Improve your posture Sit and move better
What Is It?
The Alexander technique is a method of movement and alignment that teaches people to use their bodies
more efficiently. It helps individuals improve their posture, let go of muscle tension, and move with greater
ease. The goal of this technique is to eradicate such poor habits as slouching and tensing (which can lead to
pain, decreased mobility, and other health problems) and replace them with good postural and movement
The History of the Technique
The originator of this technique was Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor who
suffered bouts of hoarseness on stage. When medications and rest failed to help him, Alexander found his
career in jeopardy. Using mirrors, he observed that the way he lowered his head and tensed his neck
muscles when he recited his lines was restricting his vocal cords. He realized these habits were so ingrained
that they had probably become second nature to him. He worked hard to correct his posture, and found that
when he did so his voice was restored. Based on this personal success, Alexander created his eponymous
technique around 1896 and published his first book about it, Man's Supreme Inheritance, in 1910.
Alexander was so successful that other actors and artists, George Bernard Shaw among them, sought his
help. Eventually he stopped acting and created a formal program to promote his method (largely at the
urging of John Dewey the famous American Educator). Today the Alexander technique is taught all over the
world. Many performing arts schools incorporate Alexander's concepts into their curricula, and athletes also
use it to help prevent injury. In addition, people suffering from back problems and other types of chronic pain
have turned to Alexander's methods to ease their discomfort and to improve postural habits.
How Does It Work?
The philosophy behind the Alexander technique is that the correct relationship between the head, neck, and
spine is critical to correct movement and good health. Proponents of the technique call this three -way
relationship "primary control" because they believe it is key to maintaining proper posture, breath, and
movement. An incorrect position of the head in relation to the neck and spine, for example, can create muscle
tension and cause pain. Once a person's head, neck, and spine are brought into proper alignment, however,
the rest of the body should "fall into place" Not only can muscle tension and pain be reduced, according to
Alexander practitioners, but some bodily functions, such as breathing and movement, may become easier and
more natural as well.
What You Can Expect
You can learn the Alexander technique privately or as part of a group. During a lesson, which lasts about 45
minutes, the instructor will observe the way you walk, stand, sit, lie, and bend. (You should wear loose
clothing so you won't feel restricted). You will be coached to release your neck muscles so your head
balances freely on top of your neck which enables your balance and co-ordination mechanisms to work
correctly and allows your back to achieve it's optimum function. Through verbal instruction and gentle touch,
the instructor will teach you to improve your posture during a variety of everyday activities, such as sitting at
a desk and talking on the phone. A poor habit, such as cradling the phone between your head and shoulder
(which can put your neck out of alignment) will be replaced with a good habit, such as sitting upright with
your shoulders straight while holding the phone to your ear. Instructors, who are encouraged to be
nonjudgmental and supportive, typically recommend one-on-one tutoring to tailor the Alexander Technique
more fully to your personal activities. If you are a dancer, for example, the instructor may work with you on
improving your dance movements; if you are a tennis player, the teacher may coach you on maintaining
proper form while you play. The instructor will then encourage you to apply what you have learned, to events
in your daily life. Gradually, sometimes with as few as six to eight lessons, students can begin to use their
bodies more effectively.
Better body awareness and posture, improved coordination, decreased tension, and more efficient
movement have all been credited to the Alexander technique. In addition, for many it improves overall
physical and mental health due to its stress reducing effects. People suffering from chronic neck and back
pain, and other painful conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, report finding relief after learning the
Alexander technique. Also, the technique may help stress-related problems such as migraines and anxiety
How To Choose a Practitioner
Look for an instructor who is certified by the North American Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique,
now called AmSAT. To earn this certification, instructors must complete at least three years of full time
training in the technique.
How Safe Is It?
When taught by a qualified instructor, the Alexander technique is safe for everyone, even pregnant women.
In fact, many pregnant women report that the technique helps them adjust to the changes their bodies are
going through and relieve some of the pressure their growing bellies are putting on their spines.
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About The Alexander Technique
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