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Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869–1955) originated the Technique in 1894 and developed it over the course of his life. It is a self-help process that can be applied to any circumstance in life. Alexander was concerned with developing conscious control over how we employ ourselves in all activities. He devised a series of balanced arrangements of the body—positions of mechanical advantage—to enhance psychophysical harmony. In learning and engaging in these ‘positions’, subtle changes gradually occur in the whole muscular balance of the body, which help to improve posture, coordination, and breathing. The Technique has proven beneficial to people of all ages, from all backgrounds, as an art of living. Its effectiveness has been operationally verified for over 100 years (more further below about whom the Technique is for).
The Alexander Technique gives you a totally new experience of yourself—a harmonious integration of body and mind. Unconscious tension is released—you feel lighter, gain more energy, move with greater freedom, and breathe more deeply. You gain a positive attitude towards life and an interest in living in the present. The Technique is uniquely continuous—it is not a therapist-dependent or an intermittent process. It is a ‘pre-technique’ that can help to improve performance in all activities—even in sitting, walking, or bending. In employing the Technique, ordinary activities take on a special quality.
Benefits of the Technique
The Technique helps to alleviate illness, pain, stress, and tension. It awakens and enlivens the sixth sense—kinaesthesia. Learning to abandon habits of over-tensing and slumping in ‘repose’ improves health and functioning, and increases people’s general sense of well-being. It is widely used to manage and reduce stress. Having Alexander Technique lessons is a uniquely satisfying experience, which encourages bringing intelligence to everyday actions. The Technique lets you appreciate habitual ‘misuse’, which is typically so automatic that it is not observed as extraordinary. In a lesson, you identify your habits—by noticing and learning to inhibit these patterns, you are free to act as a choice rather than automatically.
The Technique is widely used to:
Is the Technique for me?
Anyone can use the Technique to enhance performance of all activities, and to improve overall general health and well-being. It has been the secret practice of musicians, singers, and actors for well over a century, but is now well regarded in the mainstream. Medical experts often recommend the Technique to assist in recovery from surgery, and deal with injuries, whiplash, back problems, pain, and breathing troubles. Many people take lessons to forestall faulty postural habits from becoming potentially damaging. By teaching people how to sustainably reduce the down pressure on their body, the Technique greatly assists in the healing of many kinds of troubles that the ‘flesh is heir to’; for instance, sciatica, hip, knee, and ankle issues, back problems of all kinds, neck troubles, and headaches, to mention a few.
In the business world, companies—including Shell, Texaco, Guinness, Siemens, and Victorinox—have engaged Alexander Technique teachers for their staff.
The Technique is a core requirement in many performance, vocational and business schools, including the Royal College, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and The Juilliard School. It has been particularly useful to musicians and horse riders, who observe immediate improvements in the sound of their instrument or voice, or ease of movement of their mount. Sportspeople use the Technique to enhance their performance, including Olympic athletes (e.g., members of the British coxless fours rowing team, who are repeat Olympic gold medallists). Yoga enthusiasts, aerobic fitness enthusiasts and people using any movement/exercise modality find improvements in their practice by integrating learnings from the technique.
Lori Schiff, Alexander Teacher & Trainer at the prestigious The Juilliard School, New York, on “How Alexander Technique Can Enhance Learning and Performance Under Pressure” (audio interview, 43 mins).
Who can benefit from Alexander Technique lessons?
“For in the minds of humans lies the secret of their ability to resist, to conquer and finally to govern the circumstances of their life.” – F. M. Alexander