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Concept Spotlight: Sensory Appreciation

by Ellen on August 17th, 2011

Sensory Appreciation can be colloquially described as our “sense of feeling.” The information received from the senses, and how we perceive that information, come together to give us a general sense of how something “feels” or “seems” to us. Alexander’s argument is that through the gradual deterioration of our standard of physical use, our sensory appreciation has become unreliable. Whatever we are used to feeling is what will feel “right” to us, regardless of whether it IS right. Therefore, we cannot rely on our feeling to help us make changes, since we can no longer be sure that we are in fact doing what we think we are doing. A man who has always stood pitched forward will feel that he is on the verge of falling over backward when he is really at a true vertical, and a woman with scoliosis may feel crooked and off-kilter when she is really perfectly even.

Since our sensory appreciation cannot be trusted, we must rely on outside observers to tell us whether we are truly where we think we are. Alexander used a three-way mirror and careful observation to make the initial changes to his own use, but students today have the luxury of a teacher to tell them when they are poised and lengthened, and to show them via a mirror when words fail to convince them. In this way, students of the Technique gradually train their sensory appreciation to be reliable again, and can eventually go out into the world secure in the knowledge that what they perceive is true to what is occurring.

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