What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a practice that teaches a deep body awareness, allowing you to recognize and work with your most deeply ingrained physical habits and patterns of movement. Its core principles are intended to integrate into all your daily activity, meaning that the Technique can be practiced no matter where you are or what you are doing.
What can we use it for?
Practicing the Alexander Technique helps you find ease and freedom of movement in your body as it is, lightening your step and your touch throughout your daily activities. It gives you the tools to identify, choose and develop better habits and patterns of use where your current patterns are counterproductive, and supports and strengthens useful patterns and habits. It helps you undo habitual patterns of tension and strain to allow your intention to flow through your body without unnecessary effort. It helps you become more coordinated and balanced in all that you do.
The Technique is useful as an agent for change if you are experiencing discomfort or pain but do not wish to stop doing whatever is causing you problems, whether it is sitting at a computer or playing an instrument, dancing or playing a sport, knitting or woodworking.
The Alexander Approach
The Alexander Technique is an experiential and embodied practice that works primarily with two senses outside of the classic five: the vestibular sense – our sense of balance that tells us how we are oriented in relation to gravity, giving us our sense of up and down, and our proprioceptive sense that tells us how we are oriented in relation to ourselves – where, for example, our foot is in relation to our hand.
Because we don’t have a good vocabulary for discussing gradations and textures of our kinaesthetic senses, the technique is taught through a combination of personal exploration and guided lesson from a teacher who provides ‘hands on’ proprioceptive experiences for the student to consider and explore.
What differentiates it from other mind body awareness practices?
The Alexander Technique, while it may have a relaxing result like massage or a therapeutic result like physiotherapy, or may give an awareness of bodily movement like Feldenkrais, is primarily a system and practice of bodily awareness in movement that promotes changes in coordination to increase ease and freedom in all of our daily activities.
Where did it come from?
The Alexander Technique was developed by Frederick Mathias (FM) Alexander in the 1890s as a result of his own personal explorations to find the source of the difficulties he was having with hoarseness and loss of his voice while speaking on the stage.
A professional reciter of Shakespeare in the days before recorded sound, Alexander made his living with his voice. After being told by the medical establishment that there was nothing wrong with his voice that couldn’t be fixed by rest, but finding that taking time off to rest was becoming steadily less effective, he concluded that there must be something he himself was doing that was over straining his voice.
This led to an extended personal exploration of the way he used his voice. He found his discoveries so useful, not only for addressing the problems he had with his voice but with other physical issues, that he started exploring whether his insights were useful for others. This led eventually to his teaching others what he’d learned and to developing his insights into a reliable technique for creating lasting change.
What we’re working with in the Technique
While it was very clear from the outset that the Technique works, providing profound experiences, building bodily self awareness, and providing a reliable path for change, why it worked was not understood from a scientific perspective at that time, nor for many years after the technique was developed and refined.
The science that explains why it works has only really started to be explored in much more recent times, and discoveries at the cutting edge of neuroscience and our growing awareness of our neuroplasticity, along with a growing understanding of how our bodies work at a cellular level are finally starting to explain the means and process whereby the Technique works.