The Alexander Technique (AT) is a set of principles found in nature, in vertebrates, by FM Alexander some 150 years ago. He was an actor who developed voice and breathing difficulties which were blighting his stage career in Melbourne, Australia.
Through months of careful self-observation, he noticed a subtle and strong set of habits which meant that he was unconsciously interfering with his breathing. He also pulled his head down which scrunched his spine – which meant his voice box couldn’t work properly either. One habit was interconnected with the others.
After countless experiments to see what worked and what didn’t work – he came up with a reliable and efficient system to change his thinking habits, which in turn changed his reactivity, posture, and movement habits. This completely transformed his breathing and voice and stamina too. In his time, he was called The Breathing Man. This is what is now known as the Alexander Technique.
The truly remarkable things he realised are how interconnected we are. How our head movement affects our spine. If our spine is out of kilter, this affects the support structure for locomotion, and our limbs, breathing and voice – everything!
The simple system he devised can be shown in the following 5 step system :
1. Observe what is going on now? – in your body, in its relationship with the environment (eg chair) and in relationship with ourself (one part to another)
2. Stop – don’t do anything directly. The Technique requires us to Stop, or wait in order Not to do our habit. This is a crucial and tricky step as we may be impelled forwards by our wish to complete a task or movement regardless of the route we take.
3. Think – a very specific and subtle form of thinking which encourages ‘all of us’ – our body, mind and emotions – to unclench, release, be free, look for ease and to take up our full size and shape. And to do these whilst we go about our daily mundane movements as well as highly skilful and stressful ones.
4. Choose – Having done these preparatory steps, there is always a choice – fundamentally 1 of 3 options…
- Carry on with what you were going to do
- Do something different
- Do nothing
5. Act – carry on with steps 1-4 whilst taking action!
These 5 steps are based on principles found in nature, when the circumstances and environment are easy and healthy. The brain work now is to consciously choose these steps, this path, consistently regardless of what life throws at us. We can relearn how to manage ourselves and pave our way to resolve pain, find easier movements and have more stamina for a more fulfilled life.
Each and every one of these steps is a skill to learn and master in itself.
Each one is specific. And needs to be done one after another. And all at the same time.
Alexander was an extraordinary man to have discovered these interconnected steps and set out the principles and steps for us.
I have benefited hugely from direct hands-on guidance and online work too. An experienced teacher can help show us more of ourselves and explore the parts which we hide from ourselves. By their very nature, habits go under the radar. We often only see the symptom of the hidden habit.
It can take courage and consistency to overcome our usual ways of doing things and guidance helps us to stay on the path, stay the course and find incredible new resources and easier possibilities for a more pleasurable life. This is where guidance and support of regular sessions with an AT teacher is invaluable.
The Alexander Technique …
- is not a treatment, you do not lie down and go to sleep and get ‘done to’. Best to be awake, alert, relaxed and engaged.
- is not massage or manipulation. If we are in-person then yes, I will ask to touch you and guide you, show and advise you.
- is not exercise. It is not physiotherapy – though I love to help people do their exercises in a way which brings a quality of attention and global body-mind awareness for best results.
So, what is it?
It is a form of re-education.
Presumably you know how to sit, stand, walk and write etc. Any activity we do can be done well, or poorly and can be improved. Our habits are developed out of the best knowledge we have at the time and take into account the circumstances and resources we had at the time. These habits can be hugely beneficial or a bit off-key. They may need an update, upgrade or complete overhaul.
I meet everyone where they are and as they are, and work on the next piece of work that we can do today.
Since we are humans with habits, life-experience, aches and pains and aspirations – I take into account the whole person. Emotions, mind, energy, activities, injuries, and longings. All together. I pride myself on creating a safe space to explore new paths and possibilities.
The work is fascinating. If you are prepared to change your mind and body, then we can work together to help resolve pain and get you moving to the best of your ability.