The Alexander Technique – What It Is and How To Perform It

By Massagetique Staff
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Everything about our world today is go go go.

We have been conditioned to believe that busier is better. This notion that the more we do and the faster we do it will make us happy, successful, or simply better than the next person.

Not only does this actually result in the opposite more often than not, as we are so rushed that we end up missing out on the things that matter, but it can also put a strain on our bodies without us even realizing it.

Posture Is The Problem

Stress, which is an inevitable result of the hectic lives we are living, is known to be linked to more physical problems such as poor posture or muscle aches. Where one is found, the others will follow; they play off each other.

Bad posture is one of the most obvious and problematic results of our current lifestyles. Spending too much time in the car, at our desks, or just running from place to place leaves our bodies tired, uncomfortable, and just in generally unhealthy positions. Unfortunately, this less than adequate posture can lead to a lot more issues than a sore back.

With our lack of time (or real desire) to actively work on changing our posture, and our body’s inability to correct the issues subconsciously, our bodies become more and more accustomed to the bad habits we are developing, and it becomes increasingly to correct them.

“I’ll just go get a massage”, is what you are most likely thinking.

Sure, a massage will help ease these aches and pains caused by everyday life, but we both know this is only a temporary fix.

Yes, you could go and get regular massages (something we’d all like to do), but that will get expensive, and besides, not everyone has a schedule that will allow for such luxuries (you know, with life as busy as it is).

So rather than relying on an expensive and time consuming temporary fix for once the problem is already present, why not take a proactive approach and learn how to correct and prevent the issues all together.

The Alexander Technique Is The Answer

What Is The Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a system that works to promote well-being by retraining one’s awareness and habits of posture to ensure minimum effort and strain.

The goal of this technique is essentially to help you become more mindful of your body and your movements. Through this method, you should see changes in your habits that will improve your ease of movement, your balance and coordination, and your comfort in general.

Rather than being a series of passive treatments, it is more of a skill for self-development. Through the Alexander Technique, you will learn how to recognize your own harmful habits, how to stop and actively think of what you are doing, and how to correct them.

This method helps you to focus on how you are using your body, and to, both actively and subconsciously, adopt more positive and beneficial habits.

It’s Origins

Frederick Matthias Alexander developed this technique in the 1890’s.

As a young actor, Alexander faced reoccurring vocal problems, which posed as a threat to his budding career. With doctors unable to locate any medically linked root cause to his problem, Alexander began investigating the situation himself.

After considering all of the factors involved, and observing himself while encountering the vocal problems, he began to recognize a pattern; the vocal issues were the result of tension in his neck muscles caused by a change in his posture during vocal recitals.

Once Alexander became aware of this pattern, he was able to spend time working on a way to reverse it. He spent years working on actively changing his habitual reaction to reciting, which resulted in his ability to perform without the change in his posture occurring – because he now had more control over his posture, he was not becoming tense during recitals, which greatly improved his vocal talents.

Others took notice of his improvements and began approaching him for help. Alexander began teaching his methods to those seeking his help, and after a few years was able to turn these teachings into a career.

Not only did Alexander established a successful practice in London based on the methods he created, but he continued on to train over 80 other individuals to teach his techniques, even published 4 books on the subject, and even founded a school focused on teaching these techniques to children.

The Reasoning Behind It

By becoming more aware of your habits, and actively working on making improvements where necessary, you will find yourself feeling much better both physically and mentally. The strain that poor posture puts on our bodies causes problems that run deeper than a muscle ache now and again.

Bad posture can lead to a variety of health issues, such as poor circulation, increased risk of diseases (such as diabetes), stomach and intestinal problems (such as constipation), weight gain, depression, and stress.

You may already be aware of bad habits that you have, especially when it comes to your posture. Maybe you slouch or hunch your shoulders when you walk, or you have problems keeping your back straight when sitting all day; either way it takes more than just recognizing the problem to correct it.

Sure you might force yourself to straighten out every so often when you realize what you are doing, but it takes a lot more than that to properly correct bad posture.

That is what the Alexander Technique is for. It trains you to be constantly aware of your body and how you are using it. With this new sense of mindfulness, you are more likely to begin fixing your posture without thinking about it as much, which will eventually lead to you simply having proper posture around the clock.

Who Should Use This Technique?

It may sound redundant, but every single person can benefit from learning the Alexander technique.

While we have mostly referred to the technique in regards to learning to recognize our movements with the purpose of correcting poor posture, it can actually be used in a multitude of other situations.

Performers

The Alexander Technique is commonly applied to various performing arts programs; for example, those who sing, dance, act, or play instruments can benefit from these techniques.

Learning to be cognizant of how your muscles are performing and being able to control them can help in any of these situations; playing instruments becomes more fluid, dancing becomes more graceful, acting appears more natural, and singing becomes smoother. Not only can it improve performance, but it can also work to prevent injury caused by straining or tension on the muscles.

Active Individuals

The idea that the Alexander technique helps us control our muscles and keep them relaxed and free of tension, resulting in less chance of injury, means that it is also a valuable technique for anyone who is considers themselves active.

Whether you are a professional athlete or a first time gym member, being able to move and exercise with more freedom, agility, and efficiency can only have positive effects. Not only can following the methods set out by the Alexander Technique lower your chances of incurring muscle injuries while being active, but it can also help improve your skills in whatever activity it is you are participating in.

Children

Learning to be mindful and conscious of your body and your movements is not necessarily something that only adults should consider; these techniques could have real positive impacts throughout life if taught to everyone at a young age.

Frederick Alexander thought so himself and that is why he funded a school with the purpose of educating children on his techniques.

Being more in tune with your body, especially in terms of having better posture, can sow many long-term benefits if learned as a child. Typically as children we already have decent posture, and it is as we go through school and then our working lives where our posture suffers.

However, if at a young age we learn to move and hold ourselves in a way that keeps us balanced and keeps our muscles relaxed, we will be more likely to retain this mindfulness and the techniques used as we age, preventing our posture from deteriorating and, along with it, avoiding the many issues that it can cause.

Everyone Else

While the examples above outline why the Alexander Technique is beneficial for certain demographics, it truthfully is something that everyone could benefit from.

At some point, we all lose touch with our bodies, our posture, our movement; it may be consistent, or perhaps it only happens while we are doing certain tasks or performing certain activities, either way it puts strain on our muscles, which in turn affects our health and comfort.

Anything that can help alleviate this imbalance between our minds and our bodies is surely worth a try.

How Is The Alexander Technique Performed?

This is a tough question to answer, as the technique will vary from session to session, pupil to pupil.

Sessions are one-on-one and are completed by certified teachers. They will first observe you; how you move, how you sit, how you stand. By doing this, they will help you pinpoint any harmful movement habits you may have.

Once determining where your problems lie, they will use their hands to guide you in your movements, showing you how to hold yourself while you walk, sit, or stand, in a way that eases tension in your muscles and improves your balance.

Your teacher may give you certain exercises or methods to practice on a day-to-day basis, but these will be specific to you, your body, and your lifestyle.

The main goal is to strengthen and improve the relationship between your head, neck, shoulders, and back by implementing the methods used in your sessions. In order for your body to learn and understand these new movements and techniques, you must be committed to putting them into practice and you must be patient.

If you are able to do this, you will eventually find yourself implementing these techniques subconsciously – your body will move and perform in a healthier and more efficient manner without needing to be reminded to do so.

Interested?

The Alexander Technique is now practiced all around the world, and for good reason. If you suffer from poor posture, back or neck pain, or frequent headaches; you are an athlete or a performer and you wish to improve your skills and lessen your chances of injury; or you simply want to rebalance your mind and body, don’t hesitate to book with a qualified Alexander Technique teacher near you.

References

  1. https://www.thejoint.com/texas/houston/cy-fair-28009/212488-stress-posture-back-pain-are-they-linked
  2. https://alexandertechnique.co.uk/alexander-technique/history
  3. http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/alexander-technique-faq/#352

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