Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") refers in its broadest sense to any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique or practice.
I took this broad definition from Wikipedia as a starting point for some elaborate considerations about the Alexander Technique. AT teachers often underestimate how few people have even heard about it, which is not too surprising. Their customers obviously know about the technique, and depending on the amounts of students a teacher cares for, there might be not too much need to promote the technique.
The holistic approach of AT does not fit easily into the fragmented approach of nowadays science. The idea of psycho-physical unity seems to fit better into religious or spiritual concepts than into science. Physics takes care of physical aspects of universe, psychology about the 'mental' aspects, biology takes takes care about the 'living' aspect of our experiences.
Yet physics, describing the interaction of various forces in universe, fails to predict the qualities emerging from chemical reactions. No problem, that's what we have chemistry for. Chemistry, however, fails to explain how complex chemical reactions create living systems. No problem either, living systems fall into the domain of biology. But biology can't really explain or predict the behaviour of living systems, especially the wonderful world of human behaviour. Now that's what we have psychology for, isn't it? Again, psychology doesn't have to much prediction power when it comes to consciousness.
Yet consciousness plays a major role in the Alexander Technique, and as John Dewey mentioned in his introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, FM's scientific approach towards psycho-physical unity is a new one. The strict division of scientific disciplines in physics, chemistry and biology has changed a bit since then, although psychology is still not considered as much of a 'hard' science than the former three.
The diversified disciplines slowly merge back together, the terms bio-physics and bio-chemistry regain a bit more wholeness in exploring the phenomenom of life. Especially neuroscience dares to go back to where it all started: consciousness. However, it takes some time before 'scientific revolutions' enter the domain of common and commonly accepted knowledge.
A telling example of the lag between new knowledge and its acceptance is the 'Copernican revolution', which moved the flat earth out of the centre of the universe. Our planet seems quite solid, although we should know since Copernicus and Galilei that it's rather a fast moving spaceship than an immovable point of reference. Yet, in our language the sun still 'rises' and 'sets', while as a matter of fact, the spin of the earth determines ths sun's visibility.
If mankind as whole still denies integrating this elementary, century old knowledge into its language, then the implications arising from Einstein's and Heisenberg's findings will take many, many generations before they are integrated into mankind's knowledge systems. You may wonder why Einstein and Heisenberg have relevance for the Alexander Technique, and I'd like to offer you some suggestions.
Most people simply assume that 'things' that have names exist, and that differently named 'things' can be separated. Physics assumed the 'existence' of space, time and matter, and we still use this terms casually as if they could be independent 'things' or 'concepts'. Einstein claimed in his relativity theory that space and time can only be considered together, and even more radical, that matter is part of this space-time continuum. In Einstein's idea of universe, space, time and matter express only aspects of a holistic universe, as a physicists he could get away with just wondering about consciousness, and wasn't pushed into including this funny 'thing' into a theory about everything.
Heisenberg, who based his 'uncertainty principle' on an understanding of Einstein's relativity theory, realised that this unity implied that any existence depends on observation, or in short form: The observer influences the experiment. We really don't know until we have a closer look.
The virtual distinction of space, time and matter can not be proven, and the same applies for the idea of the separation of 'body' and 'mind'. But, as Heisenberg stated, the observer influences the experiment. If we observe our life as if body and mind were distinct entities, we severe the connections within ourselves to 'prove our point'. Modern psychology named the consequences of this experimental assumption 'mind-body dissassociation', one of many diseases we invented by trying to observe things from a restricted perspective.
Science can only deliver a limited amount of predictability, but never certainty. Religion offered certainty about the unknown, and thus stopped a lot of people from finding out for themselves. As learning beings we seem to have an innate desire for knowledge, maybe this desire made the concept of certainty so attractive to mankind as a species. Language fosters the transfer and preservation of knowledge, but it has its flaws on its own, like Alfred Korzybski explained in his ideas about General Semantics.
Many people, disappointed by the apparent inability of religion to 'explain everything', put their faith now in science, still hoping their desire for certainty could be fulfilled. But the only certainty in life, so it seems, or death and taxes (and I'm optimistic enough to assume even this hypothesis as wrong). If we want to know, we either have to find out for ourselves or believe in other's ideas. It doesn't make a big deal of difference to me whether one believes in what priests or scientists say, yet it makes a great difference to me whether someone assumes uncertainty or certainty.
FM Alexander didn't know how his hoarseness came about, and nobody could tell him, so he tried to find out for himself. He developed some ideas and put them to test. The mistakes that he made were as important as the conclusions he came to. Knowing that he didn't know, the method of attaining knowledge (about himself and/or humans in general) was more important than any 'certain' finding.
From a scientific point of view, FM Alexanders idea can be condensed a lot. There are two basic premises in his ideas:
- Humans act as psycho-physical unities
- All movement originates from the head (Primary control)
By experimentation he came up with some corrolaries:
- Most interference is habitual
- Sensory feedback of the quality of movement is unreliable (Faulty sensory appreciation)
- Awareness of habitual interference allows to stop the interference (Inhibition)
This leads to some predictions:
- Interference with the primary control negatively affects the health of a human
- Movement pattern organised in accordance with the primary control are more efficient than those that interfere with the primary control
- Changing habits changes the functioning of the whole organism (Neuroplasticity)
- Changing the habit of relying on sensory feedback towards organising movement with minimal interference of the primary control will improve health and functioning in long term. (Conscious control by directing)
As long as we don't exchange our believe in an omnipotent, omniscient 'god' by faith into infallible science, but follow the scientific method, nothing stops us from refining the knowledge base created by FM Alexander and have its claims systematically scrutinised. My personal experiences with AT so far don't contradict any of the above statements, but are only anecdotal evidence. More scientific research (and potential confirmation of the benefits of AT) can in my point of view only lead to more people willing to find out for themselves.