What is the Alexander Technique all about?
One thing that we are very good at as human beings is trying too hard. We often use a lot more effort than we need to. We charge forward through life, trying to get things right or trying to get somewhere else. You could say that the Alexander Technique helps us to undo that habit. When we learn to let go of all that effort and the tension that goes with it, we re-discover our natural ease
The Alexander Technique offers a light, approachable and insightful way of improving the way you sit, stand and do everyday movements. Applying the principles of the Technique, you can learn to release tension and let go of unhelpful postural habits that may be causing stress and pain.
Does your back start to ache when you’ve been sat at the computer for a while?
Do your shoulders start to creep up towards your ears when you are concentrating?
Is there a spot between your shoulder blades that gets sore?
Maybe your hand, wrist or arm aches after you’ve been doing a lot of writing, chopping or gardening?
Does walking up the stairs or going up a hill feel like harder work than it used to?
Do you reach for the door handle before your body has arrived at the door?
Maybe you practise a sport or play an instrument and struggle to get that sense of natural flow?
The Alexander Technique has the potential to make our lives and our activities feel less effortful and more fluid, less stressful and more balanced
To understand this better, it may be helpful to refer to some of the ‘discoveries’ that underpin the work that we do as teachers:
- We have developed ‘habits of use’. We do things in the same way over and over again. ‘Habits of use’ refers to what we are doing with our bodies as we sit at the computer, walk down the street, clean our teeth, chat with someone, feed the cat, text or make/drink a cup of coffee etc
- We’re not aware of these habits, they just happen automatically
- These automatic habits often involve unnecessary tension – muscles working too hard or not hard enough and throwing ourselves off balance
- It is difficult to do things differently because we have learnt to associate certain feelings with the movement – the habit feels ‘right’
The Technique encourages us to stop putting all our attention on some future destination or result and to come back to this moment. That gives us a better chance of noticing what is actually happening right now. As we become more aware of how we are using our bodies, we can then choose what is and isn’t helpful. We might discover that we are bending our upper back as we go to pick up a sock. We may notice that we have a habit of standing on one leg or leaning to one side when we are talking. Perhaps we hold our breath when we are focusing. Maybe we drop our head down at right angles from our neck when we are texting. Or maybe we are throwing ourselves slightly off balance with every step when we walk
None of these things are ‘wrong’ but, when they are habitual, they can cause problems. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with sitting in a slumped position if that is what we choose to do. But, if we do this repeatedly, over time, it is likely to have an effect on the body. The back, neck and shoulders will start to complain. Even our digestion, breathing and circulation can be affected as we shorten the spine and compress the internal organs
So it is really helpful to become more conscious, more aware of what we are doing. Apart from anything else, this helps us to see what we don’t need to be doing, what we can let go of