Watch and Wonder

Back in the Dark Ages (1973 to be precise), the Dutch ethologist and ornithologist Nikolaas Tinbergen devoted half of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to describing and praising the Alexander Technique. According to Tinbergen, FM Alexander’s remarkable story – of losing his voice, observing himself closely over a long period of time, and ultimately arriving at the conclusion that by preventing the tendency to pull his head back and down he could improve his overall use of himself AND teach others to do the same – was “one of the true epics of medical research and practice.”

What was so amazing about this, other than the fact that this careful and ground-breaking research was carried out by a man with no medical or scientific training? Regardless of education or background, Alexander had embodied the scientific principle of “watch and wonder” which, according to Tinbergen, was sorely lacking in the contemporary medical and scientific communities.

His assertions probably didn’t endear him to his colleagues, especially not this one:

Medical science and practice meet with a growing sense of unease and of lack of confidence from the side of the general public. The causes of this are complex, but at least in one respect the situation could be improved: a little more open-mindedness, a little more collaboration with other biological sciences, a little more attention to the body as a whole, and to the unity of body and mind, could substantially enrich the field of medical research. [Text and video of the speech are available here.]

Medical science, in some cases, has taken this message to heart. Click here for a listing of recently completed scientific studies on the Alexander Technique’s benefits for people with Parkinson’s Disease and back pain.

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