What is the Alexander Technique?
Our body has been efficiently designed by nature and evolution, but modern life takes its toll on it.
Over the years, through work demands and lifestyle choices, we tend to develop tense habits of movement that cause pain and prevent us from being at our best. With the Alexander Technique, you can learn to undo years of tension and strain accumulated through poor physical use. The Alexander Technique is a practical method that teaches the person to recognise and change patterns of muscular tension, to become naturally coordinated and poised. It works by re-organising the alignment of the head, neck and back to improve postural support and movement.
The main principles of the Alexander Technique:
- the correct alignment of the head, neck and spine is fundamental to your ability to function well
- how you use your body in movement affects how well you function
- becoming more aware of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to prevent harmful postural habits
- the mind and body work together in unity, each constantly influencing the other
A poor, unhealthy, posture results from the poor, unhealthy use we make of our body - collapsed back, tight shoulders, slumped sitting. The Alexander Technique re-organises patterns of chronic tension due to poor postural balance that have unconsciously become fixed, and can cause back and shoulder aches, stiff necks, headaches, sore knees and other ailments that affect our quality of life. The reason we forget to remind ourselves not to slump or the lack of awareness of using excessive muscular tension when moving, is due to lack of body-mind integration. When body and mind are disconnected, the brain does not receive optimum feedback from the body.
When body and mind are disconnected, the brain does not receive optimum feedback from the body.
There is a crucial interaction between our muscles and our brain that helps us balance upright. When muscles tense up, that tension disrupts the sensory information sent to the brain. That can adversely affect balance, and in turn, makes us even tenser. A vicious circle is established. Learning the Alexander Technique can help to break this cycle. A teacher of the Technique works with you, showing you how to unlearn bad habits of tightening muscles and slumping the back, to help restore your body’s natural reflexes. During lessons the person learns, physically and verbally through a combination of hands-on guidance and instructions, to understand the way the various parts of the body are connected and affect each other, and how to use these parts more naturally with good coordination of body and mind. As the person understands their own patterns of tension, they will learn about their own good use, and begin to move more freely, with improved postural balance. As they learn to recognise harmful habits they will be able to change those habits into lighter, more fluid movements. The person can begin to change the way they do things by employing the principles of the Alexander Technique in daily tasks either at work, at leisure or at home. They learn to sit, stand, walk, bend and reach, in ways that protect and strengthen bones and muscles in naturally organised movements.
Learning the Alexander Technique
The traditional approach to teaching the Alexander Technique is on a one-to-one basis to enable your individual needs to be addressed. Most people notice improvement straight away and with regular lessons you will effect permanent change. The number of lessons required depends on each individual’s needs and goals. The recommended starting point (perhaps after an introductory lesson or introductory group workshop) is a beginner course of ten lessons, with lessons once or twice a week, in order to start to notice benefits. One can then progress to an intermediate course of 20 to 25 lessons, with lessons on a weekly basis. This should enable the sustaining of lasting results and make continuous self-improvement possible, via further maintenance sessions on an as-needed basis depending on the individual. The Alexander Technique is effective because it is individually tailored to overcome patterns of muscular tension and its benefits are long lasting because the person learns to self-improve. The Technique really puts you in charge of yourself.
Links and further reading
The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique Improve posture Postural Health TrainingA British Medical Journal article outlining a randomised clinical trial of the Alexander Technique