Named after Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), the Australian-born actor and elocutionist who developed it, the therapy is designed to promote well-being of the body by inculcating an awareness that habits and posture can make a difference and ensure minimum effort and strain.
The goal of this discipline is to bring the body's muscles into natural harmony. Hence it can aid in the treatment of a wide variety of neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, including disorders of the neck, back, and hip; traumatic and repetitive strain injuries; chronic pain; arthritis; breathing and coordination disorder; stress-related disorders and even migraine. People with sciatica, scoliosis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and neck and low back syndrome may find the Alexander Technique useful in improving overall strength and mobility. Others with Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or fibromyalgia may use it for pain management. It is also used to improve functioning in people with multiple sclerosis, stroke or Parkinson's disease. Because the technique require active participation by the patient, it is impossible to test its effectiveness with customary scientific procedures, such as 'placebo controls', in which some patients are given a fake remedy, and 'double-blind trials', in which neither the patient nor the therapists know who's receiving genuine treatment. Nevertheless, many people who have undertaken this therapy, including the likes of John Dewey and Aldous Huxley, vouch for its benefits.
Procedure for Treatment
Alexander Technique sessions are most often conducted one-to-one with a teacher, but group classes may be available as well. Students wear comfortable clothing, and perform everyday actions, such as walking, bending, standing or sitting, while the teacher encourages the student to shed ingrained - and inappropriate - muscular reactions and allow healthy natural reflexes to take over. To encourage the release of natural reactions, the teacher will lead a student through various movements, occasionally touching the neck, back or shoulder to help trigger the proper reflexes. Some sessions may have the student lying down most of the time, while others involve mostly sitting and standing. If there is a specific movement the student wishes to improve, such as working at a computer keyboard, holding a telephone or driving a car, the teacher may work with the student on those as well. Teachers stress that the Alexander Technique is not a passive experience, such as a massage. However, the sessions are not strenuous or physically taxing. No machinery is used.
Treatment Time: The length of each session varies from teacher to teacher, but usually ranges from 30 to 45 minutes.
Treatment Frequency: Sessions may be weekly or more often, depending on the teacher and your needs. The recommended series is a set of 30 lessons.
With advancing age, most people seem to develop a variety of unnatural habits of movement and posture. Depending on the amount of energy and tension these habits commandeer the individual the results can range from subtle changes in mood to outright pain. The Alexander Technique attempts to remedy these problems by discouraging habitual, counterproductive muscular reactions and allowing efficient natural reflexes to take over. When you begin training in the Alexander Technique, the goal is to inhibit your habitual muscular responses by deliberately and consciously 'doing nothing' so that your body can revert to its inherent natural movements. This is not an exercise in relaxation, per se, but rather a way of reclaiming efficiency and ease of movement lost through years of poor postures and unnatural muscular responses. As you 'unlearn' inappropriate habits in the formal sessions, you'll be encouraged to practise your new freedom of movement as you go about your normal activities. Unlike other bodywork disciplines, such as Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique focuses on the relationship of head, neck, and torso, which teachers call 'primary control'. Alexander Technique teachers believe that when these three are properly aligned, the head will lift upward and release the neck and spine, improving overall muscular function and allowing you to move your whole body in a harmonious way. Central to the technique are the four 'concepts of good use' which focus on freeing the muscles from unneeded tension: Allow your neck to release so your head can balance forward and up; allow your legs to release away from your pelvis; allow your shoulders to release out to the sides. The Alexander Technique was developed in the early 1900s by Australian actor F.M. Alexander, who felt that his own bad posture had caused his voice-loss problems. He began working on a system to teach simple, efficient movements that would help improve balance, posture and coordination while relieving pain. The resulting technique became popular in the United States after the first World War, especially among artists, performers and intellectuals, and has been practised successfully ever since. Today, the Alexander Technique is used not only by those seeking pain relief, but also by many actors, dancers, athletes and other performers who use their bodies intensively.
Who Should Avoid This Therapy?
The Alexander Technique is generally considered safe for everyone. However, if you have any chronic health problems, it is wise to check with your doctor before undertaking any form of alternative therapy.
With its emphasis on efficient release of natural muscular reflexes, the Alexander Technique has no known side-effects.