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Alleviating Tech-Related Stress with the Alexander Technique

By Judith Muir

Illustration by Tatyana Starikova

Originally Published in Organic Hudson Valley Edition 15, April/May 2016

Alexander Technique Blogpost Picture

Whether a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop is your go-to favorite, there’s no doubt about it: technical devices are a vital part of how modern society works, plays and communicates. Unfortunately, the equipment also is a major contributor of physical and emotional stresses.

The problem lies in the repeated and often-held positions people take for extended periods of time when the use technical devices, such as hunching over, leaning to one side, or hanging their head down, the latter leaving some people with what’s now known as tech neck or text neck – the back, neck, and shoulder strain caused by dropping one’s head to view a screen. Worse, the use of technical equipment often is tied to people’s careers, intensifying their use of the devices, which furthers tension on the body, causing pain and contributing to lower emotional and mental states.

To counter the tendency to lapse into an awkward position when using technical gear, it’s helpful to be mindful of one’s posture, especially when done as part of the Alexander Technique, a practice that was developed more than a century ago by a young Australian actor, Frederick Matthias Alexander, and is based on activating the basic principles that govern human functioning and well-being.

By teaching people how to increase their body/mind awareness, switch off patterns of stress and tension, activate beneficial postural mechanisms and connect with muscular activity, the Alexander Technique can help alleviate or prevent stresses associated with everyday movements, including those related to the use of technical equipment.

Beyond physical issues, working with technical devices also has an effect on people’s emotional well-being. One working paper “iPosture: The Size of Electronic Consumer Devices Affects Our Behavior” (Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-097, May 2013), by Maarten W. Bos and Amy J.C. Cuddy, found the smaller the technical device used was, the more inward a person’s posture and attitude became, which goes against the heart of what users want from their devices in the first place: maximum communications and productivity.

By following the principles of the Alexander Technique, people can learn how to make practical changes for optimal movement, productivity, and well-being, including the best way to hold and use devices and other equipment, plus ideal sitting, bending, standing, and walking postures, thereby avoiding discomfort and pain. In fact, reports show that practicing the Alexander Technique not only improves one’s physical condition, but also emotional and mental states, resulting in heightened self-esteem, productivity, and social connections.

Whatever your favorite technical device is, there’s no need to sacrifice health for productivity. By being aware of the way you interact with your gear and acting on the essential principles of movement and well-being, productivity and wellness are within grasp.

Five Reasons Why Golfers Should Learn The Alexander Technique

“If you’ve not tried The Alexander Technique yet, you’re missing out big time!”

You may not have heard of The Alexander Technique, but this innovative system of movement re-education could work wonders for your golf. The benefits for the golfer are many, but how can a technique developed by an actor as long ago as the 1890s help your game? Here are five reasons why you should seriously consider learning this remarkable, yet underrated technique.

1. Reduce The Risk Of Injury
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as an injury that stops you playing the game you love; with the exception of a recurring injury! Most golfing injuries are due to overuse of certain muscles due to poor technique and movement. Lessons in The Alexander Technique will show you how to move with much less effort dramatically reducing the stresses and strains you unknowingly place on your muscles and joints.
2. Improve Your Technique
As you learn how to eliminate inappropriate muscle actions with the technique, your coordination and timing will improve. I see many golfers fail to reach their potential because of poor body control. For example, many players unknowingly use excessive effort to swing with the effect of contracting muscles that should be letting go to facilitate rotation and develop power. This is a bit like trying to drive your car with the brake on, that is, it does nothing for efficiency and increases the wear and tear on the mechanics. The golfers I see are amazed at just how much further they can hit the ball once they learn how to use less effort to generate more power.

3. Get A Better Posture
One of the most obvious outward benefits of learning The Alexander Technique is improvements in your posture. This is really a side-effect of better coordination and movement as your muscles will release and stop pulling your body out of shape. And don’t worry, it takes no effort at all to get a better posture and definitely no trying to sit or stand up straight. After a while you’ll find you’re carrying far less strain in your body away from the course as well as on it. You’ll feel lighter, taller and more confident as your new body shape get comments from your friends and colleagues.

4. Learn How To Focus And Get Into The Zone
I believe the main benefit for sports people is the unique way The Alexander Technique encourages you to think and focus. This will help you develop a vital skill for your golf, the ability to get into the moment.
This, I believe, opens the gateway to The Zone, the subliminal state where everything seems to be both easy and a joy. Golfers who have experienced being in The Zone say that’s when they’ve played their best golf.

5. Simplify Your Golf
When something becomes too complicated it suddenly becomes much less enjoyable. When you’re standing at the tee struggling to remember twenty different things to do at the same time, let alone do it, and it still doesn’t work, that’s no fun. Learning how to focus and apply yourself using the easy-to-follow techniques of Alexander will help you to bring it all into a single focused thought. Suddenly there seems to be a lot less to think about and everything will appear to look after itself and fall into place.

Your golf will become more enjoyable as you free yourself of the frustrating bits and take your game to the next level.

So why not do something different for your golf and find a teacher of The Alexander Technique and take a few lessons. You never know, it might be the missing piece in your game. You won’t know until you try it!

Or alternatively, you could try the techniques based on The Alexander Technique in my new book and program, Golf Sense: Practical Tips On How To Play Golf In The Zone.

More golf articles »

(By Roy Palmer, posted with the author’s permission.)

How to Learn Tennis, Cookery, Piano and the Alexander Technique in Six Easy Lessons

The benefit of instruction…

The idea may be effective as a marketing strategy, but have you ever heard anyone play piano after their sixth lesson? In reality nothing is learned that quickly – except perhaps how to bake a cake. Yet even a chef would say that the cookery class shows you the basic techniques, but from that point on it’s a matter of practice, a matter of baking the same Victoria sponge a few thousand times before you’ll be performing reliably in the kitchen.

Learning tennis can also be described in a half dozen moves equivalent to the methods of baking. The ball may be sent across the court by a forehand, a backhand, a serve, a volley or a lob. But only a facile assessment by means of those prevalent reductions called “competencies” would be so daft as to pronounce the pupil a tennis player after a brief course of lessons encompassing the moves. Nor would we recommend that after being shown the procedures, the apprentice should simply continue practicing. Building the skill of ball placement needs guided rehearsals over many years. Wimbledon pros retain their trainers. And if Ian Thorpe needs a coach to guide him through the water, then we can all use a pair of good Alexander Technique hands to continuously refresh our manner of use.

The procedures for learning the Alexander Technique are as brief and simple in outline as those for baking or tennis. If in cake-making we say step one is: “First grease your tin,” then “First free your neck” would be the equivalent when our object is improved co-ordination. The remaining half dozen steps in AT are as plain, but they are learned more gradually as the pupil changes his or her habitual way of moving. You can go to cookery class and learn the basic techniques in a week or two, and thereafter hone your skills over dinners and tea parties on your own. But learning how to change the way you move requires more monitoring.

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