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“Every man, woman and child holds the possibility of physical perfection; it rests with each of us to attain it by personal understanding and effort.” - F. Matthias Alexander, developer of the Alexander Technique
The History of the Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique is an alternative approach to health and an educational practice that focuses on coordination of the body in combination with psychological awareness. Its application is used for regaining freedom of movement, developing balance and flexibility and general improvement of concentration, poise and posture.
The technique was developed by Fredrick Matthias Alexander in the 1890s. Alexander was as Australian actor and as a young man suffered from a severe hoarseness of voice, which worsened during his performances and threatened his career. Though he consulted numerous doctors none of them were able to diagnose a specific disorder or to recommend a cure. Eventually, Alexander began to closely observe his vocal techniques in the hope that he might be able to help himself overcome the affliction. After several years he noticed that the functioning of his voice depended not only on his style of speaking, but also on maintaining the correct balance throughout his whole musculoskeletal system. He gradually developed a technique by which he could correct his breathing, posture, balance and attention and in doing so benefit his overall wellbeing. As others began to notice his improving health, he began to share his technique. In the mid-1890s he developed practices in Melbourne and Sydney and eventually gave up acting for teaching. Several doctors were soon referring patients to him and in 1904 he moved to London where he continued to practice until his death in 1955.How Alexander Technique Works
The Alexander Technique is based on the notion of sensory kinesis. This is the awareness of your body’s position and movement in space. According to Joan Arnold, an Alexander Technique practitioner in New York, poor posture will cause muscles to become overworked. As they tighten they put pressure on the surrounding nerves and cause pain. Experts say that the correct positioning of the head and alignment of the spine is crucial for reducing pain. Using the Alexander Technique changes your habits of movement, posture, breathing and concentration. The technique focuses on how you use your body and how you can eliminate bad habits that are causing health problems.
Functions of Alexander Technique
Whether you are an actor, dancer, athlete or simply want to improve your posture and overall health, the Alexander Technique has a number of benefits. These include:
A Typical Alexander Technique Lesson
There are no special clothes or special equipment required for lessons. Loose, comfortable clothing is recommended and women often prefer to wear slacks for table work. Lessons are not physically strenuous and are suitable for all ages. During the lesson, your teacher will closely observe your movement patterns and posture. From time to time she will also gently place her hands on your neck, shoulder, back and legs in order to build up a detailed picture of your movement and breathing patterns. She will ask you to perform some simple movements such as standing, sitting and walking while her hands are monitoring your body for muscle tension, depth of breathing and rhythm. She will also be showing you the areas of your body where you can release tension and improve posture. A typical lesson lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and it will take a few lessons for you and your teacher to find out the pace of learning that suits you best. Generally students continue lessons for several months and take between 20 and 40 lessons during that time. Lessons are taken two to three times each week to give students the opportunity to quickly become familiar with the new approach to thinking about movement. As they progress, students may continue with one lesson each week
Students may occasionally feel light headed during lessons. This can happen when contracted muscles release tension and effect the respiratory and circulatory functioning. Muscular tension and rigid postures may be a sight of deep-seated emotion. As this is released, students may experience sudden strong surges of emotion and mood changes that may feel overwhelming. In cases when traumatic memories recur, the teacher may refer a student for counseling.
How to Find Alexander Technique Teachers
Here are some lists of certified Alexander Technique teachers and courses throughout the world:
Groups and Organizations
1692 Massachusetts Ave, 3rd floor
Is the Alexander Technique a therapy?
The Alexander Technique is not a therapy and teachers are not licensed as therapists, nor do they have any medical training.
Does the Alexander Technique Use Exercises?
There are no exercises involved. Teachers use the technique to show students how to alleviate tension and improve health. If you do use other forms of exercise the Alexander Technique can be beneficial to your exercise regimen.
What kind of people study the Alexander Technique?
People from all walks of life study the Alexander Technique including musicians, actors, dancers, athletes, people with disabilities, people suffering chronic pain and people with high levels of stress.
Can I learn the Alexander technique without a teacher?
Absolutely. The technique’s founder F. Matthias Alexander was self-taught and he believed that if he could learn to use it to benefit his health then anyone could.
Is the Alexander Technique useful for children?
Children who are motivated can easily learn the Alexander Technique, and often pick it up much quicker than adults.
Can the elderly benefit from lessons?
It is never too late in life to learn the Alexander Technique. It can help benefit your overall health even if you are in your 90s.
How many lesions do I need?
Many teachers believe that the minimum number of lessons that are needed is 10. Students may go on to have up to 40 lessons depending on how they and the teacher feel about their progress.
Is the Alexander technique recognized by the medical profession?
Yes, many doctors recommend it for their patients.
What training is required to become an Alexander Technique teacher?The American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT) certifies teachers who have completed at least 1,600 hours of training over a minimum of three years in an AmSAT approved training program. Alexander teachers are trained to observe movement problem and teach skills that help students improve their movement and posture. Additional areas of study may include anatomy, and study of F. M. Alexander’s writing.