What is it?
The Alexander Technique is a non-invasive re-educational technique, with excellent therapeutic benefits. It is a practical way of learning to release unwanted tension so we can move more freely and easily. In movements such as standing, walking and even sitting we may be distorting the body and interfering with its natural functioning – learning to consciously control your musculature or, put in simpler terms, learning how to use your body is the key. We can be reacting to life by over-tensing or collapsing throughout the structure of our body. This 'mis-use' may result in aches, pains, tension, fatigue or simply feeling ill at ease in one's body.
The Alexander Technique is directly concerned with the working of the postural reflexes. These enable us to support and balance our bodies against the pull of gravity as we go about our everyday activities. These postural reflexes are greatly affected by the co-ordination of the head neck and back. The Technique works through re-establishing the natural relationship between the head, the neck and the back – the "core" of the body that supports the strength of the limbs and which provides the structural environment for breathing and for the internal organs. If these support mechanisms are allowed to work in harmony, good use spontaneously returns: freedom of movement, easier breathing, natural poise and good posture follow.
Who is it for?
We all have a body and we all use this body to get ourselves about, most of the time we move our body we are doing so from a point of habit rather than through conscious control. By introducing conscious control of our musculature we are giving ourselves the opportunity to move more freely; to use our body in the best way we can.
If you have an ailment which has been caused by mis-use (badly using the psychophysical organism that is your body), then by using the Alexander Technique to improve your body's use, you will inevitably relieve the ailment.
So in answer to the question "Who is the Alexander Technique for?", it can be said that it is for anyone who wants to improve the use of their body, whether that is for pain relief, physical performance, general ease of movement or part of an ongoing personal development program.
The real value of the Alexander Technique lies in becoming able to apply its principles, by yourself, to your daily activities.
What you can expect to achieve
The long-term effects of good habits of body use are less well known, as research in this area has been limited. However, should you ask someone who has been practising the Alexander Technique for any length of time they would generally say that you get stronger in your back, you become both more relaxed and more alert, aches and pains fade, you feel calm, confident and self-reliant, you have more stamina, you think more clearly, you recover from injury more quickly, you cope with stress better.
I would personally add that after many years of practising the Alexander Technique I also feel it can bring me a sense of uplifted emotions, more energy and a deeper understanding of myself.
Frederick Matthias Alexander
1869 - 1955
F.M. Alexander was born in 1869 in Tasmania, the son of a farmer and horse-farrier. His chosen career was as an actor and reciter, but within a few years he developed voice problems leading to hoarseness and occasionally to complete loss of voice. Finding doctors unable to help, Alexander reasoned that it was something that he was doing whilst speaking which was the cause of the problem, and set about finding a solution. After years of acute observation and patient experimentation on the use of himself, he discovered a set of principles that in application removed his voice problem and greatly improved his health. Alexander's friends and associates noted the remarkable change in him, and asked if he would be willing to teach them what he had learned. Thus began a career which was to take him to England, where he eventually settled. He spent the rest of his life promoting his work throughout the medical and educational world in the UK and USA, whilst continuing his teaching, training others to teach and writing his four books.
His work was endorsed by many highly regarded men and women of the day including the winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize, the neurophysiologist Sir Charles Sherrington.
- Photograph of FM Alexander ©2009, The Society of the Teachers of the Alexander Technique, London