There are two main features of the Procedures developed by Raymond Dart. The first is spirality. At the outset of his writings about the Double Spiral Arrangement of Voluntary Musculature, Dart highlights that spirality is revealed in the cosmos, in galaxies, in migratory movements of humans in history as well as in details of our human anatomy, for example in our ears and our bones. Although we have an equal set of muscles on each side of the body, and voluntary muscles do not cross the midline, there are tractional links that travel around the body linking one side to the other. For example, the line of traction of the external oblique muscle of the right-side links to the internal oblique muscle of the left-side (which is located underneath the external oblique of the left side, i.e. it is at a slightly deeper level). These spiral muscle arrangements also fan out along the limbs – seen in the lower part of the arm and the upper part of the leg. These lines of muscle traction are essentially spiralic. This means that we have a set of muscle connections that rotate us leftwards which is a tendency favoured by right-handed people, and a matching set that rotate us rightwards. Leftwards and Rightwards, of course, being only meaningful in relation to our primary axis or central line. The significance of that central axis being emphasised by the Alexander Technique.
The other main context is our bilateral symmetry which is essentially related once more to our central body axis. Almost all animals are bilaterally symmetrical. Although it is difficult to assess the sided dominance of many animals, some do reveal sided preferences. It is often not so obvious in animals which side is dominant for them (we are told that Polar Bears are all left-handed, for example), yet in humans it is often much easier to detect. Humans are generally dominant on one side or the other and since we are normally functioning on two legs, the sidedness is usually referred to as handedness and 90% of humans are right-handed and 10% left-handed. This sided dominance has hidden but significant effects on our general use and functioning.
These two factors, spirality in our structure, and bilateral symmetry can be explored empirically by employing the Procedures Dart developed. If we then add in the essential features of the Alexander Technique, we get a very rich realm of movement exploration which is both fun to work with and can even have therapeutic effects.
In the Dart Procedures we travel from a context of complete security, we lie out on the ground where there is no-where to fall to, to utter precariousness where we balance up on the ball of one foot with our eyes closed, where there is everywhere to fall to. And in travelling through this programme we encounter a series of levels of development related to the lengths of our bones that support us up and away from the surface of the Earth. At each level we need to establish our security of balance so that we shall not fall down and have potentially harmful collisions with the planet – especially that of our head. And at each level we are encouraged to determine what range of action is available to us at that level with regard to the need to retain our balance and body integrity, which in effect are restraints on the range available. For example, if I am on all 4s and wish to reach out with an arm then beyond a certain range of reach I will find I will be toppling over back down onto the ground.
So, we begin with acknowledgement of our primary central axis, our head and spine and pelvis -which, of course, includes the neck as the uppermost part of the vertebral column – and we engage the primary directions of Alexander to both avoid compromising the length of the spine, and also to promote, by conscious wishing, any lengthening necessary to extricate ourselves from any lingering shortening of the spine that may have inadvertently arisen from our habitual use of ourselves.
Having established our central axis, we can then begin to explore our bilaterality. So, we allow our limbs to travel across the surface to find out what range is possible for us and where are our limits. After that we begin to explore the way our body can spiral. This can possibly begin from our head or possibly from our feet. Also, it is even possible to start from the hands and fingers. We are not “just doing movements”, we are instead examining how our body is able to move in both range and fluidity of action. We are not interested to try to extend our range directly by any forceful actions, but instead we wish to observe exactly where our limits are, and invite ourselves to release more to permit the range to possibly extend indirectly. Our primary concern is always to avoid compromising the central axis of the body and especially retain freedom for potential action in the upper part of the neck and neck-to-head region.
In carrying out this exploration with patience and persistence it is possible to unmask many unnoticed restrictions of movement and enjoy greater fluidity and range of actions that can then be brought to every moment of all our activities in life.