What is Alexander Techniques?
The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change movements/ habits in our everyday activities. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities and can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a re-education of the mind and body.
History of Alexander Techniques
Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869 –1955) was an Australian actor and teacher. While developing his method of voice training, he realized the basis for all successful vocal education was an efficiently and naturally functioning respiratory mechanism. Because of his focus on re-educating the breathing mechanism, some of his students found that their respiratory difficulties also improved. He came to understanding that mind & body function as an integrated entity and physical and mental habits are all psychosocial in nature. He observed that how we think about our activities determines how we coordinate ourselves to do those activities, and , equally, how long-held habits of excessive tension and inefficient coordination effect how we feel and think. Alexander also made the discovery that breathing and vocalization are part and parcel of how the body functions as a whole. Habitual breathing and vocal patterns are parts of habitual patterns of general coordination. He concluded that body part problems such as low back or neck pain is often symptoms of larger habitual patterns of mal-coordination.
Importance of good posture
Good posture is the contour of improved functioning: your stance looks better because your body feels good and works well. As you restore your natural poise, you find greater stability, balance and fluidity. What appears as lazy or stiff posture is really a lack of central coordination: some muscles work too hard while others barely engage.
Evidence Based Practice
There is not adequate research supporting Alexander techniques and its proposed benefits. Available research suggests that Alexander Technique can be beneficial for,
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Airway problems such as Asthma
- During pregnancy & birth
Alexander Technique for Actors4,6
The technique helps actors become aware of physical habits they have that may be interfering with their performance.
According to Michael Gillespie, “Alexander Techniques can help solve the individual’s movement problems as well as to explore the physical problems that come with playing the character.”
Sequence of a session is as follows:
- Basic principles of movement and thinking that underpin the technique and providing a brief lesson in practical anatomy
- Warm-up sequence and a group of partnering and spatial awareness explorations.
- Alexander Technique and the actor’s voice, with special attention given to the challenges of performing in musical theatre and opera.
Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman are some of the actors that used Alexander Techniques.
Alexander Technique for Dancers
Fortin S., Girard F. Dancers’ Application of the Alexander Technique. J Dance Education. 2005: 5(4):125-31.
Subjects: 2 dancers. Methods: The 20 private sessions followed the basic principles of the Alexander Technique: recognition of force of habit; recognition of faulty sensory appreciation; inhibition; direction; primary control, and means-whereby. Pre- and post interviews used to collect data. Results:
- Dancers reported feeling “bodily confused” initially.
- “Muscle burning” was not necessary to guide movementRather than being told what to do, initiate the movement by letting your body re-align
- Encourage individual movement patterns
Alexander Technique for Chronic Back Pain
Drennan V. Alexander Technique Offers back pain solution. Prim Hlth C. 2008: 18 (8):6.
This randomized clinical trial had 3 groups. Typical care (Group 1), Lessons in the Alexander technique (Group 2), and massage therapy (Group 3) and exercise prescription by GPs with nurse delivered behavioral counseling among 579 patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain recruited in primary care. 3 months later, Group 2 reported less disability and fewer days in pain. Those receiving the lessons were more likely to report less back pain and more likely to report improved quality of life. 12 months later, Group 2 was more likely to report less disability than those receiving the other interventions.
Ernst E. Alexander Technique for body posture. 2006:9:34.
The idea is that people develop bad postures and movement patterns over time. For example, slouching in front of computer, which interferes with normal neuromuscular coordination. Faulty posture can lead to chronic neck and back pain. Alexander technique reduces tension and pain by educating people how to re-align their body correctly.
Alexander Technique and Parkinson Disease
Stiff axial posture is one of the most common challenges in Parkinson’s Disease population
Stallibrass, C; Sissons, P; Chalmers, C. Randomized controlled trial of the Alexander Technique for idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Clin Rehabil. 2002:16(7): 695-708.
This randomized clinical trial included 99 subjects diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease divided into 3 groups. Alexander technique (AT) group, massage only group and no intervention group. AT group received 24 lessons and massage group received 24 sessions of massage. Main outcome measures used were self-assessment Parkinson’s disease disability scale and Beck Depression inventory. Conclusion: AT group had the best results in both outcome measures immediately after and post 6 months.
At 6 months: 27 people (96%) said that they were continuing to use the AT in their daily life; most often while walking, sitting or standing. 24 people (86%) were also practicing the AT while lying down, 10 (36%) were using the AT when they needed more control especially in crowds and social situations and 7 (25%) in stressful situations.
The responses show that every participant retained some degree of skill; at the same time the responses indicate a wide variation in level of commitment and application.
You can search for classes, teachers or purchase DVD, audio or book form for self study.
Information available on the website:
1- Drennan V. Alexander Technique Offers back pain solution. Prim Hlth C. 2008. 2008: 18 (8):6.
2- Ernst E. Alexander Technique for body posture. 2006:9:34.
3- Fortin S., Girard F. Dancers’ Application of the Alexander Technique. Journal of Dance Education. 2005: 5(4):125-31.
4- Gillespie, Michael (2004) The actor and the Alexander Technique. Theater Topics. 14(2): 501-2.
6- Sagolla, Lisa Jo. Alexander Technique for Actors Back Stage East; May 3-May 9, 2007; 48, 18.
7- Stallibrass, C; Sissons, P; Chalmers, C. Randomized controlled trial of the Alexander Technique for idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Clin Rehabil. 2002:16(7): 695-708.
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