A student came in the other day for her weekly lesson with a good question. She had just read a recent article in Forbes magazine about the Alexander Technique. In the article, it mentioned the word poise.
What does poise mean? she asked.
Good question, I answered.
And then proceeded to ask her if she described someone as being poised, what did that mean to her?
She said she thought of a ballerina. Someone who not only moved gracefully but also invited a certain amount of attention from those around her.
A quick Google search for synonyms of poise comes up with among other words, the following: calmness; elegance; grace; balance; presence.
Alexander teachers historically have shunned the word posture to describe what the Technique is about.
This is because as a culture, we tend to associate the word posture with a fixed and right position of the body.
And the way the Alexander Technique defines and approaches posture, posture is not a position.
Not only is it not a position, but posture also is not just about your physical self. Posture is about the connection between your mind and your body—the connection between how you think and how you move.
So, in place of the word posture, teachers often prefer to use the word poise.
Imagine back to when you were a kid and you tried walking the rails. Sometimes it was so easy, it seemed effortless. On other days, you’d be flailing all over the place trying to find your balance.
When it was easy, you had somehow found poise.
When you were struggling, not so much.
You often hear top-level athletes describe experiences of “being in the zone”. When they are “in the zone”, things are just easy. Not just physically, but mentally as well. No struggling and straining.
What the Alexander Technique teaches us is a set of skills—a Technique—to help find that poise and be in the zone—both mentally and physically—more often, and not have it be just blind luck.