The Alexander Technique
Alexander Technique Benefits
Alexander Technique lessons can help you to achieve many benefits. Scroll down for the benefit that interests you:
Posture problems are very common in our society. These problems include slumping in the low back, rounding the shoulders forward and down, and pressing the head down on the neck. Harmful postural habits have one basic cause: people don’t know how to support their bodies across a range of different positions and activities. Inadequate support results in widespread postural imbalances that can cause pain, injuries and movement limitations, among other adverse outcomes.
Fortunately, the Alexander Technique can help us to create comfortable, balanced and dynamic postural support. In Alexander lessons, we learn simple principles that help us to organize and coordinate our bodies in all of our daily activities. As our lessons progress, we find that improved posture helps us to sit, stand and walk with ease and pleasure. Posture becomes a skill that we can develop, refine and enjoy, rather than being a mystery and a burden. In fact, supportive posture can be fun on top of being very practical!
If you’re worried about your posture, take a lesson with an Alexander Technique teacher in your area today. Learn how you can experience and enjoy your movements in an entirely new way.
Over 20% of American adults are in chronic pain, and millions more suffer from significant pain that isn’t chronic during any given year(1). The prevalence and persistence of pain in our society indicates that conventional approaches to pain relief have not solved the problem. And if we haven’t solved the problem, it’s likely that we have not adequately understood the cause of this pain. Could that cause be connected to the basic actions we perform all day, every day? Could our own harmful habits in everyday activities be a major, unrecognized contributor to our own pain?
In Alexander Technique lessons, we learn a lot about our habits and how those habits might be causing us preventable pain. For example, if we have a habit of sitting many hours each day in a poorly supported way that strains our backs, necks and shoulders, we will learn to detect that habit and how to overcome it during our Alexander lessons. This type of learning in a gentle, supportive atmosphere can help us to stop contributing to the pain that we’re experiencing. It is a simple, noninvasive, nonmedical and highly practical approach to pain relief.
If you seek pain relief and would like to be empowered to change the way you move for the better, consider taking an Alexander Technique lesson with a nearby teacher today.
Enhanced Mobility and Balance
Movement is a crucial aspect of human life, and people exhibit an amazing diversity of movement patterns amidst their daily activities. Within that diversity, there are many movement patterns that are strongly affected by pain, range of motion limitations, poor coordination, lack of attention and balance problems. These habitual impeding factors tend to encourage movements that are more energy intensive, less stable and less enjoyable than they might otherwise be. Assuming one or more of these impeding factors can be modified, that change can permit a person to move with greater freedom, pleasure and confidence.
The Alexander Technique teaches students to become highly conscious of their movement patterns. During Alexander lessons, students become aware of habits that are hindering their movements or interfering with their sense of balance. At the same time, students learn how they might modify these habits in favor of alternative ways of moving that they can consciously choose. These alternatives are based on simple principles that promote easier, more integrated and better coordinated movements across a wide range of activities. Over time, many Alexander students can reduce strain and tension, save energy and move with heightened enjoyment.
Alexander Technique lessons have helped people of all abilities and ages to move with greater freedom, confidence, awareness and pleasure. Take a lesson with an Alexander teacher in your area and experience the enhanced mobility that this gentle, supportive learning method can offer you.
Improved Ability to Manage Stress
When we look at our personal experience, at our communities and at our society as a whole, it’s clear to many of us that stress is on the rise. It can be difficult to maintain our well being amidst political and geopolitical conflicts, economic uncertainty and environmental havoc, to say nothing of any challenges we’re facing at home or at work. Many of these stressors are beyond our control, but we can mitigate their harmful impacts by learning the skill of managing our own reactions to the stresses we’re experiencing.
The Alexander Technique can help us to modify our habitual reactions to a wide variety of stressful situations. We learn to pause and redirect our thinking so that we can choose our response to stressors rather than being dominated by factors beyond our control. Instead of reacting immediately with overwhelming physical tension and emotional intensity, we can choose less damaging and more supportive ways of coping with the inevitable upsets that life throws in our path.
Our bodies, minds and relationships can all benefit from the more thoughtful approach we cultivate by learning the Alexander Technique. If you would like new tools to deal with social, professional or personal stress in your life, take a lesson with an Alexander teacher. Experience the difference that your own thinking can make in coping with our stressful world.
Sitting, Using Devices and Working in Offices More Comfortably
Chronic back, neck and shoulder pain are very common among computer users and office workers. Repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and stress-related disorders can also result from working with computers and other devices. While changes to the work station — chair design, monitor and keyboard placement — can improve the ergonomics, the Alexander Technique teaches us how to work comfortably even when our work environment is not ideal.
With the Alexander Technique, we can learn how to avoid injury and relieve the tension and pain often associated with computer use. Alexander lessons can teach us how to:
- sit comfortably upright without strain
- prevent or reduce spinal compression and muscular tension in the neck, shoulders and back
- improve range of motion in the joints
- reduce pressure on the keyboard and mouse to relieve stress on the wrist and prevent carpal tunnel injury
- become more aware of your body's signals and signs of distress so you can relieve tension before it escalates to pain
- breathe properly to prevent fatigue and calm the nervous system
- restore balance - during and after work
Improved Breathing Efficiency
Breathing is essential to life. Although this fact is universally acknowledged, people don’t tend to focus attention on their breathing until they have a problem with it. For many, breathing is simply something one does in the background, without much awareness of how it works or curiosity about how its efficiency might be improved. Yet breathing is a skill that we can practice and refine with very positive implications for our energy level, quality of life and vocal performance.
For over 125 years, the Alexander Technique has focused intently on the relationship between emotions, posture, breathing efficiency and vocal production. It all began in the 1890s when F.M. Alexander discovered that his emotions were triggering harmful postural responses that made it impossible for him to work as a performer. Through trial and error, Alexander learned to change his emotional and postural responses to performing, as well as to many other basic daily activities. These discoveries had a transformative impact on Alexander’s breathing, movements and vocal abilities, which explains why his Technique is an integral part of training in top performing arts programs and conservatories around the world (see “Performance Enhancement” below).
If you want to develop and refine your understanding and practice of breathing, take an Alexander Technique lesson with a teacher in your local area today.
Learning New Skills and Performance Enhancement
Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts: The Alexander Technique’s basic principles apply to any athletic activity, including tennis, golf, skiing, running, baseball, horseback riding and basketball. Identifying proper form and the degree of muscular tension required are as important in athletic performance as how strenuously or how frequently one plays a sport. Alexander Technique students gain the skills to move with ease and prevent pain while learning to improve breathing, balance, posture and endurance. Together you and your Alexander Technique teacher can explore and address particular movement problems to optimize your performance. Learning principles of efficient movement enables the fitness enthusiast to improve overall performance and prevent injury.
Public speakers can benefit from Alexander lessons through improved vocal projection, resonance, breath control and overall voice quality, while learning a process to deal with anxiety triggered by speaking in front of others
Business professionals find that it enhances presentation skills, increases confidence and contributes to poise in leadership situations.
Performing artists use the Alexander Technique as an invaluable resource throughout all phases of the creative process from conception through performance.
Singers, dancers, actors and instrumentalists study the Alexander Technique to gain a highly refined sensory awareness, a greater range of expression and enhanced stage presence. Performers learn skills to reduce performance anxiety and prevent strain and injury. Study of the Alexander Technique enables sharper focus, efficient use of energy, improved balance and coordination and an inner sense of calm. Performing artists often report that the Alexander Technique enables them to bring together diverse aspects of training and more easily bridge the gap from theory to practice. Many performers also use the Alexander Technique to avoid overuse/misuse injuries like repetitive strain injury or to aid in recovery from such conditions.
Actors: Character development proceeds more freely and authentically as habitual tensions are unlearned. Actors develop greater emotional accessibility, spontaneity and a more vital presence and connection with the audience. Fuller breathing and improved vocal quality are experienced as tension is relieved in the neck and back.
Singers: By learning how to relieve tension in the neck and back, singers experience fuller breathing and improved vocal quality. Vocalists learn how to develop a foundation for optimal vocalization, prevent overuse injuries and vocal strain, and balance strength of expression with ease. Many singers report experiencing greater pleasure in singing and less performance anxiety owing to their study of the Technique.
Instrumentalists : By learning how to hold themselves and the instrument with less tension, musicians experience playing with greater ease with improved sound quality. Instrumentalists with demanding schedules are better able to play efficiently, prevent overuse injuries, increase endurance and enhance emotional expression.
Dancers: Dancers learn how to move with more freedom and less tension. When the appropriate postural muscles are activated for stability and all other muscles are free for movement, optimal dynamic coordination is experienced. Applying the principles of the Alexander Technique contributes to prevention of injury and career longevity.
Universities, conservatories, orchestras, theater companies, and performing arts festivals worldwide include the Alexander Technique in performing arts curricula and skill development. Institutions offering Alexander Technique instruction include: The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory of Music, American Dance Festival, Yale School of Drama, San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Royal Shakespeare Company. A comprehensive list of institutions in which AmSAT members are teaching the Alexander Technique can be found here.
Renowned performers who have studied the Alexander Technique include actors Julie Andrews, Annette Bening, John Cleese, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Judi Dench, Leonardo DiCaprio, William Hurt, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Sir Ben Kingsley, Patti Lupone, Kelly McGillis, Paul Newman, Lupita Nyong’o, Maggie Smith, Mary Steenburgen, Hilary Swank and Joanne Woodward; singers Paul McCartney, Sting, and Renée Fleming and dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown.
Greater ease and comfort before, during and after childbirth
The Alexander Technique has much to offer parents before, during and after childbirth.
Before pregnancy, study of the Technique can help prospective mothers to unlearn harmful postural habits while improving balance and coordination. This will help prepare them for the very significant changes in body weight and shape that accompany a pregnancy. Prospective fathers can also benefit because they will experience new tasks that are both delicate and demanding following the birth of their child.
During pregnancy, Alexander lessons can teach expectant mothers how to hold and carry themselves to reduce, if not eliminate, back pain commonly caused by increased weight in front of the body. Also, the baby's growth has a major impact on a mother’s internal space, often causing digestive problems and shortness of breath. Learning how to hold and carry oneself differently can mitigate these symptoms and, with more breath and mobility, it will be easier for the mother to stay active. Lastly, lessons in the Alexander Technique can enable mothers to coordinate breathing and strengthen pelvic muscles as they prepare for labor and delivery.
After the birth of the child, mothers can continue to benefit from their Alexander learning to make nursing more comfortable and to more easily handle the constant lifting and carrying that come with parenthood.
Do the benefits wear off when I stop taking lessons?
After a course of lessons in the Alexander Technique, you can expect the benefits to stay with you as long as you keep in mind what you've learned. For most people the benefits stay with them for a lifetime.(2)
(1) See CDC data on chronic pain here: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/wr/mm7215a1.htm
(2) See British Medical Journal on the Alexander Technique here: https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a884