The Alexander Technique is a form of movement and postural re-education developed by F.M. Alexander early in the 1900's that works with a student's awareness and a teacher's gentle guiding touch to release tension and return the body to its optimal alignment, balance and function. It is all about learning to move with less effort and more flow and coordination.
Many people want to manage pain and stress. We react to stimuli in our lives by tightening ourselves down into a pull-down or slumping position. (For example, we tighten our necks and raise our shoulders when we answer the telephone.) Then we try to stand up straight, but we pull our shoulders back and arch our spines with more muscular contraction. We end up in complicated patterns of misalignment and tension.
F.M. Alexander discovered a way to re-direct our attention to stop ourselves from tightening or pulling down and instead to release upwards and expand outwards into our natural alignment and freedom of movement.
EXAMPLES OF POOR ALIGNMENT AND GOOD ALIGNMENT IN ACTIVITY
photos by Jano Cohen
photos by Rachel Winslow
Students work in partnership with a teacher to achieve their own personal goals. Lessons are tailored to each student's learning style and abilities.
Simple movements from daily life activities are practiced, such as sitting, standing, bending and walking, but a student may choose to explore any activity that is important to them. Students often choose movements from work as well as leisure activities.
A constructive rest position is practiced enhanced by the guiding touch of the teacher to optimize new physical awareness and release of tension.
People usually take a course of lessons long enough to receive repeated experiences and learn some sufficient tools to carry on the work on their own. Some people come for a handful of lessons, others study for years or even a lifetime as a continual commitment to self-development.
HISTORY of the Technique
F.M. Alexander was an actor who suffered from chronic laryngitis when he performed. Doctors told him to rest and his laryngitis went away when he did. However, as soon as he began to act again, his laryngitis returned. By watching himself in a set of mirrors he discovered that every time we spoke he tilted his head back, tightened his neck and back and gasped for air. It took him many attempts to figure out how to stop himself from doing that pattern of movement. He called this interruption of his habit inhibition and learned to inhibit this habit whenever he acted or performed any other activity.
He developed a method for demonstrating his process by guiding people in movement with a gentle but powerful touch. It was so effective, doctors began referring patients to him with breathing and neurological disorders. Other actors, musicians, horseback riders and others sought his help. He began training people to teach the technique and those teachers have since spread this training around the world.