The Alexander technique (AT) is a self-help technique that can empower you to heal yourself. The British Medical Journal (BMJ, 2008) concluded that one to one lessons in AT from registered teachers have long-term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. Lessons in AT still had a beneficial effect on pain and functioning after 12 months. The AT is not a treatment, therefore, makes you less reliant on others. The AT is about learning to use yourself better, hence, will help improve overall functioning and wellbeing.
With this in mind, here are 10 reasons why the Alexander Technique could benefit you.
Overcome Muscle tension and stiffness
Using the Alexander Technique can change long-standing habits and help you function more efficiently. An AT teacher can help you recognise your poor habits, as a result, can improve your pain or muscle stiffness. They will assess where and how your adding unnecessary strain into your life. You will most likely find you were doing bad things that you were unaware of. Finally, you’ll begin to feel lighter, less tense and freer as old habits are unlearned.
Overcome back, neck and joint pain
75% of adults will have a problem with their lower back at some time in their life. 24 lessons of the Alexander technique can lead to a significant reduction in back pain. In fact, the BMJ (2008) stated that Back pain was reduced from 21 days to 3 days in pain per month. This consequently led to an improvement in functioning and quality of life.
Our postures are all different depending on our life situations. We become accustomed to typist’s hunch, jogger’s slump, mother’s hip, driver’s neck, student’s shoulder, etc. As we do this daily, we become unaware of our body’s position. This then slips into our unconscious self. We don’t even know we are doing it.
The Alexander Technique works by helping you to identify and prevent the harmful postural habits that have occurred which consequently may be the cause of any stress and pain.
Improve breathing and vocal problems
Poor posture and misuse of the body can cause over-tensing of muscles which for this reason can lead to breath and voice problems. Frederick Matthias Alexander first began teaching his method to help people breathe in a better way. He was nick-named: ‘The breathing man’. The Alexander Technique helps you enhance your lung capacity by helping you understand how you interfere with your breathing and therefore restore your natural breathing rhythm. This will result in improved breathing in exercise, speaking, singing and playing of wind instruments.
Overcome anxiety and stress-related conditions
Our body is affected by physical, mental and emotional and social health (Holistic Health Model). If your physical health is problematic then this can impact on your mental health (e.g. cause stress) and social health (e.g. off sick from work). As previously stated, using the Alexander Technique reduces muscle tension. When this is reduced it tells our brain that we are not in a situation of worry. Hence your body switches off the fight or flight response which reduces your anxiety.
Improve performance and prevent injury in music, drama and sport
The Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art (RADA) have an Alexander Technique teacher as part of their company. The Actor Jonathan Pryce (Taboo, Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean) was asked which book changed his life. He stated “The one the teacher put under my head during the Alexander technique sessions at Rada. I grew an inch and a half.” (The Guardian, 2015).
Enhance business and presentation skills
If you do public speaking or have to project your voice, then the Alexander Technique can help. Learning to control your muscles, posture, voice and breathing can help you take control of the presentation. You will learn to pace yourself and it will help you think clearly throughout.
Develop ease and elegance in movement
The Alexander Technique can be helpful in changing your posture in everyday walking and movement. Even wedding planners recommend learning AT before your wedding. Using AT before your wedding can improve your stature and stop your sunken chest, protruding belly and rounded shoulders. After all, they say “it’s not what you wear but how you wear it”. Not only will you walk down the aisle with elegance and grace but you will learn skills for life. These skills will aid in your posture, poise and confidence for the rest of your life.
Support pregnancy and childbirth
Low back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. Pregnant women can learn a practical, enjoyable way to handle moves as simple as standing and sitting with more ease. During Labour AT can help you counter the natural tendency to tense the whole body during painful contractions. You will learn to control your breathing and calm your system. Hence you will improve your focus, facilitate the opening of the cervix during dilation and control your urges to push.
Change conditions that stop people from enjoying a happy life
Whatever your situation, you can learn to minimise strain and work with yourself. The overall aim of an Alexander Technique teacher is to help you gain an understanding of the main principles involved. You will then be able to incorporate these principles into your everyday life. This allows you to benefit from the technique without the need for frequent ongoing lessons.
There are videos online showing you some examples although the best introduction to the Alexander Technique is by a one to one session.
Richard is an Alexander Technique Teacher in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and Preston, Lancashire. He has been practising since 2002.