How can Alexander Technique help?
The Alexander Technique teaches how to overcome strain and tension. It enables you to feel lighter and more comfortable in mind and body and cope more easily with situations of stress. In everyday activities such as walking, standing, sitting or bending we usually don't think about how we do things. We just get on and do them. But what if these familiar ways of moving are actually causing discomfort or causing us pain in the long term ?
People have Alexander lessons for a variety of reasons: to help to overcome chronic non-specific, musculoskeletal pain, to improve vocal or physical performance, for better posture and movement and to feel more relaxed and comfortable in daily life. The technique addresses these issues by helping you to recognise that the way you use yourself in everyday activity has a bearing on everything you do and feel. For example, the technique can reveal that a specific pain in your back can be due to a general, overall pattern of misuse in yourself that you have established over many years. This is called a habit of misuse.
The Alexander Technique is a technique to overcome and change inefficient, unhelpful and potentially damaging habits of moving. It gives you the tools to establish an improved, more self-aware and proficient means to approach essential movement skills. The role of the Alexander teacher is to lead you from the familiar, unhelpful, habitual misuse patterns towards an improved, more sustaining and enabling condition of balance and coordination. This is done by gently directing you to make small changes to the relationship between your head, neck and back chiefly. As you learn to bring these new directions to bear on your use of yourself, specific problems, resulting from your previous habitual misuse patterns, diminish and usually disappear. In essence the Alexander Technique is a unique form of self-management.
Paul Newman, Hollywood actor.
What does the technique help with ?
The technique can help to reduce or eliminate chronic, non-specific musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck, joint pain, RSI, migraine and stress related conditions. It teaches how to maintain poise and composure during times of duress : in pregnancy for example, when performing a task such as public speaking, singing, playing a musical instrument or playing sport. In fact the technique is useful for any activity we do. For example, sitting for long periods at the computer can become uncomfortable causing us to adopt habits of hunching over, crossing legs, tensing arms and legs which can be exhausting and potentially harmful. With the Alexander Technique you can improve the way you move, sit and work to become more comfortable, poised and less fatigued.
What benefits can be expected?
Anyone can benefit from Alexander Technique lessons, no matter what age you are or fitness level you have. There is nothing strenuous about learning Alexander Technique. It is not a physical exercise. Instead you learn how to change unhelpful habits which cause unnecessary tension, stress or even pain . With the help of your teacher's skilled and gentle touch and their verbal guidance you learn to use every part of yourself -mind and body- to work together in a unified way. Poise, vitality and co-ordination all improve and movement becomes lighter, easier and more enjoyable. Essentially you learn how to make less effort and loosen the grip of habit.
Is there any evidence it works?
There is considerable growing medical and scientific evidence that learning the technique helps you to address the underlying causes of functional problems such as back pain, neck pain and discomfort caused by tension. The main conclusion of a randomised controlled trial of Alexander lessons published in the British Medical Journal 20th August 2008 was that individual lessons in the Technique have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain :
British Medical Journal
What Happens In a Lesson?
The most effective way to learn the Alexander Technique is by having a course of individual lessons. In the lesson you work one to one with your teacher for 40 to 45 minutes on simple activities such as sitting, rising from a chair, standing, reaching, lifting, bending, walking and lying down (things you do all day every day). With the help of your teacher's gentle, informing touch and simple verbal instruction, you learn to recognise and undo unhelpful patterns of tension in your movement and balance to restore tone, alignment and balance to your body. Improvement relies in part on your active participation in this process. As you continue to have lessons you may want to explore how the technique can enhance your performance in specialised activities such as running, playing a musical instrument, singing, speaking, gripping an object or typing. You can discuss the activities you want to explore with your teacher.
What to wear for a lesson
Loose clothing is best, especially trousers that aren't restrictive. You will only remove your shoes in a lesson.
How many lessons do I need to have?
20 lessons with a lesson a week for the first 10 to 12 weeks is recommended to get a good foundation and experience lasting benefit from the technique but people's individual needs can vary. It's best to come and try a lesson first and discuss your progress with your teacher.
What sort of training does an Alexander Teacher receive and are they medically qualified?
I am a STAT certified teacher. STAT is the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, the professional body of Alexander Technique teachers. All STAT teachers have trained for 1600 hours over three years and are bound by a code of professional conduct. I trained at the Alexander Technique Studio in London . Please note that Alexander teachers, although highly trained, are not medical practitioners and do not offer a medical diagnosis. The technique does not make claims to cure but it does demonstrate how people can create beneficial conditions for themselves to prevent discomfort and improve performance.
I teach the Alexander Technique in Totterdown, South Bristol and in London. I first heard of the technique when I was training to be an actor. After trying a few lessons I began to feel less tense and less anxious. A longstanding pain on the right side of my upper back diminished and eventually disappeared. I noticed changes for the better in my breathing, speaking, posture and stress levels the longer I continued to have lessons. This led to my decision to train as an Alexander Technique teacher at the Alexander Technique Studio in London in 2005. I hold a qualified teaching certificate from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (www.stat.org.uk) and have been a teacher of Alexander Technique in London and South Bristol since 2009.
Greg Chappell, Australian test cricketer (1970 - 1984)