The utilization of primitive positions -- e.g. semi-supine, crawling, creeping etc -- creates the conditions within which it is safe to let muscles go. The upright support system is highly unstable; once it begins to work inefficiently, muscles begin to compensate and it becomes nearly impossible to release the resulting tensions because to do so would compromise balance. But the positions themselves are not enough. During our work in a primitive position we must be alert, we must understand our goal, and we must actively and intelligently think.
We have written in other places about the thinking that is necessary for re-establishing the natural coordination of the musculoskeletal system. F.M. Alexander created his own verbal formula to guide his thinking; the phrases have been taught to students of the Alexander Technique for decades. Here we consider the physiological meaning behind these phrases.
The Primary Directions
When we perform actions, we tend to tighten muscles and interfere with the natural working of the muscular system. By projecting mental orders, or "directions," we prevent these tensions and bring about a more coordinated working of the body.
You can "direct" body parts in a number of ways, i.e., "lengthen the fingers," "brighten the eyes." You can also work with directions in many different ways, as when we focus on a part of the body, or explore particular kinds of movements. There are, however, four main directions that relate specifically to the postural neuromuscular reflex system. Because these directions are so central to the working of the musculoskeletal system, it's important to think about them and what they mean; with time, they take on more and more meaning, and begin to work in a very definite way. The directions are:
Let the neck be free
To let the head go forward and up
To let the back lengthen and widen