Comprehensive resource for information about the Alexander Technique
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is an educational method used worldwide for over 100 years. By teaching how to change faulty postural habits, it enables improved mobility, posture, performance and alertness and relief of chronic stiffness, tension and stress.
People study the Technique for a variety of reasons. The most common is to relieve pain through learning better coordination of the musculoskeletal system.
Another common reason is to enhance performance. Athletes, singers, dancers and musicians use the Technique to improve breathing, vocal production, and speed and accuracy of movement.
The most far-reaching reason people study the Technique is to achieve greater conscious control of their reactions.
During lessons you learn through direct experience how to go about your daily activities with increasingly less effort and greater ease. You develop awareness of habits that interfere with your natural coordination and learn how to undo these patterns to consciously redirect your whole self into an optimal state of being. Most of us have many habitual patterns, learned consciously or unconsciously. These patterns can be unlearned, enabling the possibility of new choices – in posture, movement and reactions.
What are the benefits of the Alexander Technique?
Improved ability to deal with stress
By teaching how to respond to any stimulus with less tension, the Alexander Technique enables you to better handle life’s stresses.
A leading contributing factor of musculoskeletal pain (and often its underlying cause) is unrecognized patterns of excess tension. People tend to respond to pain by tensing further, which usually exacerbates discomfort. Because it teaches how to recognize and unlearn these habitual patterns, the Alexander Technique is known for its effectiveness in relieving neck, back and joint pain for the long-term.
Athletes – amateur and professional – use the Technique to improve strength, increase endurance, enhance flexibility and increase speed and accuracy of responsiveness. Performing artists (actors, singers, dancers, musicians) apply the principles to relieve performance anxiety while improving concentration and stage presence. Public speakers use it to improve vocal projection and overall voice quality. Those in business find it enhances presentation skills and increases confidence.
What does the Alexander Technique teach?
The Alexander Technique teaches constructive conscious control of functioning. With a teacher’s guidance you develop increased awareness of habits of thought and habits of posture and movement.
As you learn how to refrain from – or inhibit – habitual patterns which are not useful to you, you’ll become more aware of tendencies towards unnecessary muscular patterns of tension or collapse. Undoing these habitual patterns provides the opportunity for something new to occur: natural movement and spontaneity.
How can the Alexander Technique help with pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood?
The Alexander Technique has much to offer women before, during and after childbirth.
Before pregnancy, study of the Technique will enable you to unlearn harmful postural habits while improving balance and coordination. This will help prepare you for the changes your body will experience in pregnancy.
During pregnancy, your Alexander teacher can teach you how to hold and carry yourself to reduce, if not eliminate, back pain commonly experienced with increased weight in front of the body. The baby’s growth limits your internal space and organs become compressed. Digestive problems and shortness of breath often follow. Learning how to hold and carry yourself differently allows more internal space for both you and the baby. With more breath and mobility, it will be easier for you to stay active. Lessons in the Alexander Technique can enable you to coordinate breathing and strengthen pelvic muscles as you prepare for labor and delivery.
After the birth of your child, you can continue to use what you learn to enable nursing to be more comfortable and to more easily handle the constant lifting and carrying that come with parenthood.
I sit at a computer all day. Can the Alexander Technique help me be more comfortable?
Repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back pain, headaches and stress-related disorders are common to many computer users. While changes to the work station — chair design, monitor and keyboard placement — can improve the ergonomics, the Alexander Technique teaches you how to use your body comfortably even when the work station is not ideal. With the Alexander Technique you can learn how to avoid injury and relieve the tension and pain often associated with computer use.
Your Alexander Technique teacher can teach you how to:
- sit upright without strain
- prevent spinal compression and muscular tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back
- improve range of motion in the joints
- reduce pressure on the keyboard and mouse to relieve stress on the wrist and prevent carpal tunnel injury
- become more aware of your body’s signals and signs of distress so you can relieve tension before it escalates to pain
- breathe properly to prevent fatigue and calm the nervous system
- restore balance – during and after work
Study in the British Medical Journal
“Alexander’s work is of first class importance and investigation by the medical profession is imperative.” – BMJ
Randomized controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain
British Medical Journal Study shows 85% reduction in back pain through lessons in the Alexander Technique
Long-term pain relief still effective one year after study began
579 patients were involved in this multi-center clinical trial, which is one of the few major studies to show significant long-term benefits for patients with chronic non-specific low-back pain. BMJ, 2008;337:a884 One year after the trial started and following 24 Alexander Technique lessons the number of days in pain fell by 85% compared with the control group. The average number of activities limited by back pain had fallen by 42%.
In real numbers:
After 24 lessons = 3 days in pain per month
After 6 lessons plus exercise = 11 days of pain per month
Control Group = 21 days of pain per month
The Price of Back Pain
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. 1 In 2005 Americans spent $85.9 billion looking for relief from back and neck pain through surgery, doctor’s visits, X-rays, MRI scans and medications, up from $52.1 billion in 1997, according to a study in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That money hasn’t helped reduce the number of sufferers; in 2005, 15 percent of U.S. adults reported back problems—up from 12 percent in 1997.2