What is it?
The Alexander Technique is an educational, practical approach for improving mental and physical wellbeing. Specifically, the Alexander Technique involves becoming aware of your movement, posture and thinking to overcome unhelpful habits. It teaches us how to recapture the ease and freedom of movement we enjoyed as young children.
Developed by actor F.M. Alexander more than a century ago, the Alexander Technique is a philosophy of movement. It is the first mind/body approach developed by a westerner and remains one of the most powerful. The Technique teaches how we move, how we breathe, how we learn, how we organize our awareness and focus of attention and, above all, how we choose our reactions in demanding and stressful situations.
Principles behind it
Its basic premise is that the relationship between the head and neck is vital for ease of movement. As children we naturally move with ease but gradually lose it in response to stresses and strains of adult life. Specifically, we develop unnecessary habits of muscular tension and, over time, these habits add stress affecting breathing, posture, attitude and comfort. Through the Alexander Technique, we learn to recognize and prevent these unnecessary tensions and use our body more efficiently doing everyday tasks – such as sitting, standing, walking, speaking, etc. Alexander noted that how we move and use our bodies is inextricably bound to how we think and feel. To describe this connection, he coined the term “psychophysical unity”. If you are feeling “down” the physical posture could be slumping, which as a transitory feeling is not a big deal however, over time can create problems throughout the body.
By learning how to stop interfering with our natural functioning, we learn to stand easily at our full height. This leads to freedom of movement, good posture, easy breathing, confidence and general wellbeing.
How does it work?
The Alexander Technique is a practical approach that involves becoming more aware of your movement, posture and thinking to overcome unhelpful habits. It helps reevaluate the way you think and move while performing any skill, as well as in everyday activities – from sitting at a desk, walking, and bending to pick something up. The Technique involves conscious awareness and can make a huge difference to how you feel. Gradually your habits diminish and your normal condition changes so that even when you are not thinking about it, you’re body is working more efficiently and effectively.
Who was F.M. Alexander?
Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian Shakespearean actor who developed his technique to overcome debilitating laryngitis he experienced on stage. When medical professionals were unable to diagnose or treat his condition he reasoned it must have been brought on by something he was doing on stage, specifically the way he was using his body. As he began observing himself he noticed habits he was unaware of involving excess tension. He then went about developing a technique to undo these habits and regain a natural poise that had been eroded by a lifetime of accumulating habits. He began to teach this method in Australia with remarkable success, and in 1904 moved to London, from there his work has spread all over the world.
- Alexander Technique Association of Westchester and Putnam (ATA Westchester)
- ATA Westchester Facebook Page
- American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) in New York City
- American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT)
- The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique