The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique (A.T) is not a therapy, it is an education.
“When you stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing does itself” - F.M. Alexander
The A.T was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander [1869-1955]. He was a successful Australian actor whose career was threatened by vocal trouble. Doctors were unable to offer him much help and so he discovered ways of working with movement and thought until he developed the principles of the technique. He no longer had difficulty with his voice and he also found that other health problems were improved.
He spent the rest of his life teaching his technique to others and set up the first Alexander Technique Training Course in London.
Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain: economic evaluation.
The full article in the BMJ can be seen at: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/dec11_2/a2656
Some well-known people who have studied the technique:
George Bernard Shaw / playwright
Aldous Huxley / writer
John Dewey / American educational philosopher
Frederick Perls / originator of the Feldenkrais Method
Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen – Nobel Prize for physiology/medicine
And many more, including: Paul McCartney, Sting, Paul Newman, John Cleese, William Hurt, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen and Ruby Wax
What is it?
The Alexander Technique is a method of learning how to use yourself more effectively in daily activities. The problem of trying to improve body use by yourself is that habits of misuse come to feel right and comfortable. A teacher helps you to become aware of habits and tensions and how to release them. During a lesson the teacher uses their hands in a gentle non-manipulative way and some verbal instructions to guide the pupil in finding a more released and lighter, co-ordinated way of moving.
Although some benefits can be derived from a few lessons, a longer course will be required to lay down new habits and maintain improvement. Apart from short introductory courses for groups, the Alexander Technique is taught individually. A lesson is approximately 40 minutes and it is helpful to wear clothing which does not restrict movement.
How does it work?
As a pupil you learn to appreciate the practical implications of thought and its effect on muscle activity. A teacher’s hands encourage a specific quality of muscle tone. Together with words of instruction, this helps to release inappropriate tension and allows the body to become better aligned and balanced. You may feel lighter, looser and taller. At first all of this will probably regress which is why it’s beneficial to have the first few lessons closer together. Then, over a period of time, you will learn to create the conditions for change yourself. You must be prepared to accept that the responsibility and commitment for change rests with you, the pupil.
Who can benefit?
The technique is concerned with adding a new dimension of awareness to your everyday life. Young children generally have an alertness and poise that allows them to sit, stand and move gracefully without strain; rarely does it continue into adult life or even adolescence. So most people can benefit.
It is particularly useful for:
improving posture and co-ordination
reducing stress and tension
promoting personal development
preventing unnecessary wear and tear
people who suffer from back or neck pain, headaches or tension related problems
performers, presenters, actors, dancers, musicians, sports people, sedentary occupations, airline personnel, pregnancy, horse riding, the voice and general well being.
Hilary Austin trained as an Alexander Technique teacher from 1989-1992 with Walter Carrington [who worked and studied with F.M Alexander, the founder of the technique] at The Constructive Teaching Centre in London. She runs a successful practice in the UK and for several years was involved with introducing the technique to British Airways, leading workshops for them and other organisations such as Skyros Holistic Holidays in Greece.
In addition to one-on-one, I am available to lead introductory workshops and programmes for any group or organisation that might benefit from this form of postural/movement education (contact me to discuss).