About the Alexander Technique

 

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a method for expanding our awareness of how we are using ourselves, so that we can choose a less habitual path, so that we can interact more fittingly with our environment and whatever it is we want to do.

What does that mean?

We all tend to use ourselves according to certain habitual patterns. For example, when we sit in front of the computer or serve a tennis ball, we tend to use ourselves similarly each time. Habitual patterns can get us into trouble, however, if they become inflexible and divorced from the environment and whatever we are trying to do. For example, jutting the head forward might be an appropriate response to a poorly fitting computer setup. A second example: holding the shoulders up is part of our inbuilt stress response to an acute stressor. If we are at that computer for a few minutes, or running from a lion on the African savannah (the kind of situation our short term stress response is designed to handle, as our ancestors evolved), and then quickly return to a more generally appropriate form of use, we’re fine. But if we stay at the ill-fitting computer setup day after day, or struggle with chronic stress, the short term appropriate response can become a long term habit, and we are likely to end up with patterns that cause pain and dysfunction.

If we aren’t aware that we are jutting our heads forward or holding excess tension in our shoulders, we don’t have an opportunity to change. By expanding our awareness of how we are using ourselves, we have the opportunity to stop reinforcing patterns that aren’t serving us well.

How Can the Alexander Technique Help Me?

The Alexander Technique can help us do better at whatever we want to do, and can help alleviate pain that is caused by or exacerbated by patterns of use. It is often used by musicians to improve their performance and reduce the risks of repetitive stress injuries, and by actors to change their use and body language to reflect a role.

What is an Alexander Technique Lesson Like?

The Alexander teacher uses light touch to help the student expand his or her awareness. It is not a massage technique, and students remain fully dressed. The student can be sitting, standing, lying down (many Alexander teachers have a massage table available) or engaged in an activity such as playing an instrument or using a smart phone. Students often report that they leave a lesson feeling lighter, more centered, and experiencing less pain and tension.