Laureate, winning the prize for chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Piece prize in 1962. He is probably most famous for claiming health benefits from taking large doses of vitamin C, thus being a proponent of a dubious alternative health approach which he named 'orthomolecular medicine'. Montagnier was among the scientists discovering the HIV virus and received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2008. He has later been publishing research of questionable character and is a supporter of the totally debunked homoepathy.

With this in mind it does not necessarily count in our favour being endorsed by a Nobel Prize laureate. It is even possible that having recognition from a Nobel Laureate is more of a burden than an advantage, because there is also another reason why it is maybe not so great being associated with Tinbergen's Nobel Prize.

The first part
The article in the Aftenposten newspaper mentioned Tinbergen for supporting the Alexander technique, but this is actually not why he is listed among the sufferers of the Nobel disease.

As most Alexander Technique teachers know, Nikolaas Tinbergen used the second part of his Nobel acceptance lecture to talk about the Alexander Technique.(2) What he said in the beginning is less known. In the first part of his lecture Tinbergen presented the idea that childhood autism has environmental causes. Tinbergen said:
I cannot possibly go into all the evidence, but there are several good indications, firstly, that many autists are potentially normal children, whose affiliation and subsequent socialisation processes have gone wrong in one way or another, and secondly: this can often be traced back to something in the early environment - on occasion a frightening accident, but most often something in the behaviour of the parents, in particular the mothers.

Tinbergen's Nobel lecture has some credibility issues even disregarding what Tinbergen says about the Alexander Technique. But there are also some problems with what he had to say about the technique.

The second part
Although Tinbergen's enthusiastic support for the technique was a scandal in scientific circles, it seems as if the negative reactions came just as much from the Alexander community.(3) In a letter to the New Scientist Patrick MacDonald wrote:
The Alexander technique is an educative process in which the pupil is taught to practice conscious inhibition and direction in the activities of his daily life [...], the whole mainspring of the technique is simply omitted from Professor Tinbergen's catalogue of observation. [...] I, the present senior practising teacher of the technique in this country, cannot allow Professor Tinbergen’s ludicrous description of it in his Nobel address to pass without comment.(4)
Edward Maisel, the editor of a book containg a compilation of Alexander's writings, said in an interview in New Scientist that
Professor Tinbergen's description of what appears to be some form of osteopathic treatment has very little to do with the Alexander Technique.(5)
In his Nobel lecture Tinbergen invariably denotes the Alexander Technique as "therapy", the lessons "treatments" and the pupils "patients". He says about the technique that:
It consists in essence of no more than a very gentle, first exploratory, and then corrective manipulation of the entire muscular system.
It can be hard for anyone to describe the Alexander Technique. One reason for this is that we Alexander Technique teachers traditionally have not differentiated between the technique itself and the method(s) of teaching it. Tinbergen, having at the time of writing had about fifteen lessons,(6) described the lessons as he had experienced them. He did not describe the technique, but the teaching of it. The result is that Tinbergens Nobel lecture may give the reader the wrong impression of what the Alexander Technique actually is. We have to ask ourselves whether Tinbergen's version of the Alexander Technique is something we wish to promote.

When we do use Tinbergen's Nobel lecture in marketing it is usually by quoting what he has to say about the health effects. But this could be problematic as well.

It was Tinbergen's daughter who played the cello who first had Alexander Technique lessons, then subsequently Tinbergen himself after having read Barlow's book 'The Alexander Principle', and his wife.(7) In what is probably the most quoted passage Tinbergen says:
... between the three of us, we already notice, with growing amazement, very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure, breathing, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness, resilience against outside pressures, and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument.
He continues:
So from personal experience we can already confirm some of the seemingly fantastic claims made by Alexander and his followers, namely that many types of under-performance and even ailments, both mental and physical, can be alleviated, sometimes to a surprising extent, by teaching the body musculature to function differently. And although we have by no means finished our course, the evidence given and documented by Alexander and Barlow, of beneficial effects on a variety of vital functions no longer sounds so astonishing to us.
He then goes on to list conditions that may benefit from the technique:
... rheumatism, including various forms of arthritis; but also respiratory troubles, even potentially lethal asthma; following in their wake, circulation defects, which may lead to high blood pressure and also to some dangerous heart conditions; gastro-intestinal disorders of many types; various gynaecological conditions; sexual failures; migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide ...
This list of health claims, without the context of case studies, with not much of a hypothesis about why these improvements occur, from something that could be interpreted as mere manipulations, and for even potentially lethal conditions, gives a whiff of snake oil. Go to any site on the internet promoting an alternative therapy and you could find similar lists.

The Alexander Technique definitely has an impact on health, as proven by the positive results from the ATEAM trial on Alexander Technique and back pain. Had Tinbergen's list been restricted to musculoskeletal and associated disorders, there would have been no problem. But what about 'potentially lethal asthma', 'dangerous heart conditions' and 'depressive states that often lead to suicide'? Tinbergen's claims are highly speculative. Coming from a respected scientist in his Nobel lecture it is even verging on the irresponsible.(8)

What Tinbergen presents is anectodotal evidence. In science, anecdotal evidence is not regarded as evidence. Ironically, Tinbergen is often quoted in connection with Alexander technique and science, but quoting Tinbergen's Nobel lecture does not make the Alexander Technique more 'scientific'. On the contrary, it only shows lacking understanding of scientific principles.

The Reafference Principle
Tinbergen fortunately did give something of scientific value to the Alexander Technique in his Nobel lecture. He proposed that what is called 'The Reafference Principle' may give an explanation to how we go wrong and develop 'faulty sensory appreciation':
There are many strong indications that, at various levels of integration, from single muscle units up to complex behaviour, the correct performance of many movements is continuously checked by the brain. It does this by comparing a feedback report, that says ‘orders carried out’, with the feedback expectation for which, with the initiation of each movement, the brain has been alerted. Only when the expected feedback and the actual feedback match does the brain stop sending out commands for corrective action. Already the discoverers of this principle, von Holst and Mittelstaedt, knew that the functioning of this complex mechanism could vary from moment to moment with the internal state of the subject-the ‘target value’ or Sollwert of the expected feedback changes with the motor commands that are given. But what Alexander has discovered beyond this is that a lifelong mis-use of the body muscles (such as caused by, for instance, too much sitting and too little walking) can make the entire system go wrong. As a consequence, reports that ‘all is correct’ are received by the brain (or perhaps interpreted as correct) when in fact all is very wrong. A person can feel ‘at ease’ e.g. when slouching in front of a television set, when in fact he is grossly abusing his body.(9)
The reafference principle can be seen as related to control theory and cybernetics. Tinbergen may be said to have contributed to a modern explanatory model of the technique. Sadly it is Tinbergen's claims about health effects that are quoted from his lecture, not his scientific contribution.

The logical fallacy
I have mentioned the link between Nobel Prize winners, alternative therapies and quackery, and I have discussed the content of Tinbergen's Nobel lecture. But there is yet another reason why we should stop quoting Tinbergen as a means of marketing ourselves.

Tinbergen is an expert, but he is not an expert on the technique. He is only quoted because he is a Nobel Prize winner. This is appeal to authority and a logial fallacy.

Appealing to authority is a much loved sport among alternative therapies. It is probably something they resort to in desperation, not having any solid evidence for what they do. It is also very tempting to resort to this kind of marketing since people in general try alternative therapies based on what other people say and do.(10) STAT, The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, has gone down this route too, by printing a booklet  containing stories about famous people who have had lessons. I think the money could have been spent more wisely.

Michael Bloch says in his biography about F.M. Alexander that Tinbergen's Nobel lecture was a turning point in the history of the technique. It gave the technique an unprecedented level of publicity. I think the question is whether it now better serves us for educational and not for marketing purposes.

Please feel free to comment below.

Related blogg articles:
Snåsakoden (Norwegian)

1) The name of the newspaper is Aftenposten. The article was published on the science pages and the author was Kristian Gundersen, a professor in biology. Gundersen is also the author of a book that can be seen as the Norwegian parallell to 'Trick or Treatment' by Singh and Ernst. In the book Gundersen spends quite a few pages on the Alexander Technique. Although he has some valuable points, his knowledge and understanding of the Alexander Technique is very limited. I have written about the book, Snåsakoden, on my blog (Sorry, Norwegian only).

2) Tinbergens nobel lecture, Ethology and Stress Diseases, was given in December 1973, but is often referenced by its publishing date in Science 1974. The last third (not the last half as is often said) which is about the technique, was published with minor alterations in Barlow's compilation of Alexander Technique related articles, 'More Talk of Alexander' 1978.

3) Gerald Foley discusses the controversy in the second of three articles on Tinbergen and the Alexander Technique: No 22 NIKOLAAS TINBERGEN (II)

4) Patrick MacDonald in 'Tinbergen on Alexander technique', Letters, New Scientist November 14 1974.

5) Edward Maisel made the statement in an interview with The New Scientist magazine:

6) The number of lessons Tinbergen had had is mentioned in Gerald Foley's first article about Tinbergen: No 21 NIKOLAAS TINBERGEN (1907-1988) (I)

7) Geralds Foley's first article is also my source for the information about how Tinbergen ended up having lessons: No 21 NIKOLAAS TINBERGEN (1907-1988) (I)

8) The article in the Norwegian newspaper by professor Kristian Gundersen especially mentioned the claim of curing asthma. This is probably because there is a Review in the Cochrane database on 'Alexander technique for chronic asthma'. As there are no trials performed, there is no meta-analysis. There is a pilot study showing improved breathing function in healthy individuals, but there is not yet any scientific evidence that the Alexander Technique can help against asthma. In Norway, a claim about effect on a specific diagnosis would be illegal. There are some Alexander Technique teachers around the world that make the claim. This is a problem.
I made a short reply to Gundersen's article that was printed the week after:

9) The Re-Afference Principle was proposed Holst and Mittelstaedt in this 1950 article:

10) Ernst and Pittler published a paper which they (somewhat jokingly) titled Celebrity-based Medicine in which they suggest that one reason people choose alternative therapies is because they imitate celebrities.

Barlow, Wilfred 1978 More Talk of Alexander. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd
Bloch, Michael 2004 F.M.: The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander: Founder of the Alexander Technique. Little Brown Publishing Group.
Lewin, Roger (1974) Did Nobelist go too far in advocating Alexander technique? - New Scientist, 31 October 
MacDonald, Peter (1974) Letters, Tinbergen on Alexander – New Scientist 14 November
Tinbergen, Nikolaas (1973) Ethology and stress diseases: Nobel Lecture

søndag 14. juni 2015

Dumme nobelprisvinnere

I artikkelen «Uviten: Dumme nobelprisvinnere» i Aftenposten torsdag 11. juni skriver professor i biologi Kristian Gundersen om nobelprisvinnere som har fremmet pseudovitenskap og kvakksalveri . Opp gjennom årene er listen blitt ganske lang. Fenomenet er blitt kalt «the nobel disease»

De mest kjente tilfellene er Linus Pauling og Luc Montaginer. Pauling fikk nobelprisen i kjemi i 1954 og fredsprisen i 1962, men er siden blitt mest kjent for sine påstander om helbredende virkning av høye doser av C-vitamin. Montagnier fikk nobelprisen i medisin etter å ha vært med på å oppdage HIV-viruset. Siden har han henfalt til å promotere homeopati.

Som enda et tilfelle av «nobelsyke» nevner Kristian Gundersen nobelprisvinner Nikolaas Tinbergen. Tinbergen fikk nobelprisen i fysiologi og medisin i 1973 for sitt arbeide innen adferdsforskning. Tinbergen brukte andre halvdel av sitt nobelforedrag til å snakke om Alexanderteknikken. Gundersen skriver i Aftenposten:
Adferdsbiologen Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907–1988) fikk fysiologiprisen i 1973, og brukte store deler av sitt nobelforedrag på å fremme den såkalte Alexanderteknikken som angivelig hadde helbredet ham selv og familien.
Det Gundersen synes å være uvitende om, er at Tinbergen i ettertid slettes ikke er blitt diagnostisert for «nobelsyke» på grunn av sin støtte til Alexanderteknikken, men på grunn av sine påstander i første halvdel av nobelforedraget. I foredragets første del hevder Tinbergen at autisme har psykososiale årsaker og at tilstanden kan helbredes ved terapi.

Tinbergen sier:
I cannot possibly go into all the evidence, but there are several good indications, firstly, that many autists are potentially normal children, whose affiliation and subsequent socialisation processes have gone wrong in one way or another, and secondly: this can often be traced back to something in the early environment - on occasion a frightening accident, but most often something in the behaviour of the parents, in particular the mothers (Tinbergen 1973).
Very soon our work led us to conclusions which went against the majority opinion, and we formulated proposals about therapies which, with few exceptions, had not so far been tried out. And I can already say that, where these treatments have been applied, they are leading to highly promising results, and we feel that we begin to see a glimmer of hope (ibid).
Tinbergens påstander er siden blitt diskreditert og han har mistet troverdighet. Alexanderteknikk-lærere, i likhet med Gundersen, er i stor grad uvitende om dette og fortsetter å bruke Tinbergen som eksempel når de promoterer teknikken. Gundersen skriver:
Disse nobelprisvinnerne brukes selvsagt av tilhengerne av Alexandermetoden, vitaminbehandling og homeopati,
Det er ikke sikkert at det er til fordel for Alexanderteknikken å henvise til Tinbergens nobeltale. Det er ikke bare på grunn av hans syn på autisme. Tinbergens presentasjon av Alexanderteknikken er også problematisk.

Terapi, behandling og massasje
Å bruke sin nobelpristale til å promotere Alexanderteknikken var selvfølgelig en skandale. Men interessant nok ser den sterkeste kritikken ut til å ha kommet fra deler av Alexanderteknikk-miljøet.

Patrick MacDonald skrev i et brev til New Scientist at han som erfaren lærer i Alexanderteknikken ikke kunne tillate
Professor Tinbergen’s ludicrous description of it in his Nobel address to pass without comment (Letters, Tinbergen on Alexander technique, (New Scientist November 14 1974).
Edward Maisel, som ikke var lærer, men som redigerte og utga en samling av Alexanders bøker og hadde god innsikt i teknikken, uttalte til New Scientist at
Professor Tinbergen's description of what appears to be some form of osteopathic treatment has very little to do with the Alexander Technique (Did nobelist go too far in advocating Alexander Technique? New Scientist, october 31 1974).
Tinbergen skriver i sin nobeltale om Alexanderteknikken at
It consists in essence of no more than a very gentle, first exploratory, and then corrective manipulation of the entire muscular system (Tinbergen 1973).
Tinbergen beskriver undervisningen slik han har opplevd den, ikke Alexanderteknikken. På det tidspunkt talen ble skrevet hadde han hatt ca. 15 timer over noen måneder. Det er synd (og betenkelig) at han i løpet av den tiden ikke hadde fått mer klarhet i hva teknikken handler om.

I nobelforedraget kaller Tinbergen Alexanderteknikken konsekvent for «therapy», timene for «treatment» og elevene for «patients». Dette bidrar til å gi feil inntrykk av hva Alexanderteknikken er. Manuskriptet til nobeltalen skal vistnok ha blitt gjennomlest av en Alexanderteknikk-lærer. Det er merkelig at slike feil fikk passere.

Problematisk er også listen som Tinbergen presenterer over tilstander Alexanderteknikken skulle kunne hjelpe mot:
... rheumatism, including various forms of arthritis; but also respiratory troubles, even potentially lethal asthma; following in their wake, circulation defects, which may lead to high blood pressure and also to some dangerous heart conditions; gastro-intestinal disorders of many types; various gynaecological conditions; sexual failures; migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide ... (Tinbergen 1973)
Å presentere anekdotisk bevis i form av case-studies kan være på sin plass, men en slik vidtfavnende liste får eim av kvakksalveri.

Kristian Gundersen nevner astma spesifikt i sin artikkel:
Teknikken ble utviklet av skuespilleren Frederick M. Alexander (1869–1955), basert på erfaringer fra scenen. Holdningsøvelser skulle visstnok helbrede blant annet astma.»
I motsetning til Gundersens kommentarer i Snåsakoden er henvisningen til astma her relevant. Tinbergen skriver i sin nobeltale at teknikken kan hjelpe mot «potentially lethal asthma». En slik påstand er uakseptabel. Per dags dato finnes ikke dokumentasjon på at Alexanderteknikken hjelper mot astma. I Norge er det forøvrig forbudt å påstå bedring av spesifikke diagnoser. Meg bekjent er det ingen Alexanderteknikk-lærere i Norge som fremmer påstanden. Vi bør kanskje heller ikke fremme den gjennom å promotere Tinbergens nobeltale.

Kristian Gundersen skriver at Tinbergen hevdet at Alexanderteknikken hadde «helbredet» ham og hans familie. Det var Tinbergens datter som spilte cello som først hadde timer, sidenTinbergen og hans kone. Tinbergen skriver:
... between the three of us, we already notice, with growing amazement, very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure, breathing, depth of sleep,overall cheerfulness and mental alertness, resilience against outside pressures, and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument (Tinbergen 1973).
Jeg vet ikke hva Gundersen mener Tinbergen ble «helbredet» for, men det er kanskje en riktig beskrivelse av hvordan Tinbergen følte seg. Jeg kan forestille meg, om jeg skal spekulere litt, at Tinbergen var en akademiker med begrenset kroppsbevissthet som opplevde effekten av Alexanderteknikk-timene som svært frigjørende. Ett år etter nobeltalen sier Tinbergen til New Scientist at 
observations over the past year had, if anything, strengthened me in my conviction the Alexander Technique often has beneficial effects (Letters, New Scientist 14. november 1974). 
Tinbergen fortsatte å ha timer i Alexanderteknikk fram til han fikk hjerneslag i 1983. Han døde i 1988, 81 år gammel.

I sin nobeltale foreslår Tinbergen at det som kalles «the reafference principle» kan ligge til grunn for noe av mekanismen bak Alexanderteknikken. Prinsippet er viktig for kontroll av bevegelser og kan være med å forklare hvordan vaner oppstår og hvordan de kan endres. Tinbergen har således vært med på å bidra til en moderne forklaringsmodell for Alexanderteknikken.

Dessverre er det Tinbergens uvitenskapelige påstander om helseeffekt som er blitt brukt av Alexanderteknikk-lærere i ettertid, ikke hans vitenskapelige bidrag. Tinbergens entusiasme for Alexanderteknikken ble overskyggende. Kristian Gundersen stiller spørsmål i sin artikkel om «Dumme nobelprisvinnere»: 
Gikk berømmelsen dem til hodet, eller mistet de sin kritiske sans når de kom utenfor sitt eget felt og baserte seg på private erfaringer?
Tinbergen forsøkte i sitt nobelforedrag å bruke sin erfaring som adferdsbiolog og vitenskapsmann når han omtalte Alexanderteknikken. Sin erfaring i «watching and wondering». Dessverre lykkes han ikke særlig godt med det. Hans entusiasme for Alexanderteknikken gikk ham til hodet.

Kristian Gundersen er selvfølgelig mye mer nøktern i sin omtale av Alexanderteknikken. Men det hindrer ham ikke i å gjøre feil. I artikkelen i Aftenposten kaller Gundersen Alexanderteknikken «holdningsøvelser». Alle som har litt greie på Alexanderteknikken vet at dette er ikke er riktig. Alexanderteknikken går ut på å endre stereotype reaksjonsmåter. Når du gjør øvelser risikerer du å styrke stereotype reaksjonsmåter heller enn å svekke dem. Alexanderteknikken er mer en anti-øvelsesstrategi. Jeg skrev om Alexanderteknikk og øvelser i forrige blogginnlegg.

Gundersen baserer antagelig sin beskrivelse på definisjonen av Alexanderteknikken i NOU 1998:21 Alternativ behandling, og som er gjentatt i Ot.prp. nr. 27 (2002-2003) Om lov om alternativ behandling mv., vedlegg nr. 2. Definisjonen lyder: 
Alexanderteknikk er en manipulering av muskler og holdningsøvelser mot smerter i rygg/skjelett. 
Denne definisjonen er latterlig. At Gundersen støtter seg til en slik definisjon viser helt tydelig at hans kjenskap til Alexanderteknikken er ytterst overfladisk. Til Gundersens forsvar må man påpeke at han, i motsetning til Tinbergen, ikke har hatt timer i Alexanderteknikk.

Vitenskapelig belegg
Kristian Gundersen skriver om Alexanderteknikken at
Teknikken har tilhengere også i Norge, men det er fremdeles ikke noe vitenskapelig belegg for påstandene. 
Det er usikkert om Gundersen med «påstandende» viser til astma omtalt i foregående setning. I og med at han sier påstander i flertall får man inntrykk av at han mener påstander om helseeffekt generelt. Da er han, som han dessverre vanligvis er når han omtaler Alexanderteknikken, upresis.

Forskningen på Alexanderteknikk er begrenset, men det finnes i alle fall to randomiserte kontrollerte studier som viser positiv effekt. En stor studie publisert i British Medical Journal i 2008 viser at Alexanderteknikk har effekt på ryggsmerter, og en noe mindre studie viser at Alexanderteknikken kan være til hjelp for personer med parkinsons.

Ingen av studiene er til nå reprodusert, så her er det ikke snakk om vitenskapelig bevis, men vi kan i alle fall slå fast at det finnes vitenskapelig belegg for en viss helsemessig effekt. Dermed beviser Gundersen påstanden i sin egen artikkel: Det hjelper ikke være nobelprisvinner eller professor, man kan ta feil likevel.

Relaterte blogginnlegg


Kristian Gundersen, Aftenposten torsdag 11. juni 2015

Nikolaas Tinbergen, Nobel Lecture, December 12, 1973

Artikkel av Gerald Foley som beskriver debatten i etterkant av Tinbergens nobeltale

Patrick Macdonalds brev i New Scientist
Letters, Tinbergen on Alexander technique, New Scientist November 14 1974 

Edward Maisel intervjuet i New Scientist, 31. oktober 1974
Tinbergens svar på kritikk i New Scientist
Tinbergen on Alexander. New Scientist november 14 1974

Artikkel av Gerald Foley som disktuerer Tinbergens mulige innflytelse

Kritikk av definisjonen av Alexanderteknikken i NOU 1998:21 og Ot.prp. nr. 27 (2002-2003): NOU 1998-21 Alternativ medisin 

Forskning på Alexanderteknikk og Parkinsons

lørdag 6. juni 2015

Exercise or experiment

We often say that there are no exercises in the Alexander Technique. This is not entirely correct. We have some exercises, like 'the whispered ah' or 'hands on the back of a chair' that are especially designed for practicing the technique. Lying down in 'semisupine' or 'constructive rest' can also be regarded as an exercise.

The point is that doing these exercises, or 'procedures' as we prefer to call them, is not the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is a way of thinking you can apply when doing the exercises, or any other exercise for that matter. For instance, you are not really doing the Alexander Technique when lying down in the constructive rest position unless you are applying this thinking process.

Another point is that you don't have to do any particular exercise to learn the Alexander Technique, you can apply the technique to any activity you like.

This does not mean that you don't have to practice the Alexander Technique to learn it. You do. The Alexander Technique is a skill, like learning to drive a car or play a musical instrument. The more you practice, the more you get out of it. To practice, you can use any activity as an exercise, but the way you go about it is very important. The fact is that exercises can be dangerous. (I'm not joking, I'm a musician and I know what I'm talking about).

There are some exercises which in themselves are bad, but I'm not going to write about them in this connection. What's important to realise is that any exercise is bad if done badly, and the problem is that that is very easily done. Performing exercises entails repeating the same pattern over and over again. Normally you repeat it in more or less the same manner every time, thereby not only strengthening your good habits, but also your bad ones.

People coming for lessons in the Alexander Technique come with a problem, often they are in pain. Very often, I would say normally, they have tried to solve this problem by doing exercises of some sort. 
Physical exercises of some sort, can be very helpful when dealing with musculoskeletal problems. But contrary to common beliefs it is very rarely the strengthening or stretching of particular muscles that solves the problem. The increased demand put on the system may stimulate a positive change because that is the way our bodies are designed to react. This is why physical activity in itself is a good thing, specific exercises are not necessarily that important.

But there is less positive change if the way we use our musculoskeletal system is hampered by bad habits. Performing exercises badly may cancel out the benefits of general physical activity. This is especially the case when there are musculoskeletal problems that were caused by bad habits of movement. Someone in pain performing exercises badly might unwittingly be strengthening the very habits that caused the pain in the first place. This aggravates the problem and they get stuck.

The problem with specific exercises is that you are looking for a specific result, a specific effect or feeling. This is like doing an experiment and deciding beforehand what result you are wanting to get. Or you could compare it to choosing to go the same route as before even though first time around you ended up in the wrong place. For change to happen, we have to be open to the possibility of any unexpected outcomes.

This means that the best way to go about exercises is not to treat them as exercises, (which is why we say that we haven't got exercises in the Alexander Technique), but to regard any exercise as an experiment.

Performing an experiment means that you consciously follow a certain procedure, staying aware and open to any possible outcomes. While collecting data you suspend judgement. Afterwards you can consider whether to make adjustments. It is a good idea to take frequent breaks and to avoid too many repetitions as they tend to lower the level of awareness.

So, go on practicing the Alexander Technique as much as you can, but don't do exercises, perform experiments instead!

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