The Alexander Technique
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander technique is both practical and profound. It is a way of learning to live life with more awareness.
Many people only start to feel the need for this increased awareness when they are in pain and have run out of other options. Others recognise that in order to excel in any sphere of life they need to free themselves from limiting habits.
The Alexander Technique is a well known and proven approach for helping people recover from back pain and improve posture, but it offers a lot more besides that. For many thousands of people who have made it part of their lives it provides a route to life-enhancing change at a deep level .
Through learning and applying the principles in your life it is possible to discover a new level of calm and a feeling of being much more 'at home' in yourself. Most of us live in a background of muscular tension that we never notice until it is dramatically reduced. Learning to understand and to influence the relationship between your brain activity and muscular tension levels is a liberating resource which you can work with for your whole life.
Whether your current priority is to get your life back from being in pain, or to improve your posture, to enhance skills in the performing arts, or to understand yourself more deeply, the Alexander Technique has something unique to offer; a greater understanding and control of your reactions in living.
How can the Alexander Technique help you?
The Alexander Technique is a learning process which has therapeutic benefits. By discovering how to use your self in a new and better way, whether you are working at a computer, walking, driving a car, working out in the gym, running, practicing yoga, singing or playing a musical instrument, many conditions will disappear or ease. Here are just some of the benefits people experience through making Alexander Technique part of their lives :
- Enhanced performance in sport, music, dance
- Greater poise and confidence
- More ease and freedom in movement
- Deepening meditation practice through somatic awareness
- Enhancing yoga practice through improving the kinaesthetic sense.
- Improved alertness and vitality
- Mindfulness in daily life
- Reduced back, neck and other muscular-skeletal pain
- Improved breathing and vocal abilities
- Better posture and co-ordination
- Learning management skills for chronic Pain
- Freedom from performance anxiety
- Stress anxiety and panic attacks
- Increasing freedom of movement/Range of Motion
- Help for R.S.I.
- Rehabilitation after surgery, illness or injury
How do I learn it?
Alexander lessons will help you move through life with greater ease, less pain, and better physical, emotional and mental balance.
During lessons, you learn to cultivate awareness of habits that interfere with your natural coordination. This learning takes place using combination of subtle, gentle hands-on work and verbal explanations, interactions and questions. Gradually you discover connections between intention, attention and tension, and become able to make changes in the way your brain communicates with your muscles.
Initially we work with simple basic activities such as walking, sitting and standing, and most lessons will include some lying down work. From the very beginning you will learn ways to help yourself between lessons, and with time and practice you will be able to apply your new skills to more complex and demanding situations in daily life. When you understand the process you will have a means of helping yourself for the rest of your life.
The Alexander Technique and Back Pain
Significant long-term benefit for low back pain has been demonstrated by a major study published by the British Medical Journal involving over 500 patients with chronic back pain. The results showed clearly that taking Alexander Technique lessons significantly decreased the days of pain and improved the functioning and quality of life of patients.
One year on, the average number of activities limited by pain in those who'd had the Alexander Technique lessons had fallen by 42%, and the average number of days of pain was only three per month. Those in the study not having Alexander lessons reported an average of 21 days in pain per month. The number of days those doing an exercise programme were in pain was not significantly different from those having no intervention at all.
The patients who were given massage instead of Alexander Technique lessons had some initial reduction in pain and disability but these improvements were not maintained, and at 3 months the people in this group were experiencing almost 3 times the amount of days in pain per month as those having Alexander lessons. After a year the members of the massage group experienced no improvement at all, whereas the beneficial effects of learning the Alexander technique were maintained.
Most importantly there were no adverse effects reported in the trial by any of the 288 participants in the Alexander Technique groups
Who was F.M. Alexander?
Frederick Matthias Alexander was a pioneer in the field of somatic studies. He was born in Tasmania in 1869, and his promising career as a young actor was threatened by recurring vocal problems. He came to realise that his problem was caused by his use of himself, and spent several years working out a way to change his habitual reactions. As he improved his vocal use, breathing and stage presence, other people started coming to him for help. From about 1894 onward, he started teaching his discoveries in Melbourne and Sydney. In 1904 he brought his work to London, where he established a thriving practice, published four books, and from the 1930s trained about 80 teachers in his Technique. He continued to teach right up to his death in London in 1955.
Many others who developed approaches to mind/body education acknowledge Alexander's influence on their work, including Moshe Feldenkrais, Thomas Hanna, and Ida Rolf.