What is it?
The Alexander Technique is an educational method for improving mental and physical wellbeing. It teaches us how to recapture the ease, and freedom of movement that we enjoyed as young children. Developed by actor F.M.Alexander in the 1890’s, Alexander Technique is the first mind/body approach devised by a westerner – and it remains one of the most powerful.
Principals Behind It
Its basic premise is that the relationship between the head and neck is crucial to balanced posture and ease of movement. We all have this as children, but gradually lose it in response to the stresses and strains of adult life.
Alexander noted that how we move and use our bodies was inextricably bound up with how we think and feel. To describe this he coined the term psychophysical unity. If you are feeling “down” the physical posture could be slumping, which if it is a transitory feeling is not a big deal but over time can create all sorts of problems in the body. What we now call holistic thinking—that the mind and body are one, and while this is nowadays one of the fundamentals of holistic medicine, it puts Alexander far ahead of his time. His genius was not only this realization but the formulation of a series of principles that enable us to become aware of how our unconscious thoughts and physical attitudes affect one another, and how they can be transformed through adoption of different habits.
These principles can be easily applied to improve everything from simple activities like sitting, walking, speaking, to more complex ones skills like tennis, golf, horse back riding, as well as playing musical instruments, acting, dancing, and singing.
How Does It Work?
Through regular one-on-one lessons, students develop awareness of unconscious patterns of body usage that are counterproductive to optimal wellbeing. Using gentle touch and verbal instruction the teacher shows the student how to change these patterns. This gives an experience of ease and freedom that leads to a long-term improvement in psychological and physical functioning.
One of the most important ways Alexander Technique is used is for Pain Management. Going beyond mere treatments for physical problems, Alexander Technique offers the chance to retrain ones body usage in such a way as to gain long term relief from such aliments as:
- Back and neck problems
- Repetitive Strain Injuries
It can be used to accelerate recovery from surgery or injuries caused by accidents. Alexander Technique works holistically. It not only helps alleviate physical suffering but can also help to improve overall health, both physically and psychologically.
In 2008, a major study published by the British Medical Journal showed that the Alexander Technique produced significant long-term benefit for low back pain. This was a scientific randomized controlled trial. View video here »
Although originally regarded as a method to help performers on stage it is now taught at major universities and colleges all over the world. Including Julliard School of Music and Drama, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, Yale Graduate Theatre Program, Bard College, Theatre and Music Departments, U.S.A. The Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London U.K., to name but a few.
- Public speaking and presentation
- Recreational sports
- Horseback riding
Who Was Alexander?
Frederick Mathias Alexander (1869-1955) was a pioneer in the field of holistic health. Originally a successful actor in Australia in the 1890’s, his career was curtailed by increasing bouts of hoarseness on stage. Unable to be helped by conventional medical approaches he devised his own method for solving his vocal problems. As his voice problems resolved he noticed an overall improvement in his health. He began to teach this method in Australia with remarkable success, and in 1904 moved to London, from where his work has spread all over the world.
Many well known people have derived benefits from studying the Alexander Technique, including George Bernard Shaw, John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, Raymond Dart MD., Sir Colin Davies, Kevin Klein, John Cleese, Sting, and William Hurt.
“I find the Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you”
“The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralyzing stage fright”
“The Technique’s many benefits for actors include minimized tension, centeredness, vocal relaxation, responsiveness, mind/body connection and about an inch and a half of additional height.”
“The Alexander Technique can be sustaining; it is something that if learned well, can be carried along with you for the rest of your life. It gives you confidence to be who you are when you are up in front of an audience”
“The Alexander Technique stresses unification in an era of greater and greater medical specialization. Its educational system teaches people how best to use their bodies in ordinary action to avoid or reduce unnecessary stress and pain. It enables clients to get better faster and stay better longer. This is undoubtedly the best way to take care of the back and alleviate back pain.”
Jack Stern, MD, PhD, Neurosurgical Group of Westchester, White Plains, NY
“I think I have given my patients something almost as good as magic. I have taught them what to do and not to do when their backs give them trouble, and how to reduce unnecessary stress and pain. As a result, they no longer have to feel afraid and helpless when back pain occurs. Many consider themselves cured because they have been able to return to an active, normal lifestyle.”
Deborah Caplan, PT certified Alexander Technique teacher, author of Back Trouble
“The technique is not a treatment; it is a discipline that, to be effective, has to be applied to the activities of daily life. The reward is an increase in competence and self esteem and in the sensory satisfaction that accompanies self-knowledge and self-control.”
F.P.Jones. Research Physiologist, Tufts University
“This story of perceptiveness, of intelligence and of persistence shown by a man without medical training, is one of the true epics of medical research and practice.”
Nikolass Tinbergen. 1973 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
“Instead of feeling one’s body to be an aggregation of ill fitting parts, full of friction and dead weights pulling this way and that so as to render mere existence in itself exhausting, the body becomes a coordinated and living whole, composed of well fitting and truly articulated parts.”
Sir Stafford Crips, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer
“We cannot ask for more from any system of physical education, nor, if we seriously desire to change human beings in a desirable direction, can we ask any less.”
“Mr. Alexander has done a service to the subject by persistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psychophysical man. To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely but the total neuromuscular activity of the moment.”
Sir Charles Sherrington Nobel Prize Physiology and Medicine.
“Balance is a vital aspect of good hammer throwing and getting the head, neck, spine and pelvis in the correct relationship enables the balance of the throw to come so much more easily. Once the balance is settled, there is an enormous improvement in turning speed”
Howard Payne, Commonwealth Record Holding Hammer Thrower
“The Alexander Technique remains the best of the self-care strategies to prevent the sequel of poor posture and poor breathing.”
Harold Wise, MD, PC, New York, NY.
Life Energy is the most basic and natural phenomenon in our world. It pervades Nature; is everywhere around us. Life Energy is easy to see in children and animals, and is that force that resides in us and keeps us healthy and happy.
Life Energy is a term used by Dr. John Diamond, but the concept has been known for thousands of years of humanity. The Greeks called Life Energy thymos, and Hippocrates called it vis medicatrix naturae (the healing power of nature). The Chinese identified this power as Chi; the Hindus as Prana; and the Egyptians as Ka. Life Energy is spirit, the vital force we draw in with each breath flowing along the acupuncture meridian system.
Good posture is of fundamental importance to maintaining your Life Energy and having a series of lessons in the Alexander Technique will show you how to do this.
When we are stressed there is a diminution of this energy and an imbalance in the body. If this continues over time, health problems can develop. It is important to realize that stress can spring from a wide array of sources, internal as well as external, but that regardless of the source, stress will manifest in two ways – the physical and the psychological. It is necessary to remove both the source and treat the symptoms before we can make positive and long lasting changes in our lives.
Additional Reading About Alexander Technique
AlexanderTechnique.com – The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique