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Alexander Technique

What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What Happens During Treatment?
What Is It Used For?
Side Effects/Cautions
Recommended Books


What Is It?
The Alexander Technique is a method of retraining our bodies to move in a more coordinated and efficient way. It aims to correct harmful habitual patterns such as slouching and tensing of muscles which can cause pain and other health problems.

The Alexander Technique was developed in the late 19th century by F.M. Alexander, an Australian Shakespearean actor who often lost his voice on stage. Using three-way mirrors he found that his habit of tightening his neck muscles and jutting his jaw forward while speaking restricted his vocal cords. By working to correct his posture he found his voice was restored. Alexander then began developing a system to teach simple, efficient movements that would help other people improve their balance, posture and co-ordination, while relieving pain.

How Does It Work?
The Alexander technique is essentially a re-education process which concentrates on removing stress and bad posture. It focuses on the relationship between the head, neck and spine, which teachers call “primary control”. When these three are properly aligned through correct posture, improvements in muscular function allow more efficient breathing and movement of the whole body.

The technique is based on a series of gentle exercises and movements that teach you how to sit, stand and move in a natural and more efficient way.

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What Happens During Treatment?
Alexander technique lessons can be conducted one-on-one with a teacher, or in group classes. The teacher begins by observing how you use your body when sitting, standing and walking. S/he notes any inappropriate muscle tension caused be incorrect alignment of the head, neck and spine, that throws the rest of the body off balance. Poor habitual posture is changed by instruction and gentle touch, the teacher placing his or her hands on or near the head or spine to remind you of correct alignment. Some sessions will have the student lying down to learn how to release excess muscle tension, while others involve mostly sitting, standing and walking.

The sessions are not strenuous or physically painful. The teacher allows the student to release tension and harmful habits at their own pace. Improvement is gradual, as long held bad habits take time to adjust. But with time and patience the posture and movement of the body will improve. A lesson usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and students generally take a series of 10-40 lessons.

Sessions can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals such as dancers, athletes or actors.

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What Is It Used For?
By correcting habitual bad posture and taking stress off the body, the Alexander Technique alleviates tensions that can cause many health problems. It can help ease neck pains, backaches, headaches, repetitive strain injuries and postural problems during pregnancy. Correct posture improves breathing, making the technique of benefit to asthma sufferers. People with sciatica, osteoporosis and arthritis may also benefit, with an improvement in strength and mobility.

The technique leads to a better awareness of the body and the way it moves. It can help to release habits that are tied to poor self-image and emotions (research suggests a connection between posture and state of mind) so the technique can bring psychological as well as physical benefits.

Side Effects/Cautions
The Alexander Technique is generally considered safe for everyone, including pregnant women, with no known side effects.

References

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Recommended Books

Prices are in US Dollars

How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students
Barbara Conable

A primer for students of the Alexander Technique, a well-known method for improving freedom and ease of movement and physical coordination. This book provides the first authoritative account of William Conable's concept, Body Mapping, the study of how our ideas about our bodies affect our experience and movement. This concept is integrated with a lucid explanation of the Alexander Technique that clarifies and simplifies the task of teaching and learning the Technique.

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Body Learning : An Introduction to the Alexander Technique
Michael J. Gelb

This new, fully revised and updated edition confirms Body Learning's status as the classic work on the Alexander Technique for maintaining the health and efficiency of the body.

"The approach to learning and the techniques outlined in Body Learning transformed my life. Read and practice, and Michael Gelb's profound message will transform yours. "-Tony Buzan, author of The Mind Map Book

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Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks)

Written by an experienced professional musician and teacher of the Alexander Technique, this volume is the first to deal specifically with the application of the Technique to music- making. Introducing the musician to the principles and procedures evolved by F. M. Alexander (1869-1955), the book contains practical advice related to all areas of musical activity, from technique, sound production, and interpretation, to daily practice, rehearsal routines, and the mitigating of stage fright and health problems.

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