The Alexander Technique

What is the Alexander Technique ?

The AT is a guided self-help method designed to change long-standing postural habits which may be causing tension, stiffness, aches and pains which in turn prevent you from achieving your full potential.

It is not a therapy, but an educational method of teaching you a skill set which you then apply to improve your daily, sporting or performance activities. Alexander Technique lessons will help you reduce muscle tension by changing habitual patterns of misuse and bring about improvements in the postural support system of your body. This is in turn will bring about better balance, breathing and poise, enabling you to carry out your activities with greater ease and less effort.

The AT brings a greater awareness into everything you do.  It has been likened to developing mindfulness for the whole body. It can help achieve a physically, intellectually and emotionally better you and the skills you learn, like driving or playing a musical instrument, will stay with you for the rest of your life.

The AT provides a simple and powerful approach to getting rid of unnecessary tensions by improving the way you use your body. It improves alignment of the head, neck and back muscles which in turn can reduce aches and pains, as well as bringing about greater freedom of movement and improved wellbeing.

The AT is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. The benefits can be achieved if you are open to changing the way you do things.

Why study the Alexander Technique ?

Humans were adapted by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to live in environments which were very different from those of today. As such, we are not well-adapted for lifestyles which involve long hours of physical inactivity such as office jobs or sitting still at home.

When combined with cultural pressures, including over-stimulation from electronic devices used either at work or in leisure-time, we begin to lose our natural, innate abilities to move freely. Instead we develop habitual patterns of movement which affect our co-ordination and balance causing stresses and strains on the body, particularly on the spine and joints. These habitual ways of being become ingrained and lead to difficulties in standing, sitting and even breathing and can lead to aches, pains and muscle stiffness, which we didn’t experience in earlier childhood.

People have Alexander Technique lessons for a number of reasons, some of which are listed below:

  • To help reduce long-standing muscular pain and stiffness, especially in the neck, back and in joints.
  • To help reduce the symptoms of computer-related work including RSI. Some businesses have organised group Alexander Technique sessions at work to improve their employees wellbeing and reduce absenteeism through ill-health.
  • To improve posture, breathing and vocal problems and reduce anxiety and stress, leading to better poise, balance and co-ordination.
  • To improve performance and prevent injury in everyday activities including domestic activities, physical exercise from walking, running, swimming, cycling as well as those including sports and athletics.
  • To enhance performing arts activities such as playing a musical instrument, acting, singing, dancing, as well as speaking and presentational skills. The Technique can improve breathing, vocal production and co-ordination. FM Alexander developed the Technique to help him overcome poor performances in his career as an actor – read more about that read more about that here.
  • To improve self-development, become more aware of thoughts and consequent actions and begin to learn to respond rather than react to stimuli in either the body or the general environment.
  • To support pregnancy and childbirth.

The potential improvements described above are brought about by better co-ordination of the body’s neuro-muscular-skeletal system. The British Medical Journal published research that clearly showed the long-term success of the AT in reducing chronic back pain. After 12 months, participating individuals receiving their usual GP care had 21 days of back pain per month. Those who had 24 Alexander Technique lessons had only 3 days of pain per month. You can read more about that in the summary of the BMJ trial here.

The Alexander Technique has, for a long a long time, been taught in music and drama schools internationally. It is not so well known in other educational institutions, although several public schools within the UK offer their pupils Alexander Technique lessons.

Read some testimonials here (opens a new window).

How does the Alexander Technique work ?

Under the direction and guidance of your Alexander Technique teacher you will develop a skill set to ‘unlearn’ unhelpful postural habits and instead re-establish a more natural relationship between your head, neck and back – what FM Alexander called the Primary Control. This enables you to use your muscles in a much more co-ordinated way, enhancing postural control and bringing about better balance.

With your active involvement the Alexander Technique will improve how you function and reduce the risk of your problems recurring by examining the habits which cause those problems, and replacing those habits with greater conscious awareness of how you use your body.

By using a gentle, ‘hands-on’ method of guidance and direction your Alexander Teacher will communicate to you a subtle, practical and problem-solving approach to life which should reduce physical problems and enhance your general sense of wellbeing.

This approach improves your neuro-muscular-skeletal co-ordination during lessons and you are encouraged to continue to practice the Alexander Technique whenever you can during your day to day activities outside of lessons.

Frequently asked questions:

See STAT website of FAQs (Opens a new window).