What is the Alexander Technique?
Over time, and for a variety of reasons, we all develop habitual movement patterns. Some of these patterns cause distress, limit mobility, and prevent optimal functioning.
The Alexander Technique teaches us to recognize and change habits that interfere with well integrated functioning.
The Alexander Technique is an educational process; it helps us restore our psycho-physical integrity by increasing our self-awareness and challenging old, familiar habits. This is a gentle, subtle and gradual rehabilitation process in which the student, through active participation, develops a stronger sense of observation and a deeper awareness of both himself and his environment
The Alexander Technique provides us with a practical way to examine our unconscious habits. These familiar, yet often inefficient patterns can produce conditions of ill health, excessive tension and unfulfilled potential
Who was Frederick Matthias Alexander ?
Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in Wynyard, Tasmania in 1869 and died in London in 1955. He was a successful Shakespearian actor and reciter who at the height of his career developed vocal and breathing difficulties. Doctors were unable to help him so Alexander set out to find out if it was something he was doing while reciting that was causing his problem. With patience and an enquiring mind he observed himself with the aid of mirrors. Alexander discovered that he unconsciously extended his head down onto his neck as he spoke which not only interfered with his vocal and breathing mechanisms but also with balance and co-ordination throughout his organism. Despite his capacity to observe and intellectually to understand his problem, Alexander had great difficulty in stopping his habitual, harmful reaction to the stimulus to speak.
Thus began years of patient self-observation and research into habit, stimulus and response. Alexander eventually solved his vocal and breathing problems and gained remarkable insight into how habits of use affect habits of reaction; how poor postural habits dull one's kinaesthetic sense, (sensory awareness) and how long-term change and improvement in general health and well-being is impossible as long as one's habitual manner of use persists. A full account of this discovery is outlined in Alexander's third book, The Use of the Self.
Alexander not only revolutionized our awareness of postural defects and their effect on the organism as a whole, but he also devised a practical and constructive re-education process for dealing with the difficulties which an unsophisticated kinaesthetic sense presents.
Teachning the Alexander Technique
The student is guided by the teacher's tactile and verbal cues, which are designed to elicit a specific reorganization of the body primarily focused on the head to spine relationship. The student participates in a new kinesthetic experience, allowing the natural ease of movement to emerge.
Students notice that as coordination improves, they feel more freedom in everyday and specialized activities. They also experience increased mental clarity and a sense of organized well-being.
A typical individual lesson in the Alexander Technique lasts 30 to 40 minutes. Through simple movements like sitting or walking, the teacher guides the student with vocal and tactile directions designed to promote a mental and physical reorganization. The lessons can take place in the context of real-life situations of particular significance to the student, such as working at the computer or hitting balls on a golf course. The applications are endless.
Lessons also include "table work," with the student lying on his back in a relaxed position. A lesson in the Alexander Technique will usually produce an immediate feeling of well-being. And because this teaching aims at developing the student’s autonomy, its effects increase significantly over time.
Workshops are also available and are an excellent introduction to the technique.