What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a skill which ensures that the natural poise and resilience you had as a young child continues to be available to you as an adult.

As we get older, we tend to lose our innate ability to coordinate in a healthy and natural way. Everyday things such as workplace stress, using computers and smart-phones or carrying heavy bags begin to interfere with our coordination and cause physical and mental strain.

Dealing with the force of habit

The Alexander Technique recognizes that harmful habits form as a result of the way we react to the stimuli in our lives. Examples include tense neck and shoulders, slouching or shallow breathing. Over time, these harmful habits accumulate and our overall well-being suffers.

Those who have lessons in the Alexander Technique learn to become mindful in their activities, and find a new way to respond to habit and stress. They learn to recognize their harmful habits, how to stop and think, and how to choose a better response.

The result is improved wellbeing and performance on many levels.

Wide-ranging relevance

The value of the Alexander Technique goes beyond just pain prevention and relief.

On one level, it nurtures overall well-being by giving you the tools to deal with psychological, emotional and physical stress.

On another level, it enables you to bring the best of yourself to whatever task you are engaged in. This is because the Alexander Technique demonstrates that as human beings we only function at our very best when we are well-coordinated as a whole.

As such, anyone engaging in any demanding activity such as sports, public speaking, singing or learning a musical instrument will find that their performance improves with the Alexander Technique.

Applying the principles of the Technique means that movements become free from tension, lighter, more flowing, coordinated, subtle and accurate; and that artistic endeavours, freed up from habit, become more powerful and emotionally expressive.

Scientific Basis and the ‘Use of the Self’

FM Alexander, © STAT

The Australian actor FM Alexander was the originator of the Alexander Technique. He discovered that poise and overall coordination rely on a balanced relationship between the head, neck and back. Scientific studies have since confirmed its effectiveness in improving coordination and addressing conditions such as back and neck pain.

The Alexander Technique helps us realize the fundamental importance of how we look after ourselves when moving, resting, breathing, learning or responding to demanding situations. In Alexander’s words, the Technique therefore prioritizes the skilful ‘use of the self’ as a prerequisite for all human endeavours.

This is why John Dewey, sometimes known as the father of American education, is famous for saying that the Alexander Technique ‘bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities’.