“I have recurring wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain caused by my time spent at the computer”.
“I wish I could sing with a more relaxed voice.”
“I have this persistent neck ache that will not yield to yoga, chiropractic or trigger point therapy”.
“I am frustrated with my posture and alignment…I’m tired of looking and feeling awkward on stage”.
“I’m tired of the chronic tension I carry in my neck and upper back”.
“I’ve always known that my chronic back pain is made worse by my poor posture. But my self-conscious efforts to “correct” my posture only seem to make things worse”.
Can you relate to any of the above statements?
The above statements are a sampling of initial reasons students have given over the years for seeking out Alexander Technique lessons with me.
The above statements span a wide range of complaints.
How can one technique possibly help people with such a wide range of issues?
By acknowledging the profound effect that your posture has on your health and well-being.
Often poor posture is at the root of a lot of complaints, yet it’s influence is too often overlooked.
And by a practical understanding of what good posture is.
Posture is the foundation of everything you do. But good posture is not just a matter of following your mother’s instructions to “stand up straight”. Good posture should not be effortful. It is more about finding balance within ourselves than about finding the right position or external shape and holding on to it.
The Alexander Technique redefines posture.
When you take Alexander lessons you will gain a more in depth and subtle understanding of what posture is so you can approach it in a more holistic way. You will learn that your posture is much more than just about how you hold yourself when you sit and stand. Learning about your posture is a lot about learning about your habits, the connection between how you think and how you move and how you respond to your world. It’s about learning about you.
The Alexander Technique is named after F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor who was plagued early on in his career with severe vocal problems. Not able to find lasting relief from treatments offered him by his doctors, Alexander wondered if he might be somehow causing his vocal problem. Alexander began to observe himself in mirrors while he was reciting. He discovered that a pattern of muscle tension throughout his body, caused by interference with the natural balance between his head and spine, was the source of his vocal trouble. He developed a process for recognizing and changing these debilitating habits enabling him to get back on stage. It is his process that we call the Alexander Technique.
The reasons people take Alexander lessons can be wide ranging
but they generally fall into a few categories:
Pain: back pain is one of the major reasons that people seek out the help of an Alexander teacher. But people also come for help with chronic neck and shoulder tension, headaches and repetitive strain injuries. People who deal with chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis or scoliosis benefit from learning tools to better manage their conditions on a day to day basis.
Performance: people come to get help performing better at a favorite activity, such as theater, dance, music or athletics; or to simply do their everyday activities with more ease.
Prevention: people come because they want to learn how to take a more active role in their health and well-being as they age—to ensure they will be able to do the activities they enjoy doing now for as long as possible.
Working with an Alexander Teacher
Alexander teachers most commonly work with students one on one. This allows the teacher to focus the lesson on the student’s unique habits, needs and learning style.
The skills of the Alexander Technique are simple. However, it is often hard to see your own habits, especially at first. Therefore, the aid of a certified teacher can be quite helpful. Alexander teachers are trained in a very special use of their hands. One of the many benefits of one on one lessons is that the teacher can give you hands on guidance. This can greatly facilitate your learning.
In a typical lesson the teacher will use verbal instruction and this gentle hands on guidance to teach you how to consciously reduce habitual interference with the head-spine relationship and to approach everyday movements with less effort and more ease. You may also work on releasing tension while lying on a bodywork table. Some teachers do teach in groups and this can be a good way to get an introduction to the Alexander Technique.
What to Expect
Over a course of lessons, you will improve your skills of self-observation, gain the ability to recognize and stop the habits that interfere with your body’s natural poise and coordination, and ultimately apply the skills you learn on your own. As you learn to harness the connection between how you think and how you move, you can make surprising improvements in how you look and feel. As you learn to apply the skills of the Alexander Technique you begin practicing an effective, life-long method of self-care.
Although far reaching in its effects, the Alexander Technique is quite simple in principle and can be easily understood by anyone. Students who are most likely to benefit from study of the Alexander Technique have a willingness to learn about and to take some responsibility for themselves. Students should not currently be experiencing a level of pain or dysfunction that would preclude learning.