The Alexander Technique was devised by F. Matthias Alexander (1869-1955). Born in Tasmania, he became a well-known reciter of Shakespearean monologues around the turn of the century. In an attempt to cure his persistent throat problems, which no doctor could find the cause of, he made a number of remarkable discoveries about the human organism and how it functions. He noticed that peopleâ€™s general ‘use’ of their bodies tends to be unconscious and habitual and that this leads to bad habits in moving and breathing which, when repeated over a long period, are detrimental to the personâ€™s general standard of health and functioning. What he also discovered was that the way we think as well as the way we use our bodies determines how our bodies will function for us.
Alexander realised that many of the problems facing people today, such as arthritis, backache and asthma, lack of energy, bad posture and mental problems can be caused by constant mis-use of our bodies. When this has built up over years, it creates a general low standard of health and functioning of our whole being.
So how does it work?
The Alexander Technique is more than a system of exercises or relaxation techniques. It is a way of developing your awareness and using your intelligence to enable your body to become balanced, strong and flexible. In this way it is both a mental & physical process.
As you become aware of your habits of mis-use and, at the same time, learn a simple method to prevent the repetition of these habits in daily activities, then your general standard of functioning will improve. You will be able to prevent further problems occurring and your body is given the maximum opportunity to restore itself to good health.
The Technique is not a therapy designed to ‘cure’ but a teaching method which offers you a means â€“ by awareness in activity – to raise your general standard of health, body balance and co-ordination and then maintain it for the rest of your life. In this way the Technique is a ‘Way of Being or Living’ not just exercises which are done say once a day.
Benefits of learning the Technique
Before & after having Alexander lessons!
Here are some of the benefits that people report during and after having Alexander lessons:
- Improved balance & coordination
- Better posture
- Boosts confidence
- Improves breathing & speech
- Improved vision
It can alleviate problems such as:
- Back pain
- Headaches & migraines
- High blood pressure
- Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
- General stress including sleeplessness, worrying and lack of confidence
- Speech difficulties
- Performance anxiety
Who comes for lessons? Anyone!
Dancers applying the Alexander Technique to their performance
You don’t have to have a problem to benefit from Alexander lessons! Applying the Technique can improve the quality of your performance whatever that may be.
Most music and drama colleges include lessons in the Alexander Technique as part of their curriculum. Because the Alexander Technique improves balance, co-ordination and flexibility; applying it to the things that you enjoy like swimming, dancing, art, sports of all kinds or computers means that you will be more successful in those pursuits. Many famous people use the Technique to improve their performance; John Cleese, Joanna Lumley, Sting, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ruby Wax to name but a few.
About Alexander lessons
You have lessons in the Alexander Technique because you are a pupil of the Alexander Technique rather than a patient. You are actively engaging with your teacher in learning skills and ways of thinking rather than being a passive receiver of a treatment.
The teacher will use gentle hand contact to guide and direct you through simple everyday actions and movements. You do not need to wear special clothing when you come for your lesson but wearing clothes that are easy to move in will help.
There isn’t an age limit to having lessons, you could be 5 years or 85 years old! Children would initially come with an adult.
Lessons are usually taught on a one to one basis. You can benefit from a few lessons but a course of lessons will greatly enhance your application of it to your life. A general guide is 20-30 lessons which will give you a good solid understanding and ability to apply it to your life.
Sometimes the Technique is taught in groups and these are often speciality groups such as musicians or dancers. Some Alexander teachers run introductory group courses but these are only intended as an introduction. They can be a good way to start exploring the ideas of the Alexander Technique but the best way is through individual tuition where your specific needs will be addressed.